Dexter Strickland on Tuesday reminded North Carolina coach Roy Williams of the Strickland of old. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said on Friday that Dexter Strickland played his best game in a while during the Tar Heels’ 82-70 victory against Boston College on Tuesday night. But not because Strickland scored 14 points and made a pair of jump shots.
“Everybody thinks he played better because he made six out of six free throws and he made two jump shots,” Williams said. “I mean, that’s what everybody thinks. And the fact of the matter is, it was his best defensive game in pick a number.”
It had been a while, Williams said, since both Strickland and Marcus Paige, the Heels’ freshman point guard, both had high defensive grades in the same game. They did on Tuesday.
That’s a positive sign especially for Strickland, who was UNC’s best perimeter defender before suffering a torn ACL a year ago.
“I don’t think he’s the same player defensively at all,” Williams said. “I don’t think that he has that burst. But, I’ll say this – he showed it more [Tuesday] than any game he’s had this year.”
Before Tuesday night, Strickland hadn’t scored more than six points in an ACC game. Williams seemed less concerned by Strickland’s lack of offense as he was by Strickland’s defensive woes.
“He’s got to keep doing the job defensively,” Williams said. “That’s the reason he’s in the game. And he gives us another ball-handler. In fact, if you look, when I took Marcus out [on Tuesday] our pace picked up a little bit, and Dexter was pushing the ball, gave us a little more oomph in the game … his play of pushing the basketball I thought really helped us in the first half.
“We need him to defend, we need him to not turn it over, we need him to push the pace and if knocks the jump shots in, that’s great.”