CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Roy Williams on Sunday began watching film of Miami, which visits the Smith Center on Tuesday night. And the thing that stood out most to Williams? The Hurricanes’ guards.
Particularly, the starting backcourt duo of Durand Scott, a junior, and Malcolm Grant, a senior.
“I think that they set the tone for everything,” Williams said.
UNC has struggled at times this season against quality guards who can shoot. You saw that in the Tar Heels’ loss against UNLV earlier this season. And in the victory against Long Beach State at home last month, when Casper Ware scored 29 points and was practically unstoppable during one stretch in the first half.
The Heels will be faced on Tuesday with the task of slowing down another shooter who can easily get going. Grant ranks second in the ACC in 3-pointers made per game (2.6) and he’s fourth in the conference in 3-point field goal percentage (35.6 percent).
Freshman guard Shane Larkin, meanwhile, is a gifted shooter. As is the aptly named Trey McKinney Jones.
As a team, the Hurricanes are third in the conference with a 38.4 shooting percentage from behind the arc. Only Duke (41.7 percent) and UNC (38.8 percent) have been better. In describing what stands out about Miami, Williams said “Their ability to shoot the 3-point shot. Their very experienced guards who really do some nice things with the basketball.”
In addition to the guards, the Hurricanes’ 6-foot-11 sophomore Kenny Kadji is also a capable outside shooter. He has made 8 of his 14 3-point attempts and is averaging 10.6 points per game. Williams has noticed how adept Kadji is at drawing interior defenders outside, which in turn opens up things inside for other players.
“I didn’t know anything about him until I started watching some tape,” Williams said.
The Hurricanes also recently welcomed back 6-foot-10 center Reggie Johnson, who missed the first nine games of the season with a knee injury. In four games back, Johnson has averaged 10.8 points per game.
“They’re starting to get their players back now,” Williams said. “… We might even see a little bit of a different team in mid-February than we’re seeing now.”
After hosting Miami on Tuesday night, the Tar Heels will play the Hurricanes on the road on Feb. 15.
Some other quick notes from Williams’ ACC teleconference earlier today:
--Williams said he has been pleased by Kendall Marshall’s progress on defense but indicated that Marshall still has a ways to go. Williams said Marshall has become a better off-the-ball defender, and said that has helped UNC become a better defensive team.
--Harrison Barnes has been more aggressive lately, taking the ball to the basket, but Williams said he didn’t have an issue earlier this season when Barnes was more often settling for jump shots. Of the criticism Barnes received for taking outside shots, Williams said, “I don’t think that was valid at all.” He said he wants his players to take open shots.
--Williams reflected on his relationship with Miami coach Jim Larranaga. The two have been friends for a long time, Williams said, and have known one another well since their days as assistant coaches in the ACC. Williams, of course, served as an assistant coach under Dean Smith. And Larranaga spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Virginia.