UNC coach Roy Williams wanted to see more hustle out of P.J. Hairston on Saturday at N.C. State. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — P.J. Hairston has been inconsistent thoughout his sophomore season at North Carolina. But he has been consistently good, at least offensively, during the Tar Heels’ past two games.
Hairston scored 15 points during the Heels’ victory last week against Georgia Tech. And he led UNC with 19 points during its 91-83 loss at N.C. State on Saturday night.
Even more impressive about those scoring numbers is that they came in limited minutes. Against Georgia Tech, Hairston’s 15 points came in 17 minutes of playing time. Against N.C. State, his 19 points also came in 17 minutes.
Given Hairston’s production on offense, I asked UNC coach Roy Williams earlier today on the ACC teleconference what kept Hairston from earning more playing time during the past couple of games.
“Foul trouble I think in the game before – I think he and James Michael both had two fouls early in the first half. That was part of it. The other thing, if you go back the last two games, J.P. Tokoto has played probably his best two games. And so it’s not just P.J.’s right to be out there on the floor.”
Then Williams detailed probably the most important reason Hairston on Saturday remained on the bench in long stretches.
“Saturday, I got so mad at him when he was going after a loose ball and the North Carolina State player runs from behind and then dives for the loose ball when P.J. is trying to pick it up,” Williams said. “And I just can’t stomach those kind of things. And I just keep giving guys chances, even when they do something like that.
“But there is no question that that’s the reason he sat out for a long time Saturday.”
Hairston played just seven minutes during the second half on Saturday but he made the most of those, and scored 10 second-half points. He’s third in the ACC in points per 40 minutes.
During one of Williams’ recent weekly radio shows, he was asked about the possibility of Hairston moving into the starting lineup. Williams said he liked bringing Hairston off the bench, and that he didn’t foresee moving Hairston into a starting role.
Hairston starting sounds like even less of a possibility now.