Heels still improving

CUTigers.com takes a quick look ahead to Wednesday night's opponent for No. 19 Clemson.

A 14-point win over Virginia Tech has North Carolina off to a 1-0 start in ACC play, but the Tar Heels know there is much room for improvement.

The nation's ninth-ranked team needed an early second-half spurt after trailing for much of the first 20 minutes. They went to the locker room down 38-34 but used an opening spurt to take command after the break.

"I didn't think we played poorly in the first half," coach Roy Williams said, citing a just a couple of defensive breakdowns by Deon Thompson and Dexter Strickland. "But other than those two kind of things like that, I thought we were OK defensively.

"We just didn't put the ball in the basket."

After a 13-of-29 first half (44.8 percent), the Tar Heels warmed up in the second. They were 15-of-23 from the field overall and made their final five three-pointers in pulling away to the 78-64 win.

"It was a better defensive effort for us in the second half," Williams said. "I still think they hurt us a little bit on offensive rebounds."

The question will be how the Tar Heels fare when they go back on the road. They are only 1-4 away from Chapel Hill and have lost their only two true road games at Kentucky and College of Charleston.

They are on the road for the first time in conference play when they visit Clemson on Jan. 13, then back home against Georgia Tech.

--If the second half is an indication, North Carolina may be ready to break its three-point shooting slump. Though only 5-of-16 for the game against Virginia Tech, all five makes came after the Tar Heels had missed their first 11 three-point tries against the Hokies. They were only 1-of-6 in the loss to College of Charleston in their previous outing.

--After shooting just 38 percent from the field in the loss to Charleston, the Tar Heels were 28-of-52 (53.8 percent) against Virginia Tech, the second time in their last three games they have shot 50 percent or better.

ON THE SPOT: Point guards Larry Drew II and Dexter Strickland will continue to be scrutinized, but after combining for 11 assists against only three turnovers against Virginia Tech, they may getting their act together as conference play begins. They had six assists and three turnovers in the previous game, a loss to College of Charleston.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've always said you've got to have some. You've got to have a mix. I still want the Sean May and the Tyler Hansbrough and the Ed Davis to handle the inside, but I've always said we've got to have a good mix. Our best teams, whether it's at Kansas or North Carolina, had that mix." -- Coach Roy Williams, talking about the return of the three-point game to the Tar Heels after they hit a 1-of-17 stretch in the loss at College of Charleston and their first 11 attempts (all misses) against Virginia Tech.

--G Marcus Ginyard, who had not played in the previous three games while resting a sprained ankle, and F Will Graves, who sat out the loss to College of Charleston with an injured knee, returned against Virginia Tech. Ginyard scored only two points, but Graves chipped in with 13, hitting a couple of three-pointers in Carolina's second-half surge.

--F Deon Thompson fouled out against Virginia Tech for the first time this season at the 3:23 mark of the game. He left with 13 points, extending his streak of double-figure efforts to five games. Only once this season has he failed to score in double figures (eight points against Texas).

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