UNC-HU: The Good and the Bad

<i>Inside Carolina</i>'s Andrew Jones takes a closer look at Friday night's season-opening loss to Hampton.

CHAPEL HILL – The North Carolina Tar Heels began a season at home with a loss for just the second time in their last 73 tries and in the process have embarked on what might the program's most difficult season since the early days of the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration.

Hampton's 77-69 victory before a crowd of 17,320 at the Dean E. Smith Center may go down in UNC history as the most shocking opening loss in the school's wonderful history. However, if the players and coaching staff don't improve in some of the basics this won't be the last time the opposition leaves Chapel Hill all smiles.

Here is a look at the good and bad of UNC's loss.

GOOD

Jason Capel – Capel scored 17 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and played a solid floor game. He did his part in trying to will the team to victory but his poor shooting (5-13, 1-9 from three-point range) and five turnovers didn't help. However, in fairness, most of the turnovers occurred with him trying to penetrate and create. He was trying to do something offensively as it was a 40-minute struggle for the Tar Heels.

Jackie Manuel – Manuel (eight points, four rebounds) showed some nice flashes on both ends of the floor. He caused two tie-ups by diving for a loose ball, had a nice steal and break away jam in UNC's attempted comeback and appeared comfortable with the 21 minutes he played. However, he is still a bit green and can't yet be counted on for big time minutes.

Jawad Williams – Williams (10 points, seven rebounds) displayed exceptional athletic ability but perhaps his basketball IQ isn't up to snuff. At least it was tonight. He made some foolish passes (three turnovers) and took some ill-advised shots. But overall, he will improve and should be a positive factor for the Heels before long.

Brian Morrison – Morrison made some extremely nice plays and was the only Heel that had much success penetrating. He was also very active in the half court traps.

Will Johnson – Johnson is a fighter. He did a solid job on the glass (four boards in 12 minutes) and battled defensively, although he was beaten a couple of times. He isn't a 30-minute a game player, but is certainly more than serviceable for 15 minutes a night. He also ran the floor well on a fast break layin after gorgeous dish from Morrison.

No injuries – The Heels had no injuries to speak of. Capel seemed fine in the locker room after the game.

Fans – The fans - those that bothered to show up (17,320 announced) - did a good job making noise and encouraging the Heels. One thing is certain, Carolina fans may not make a lot of consistent noise, but when the team is behind and trying to come back they do an excellent job, as was the case Friday night.

BAD

Zone offense – The Tar Heels struggled all night against Hampton's zone defense. Even after the game UNC's players were sort of confused about what kind of zone Hampton was actually playing. It sort of gave the look of a match-up zone but played more like a sagging zone and sometimes vice versa. The entry passes down low weren't there much and with the outside shot not falling and very little penetration, it is a wonder Carolina didn't lose by more and score less than 50 points.

Perimeter shooting – Carolina made just six of a school record 35 attempted threes, which was good for a putrid 17.1%. Overall, the Heels were just 26-67 (38.8%) from the floor. Many of UNC's misses were reasonably contested, but a healthy chunk was also wide open. It appeared as if the Heels became tight as the game wore on and they weren't able to cut into Hampton's lead. Such is why many of Carolina's shots were not fluid and lacked proper rotation.

Adam Boone – Boone (five points, five assists) is not aggressive enough to run the point in the ACC. He dribbles east-west too much and not north-south enough. Too often he turns his back to the defense and most of his passes are light tosses to someone 25 feet from the basket. Defensively he is okay in certain situations but is too slow for the half court trap and doesn't recover well once beaten on the dribble. Boone is a very nice and articulate young man with a bright future in life, but unless he improves dramatically – and soon - Carolina will struggle on offense all year.

Brian Morrison – As Morrison (nine points, five assists) did some nice things he also did some inexplicable things. He is still too reckless (five turnovers) and sometimes leaves his feet when penetrating without really knowing what he is going to do. The sophomore from Washington is an excellent athlete with a tremendous upside to his game, but he MUST hone his skills and tone it down some if the Heels are to have any chance at returning to the NCAA Tournament. In the long run he may be the team's most important player.

Brian Bersticker, Orlando Melendez – It is a shame that as both players are in their fifth years at UNC neither is a serviceable player. Melendez has improved very little and is a complete liability on offense and Bersticker still has a tough time in the paint defensively and rebounding. He can shoot the ball, blocks shots well and has some decent instincts for the game, but won't likely be a factor at all this year. In Bersticker's defense, the foot injuries didn't help his progress, which in turn negatively affected his confidence.

Freshmen – There were some positive signs from the freshmen but for the most part they looked like freshmen. Williams has a lot to learn. Manuel does too but as more of a true wing player might develop quicker in the short term. Melvin Scott (no points) looked very much like a freshman and did very little in his 10 minutes. The good sign for UNC fans is that after one game, nobody was worried about any of them going pro. LOL.

Ronald Curry/Julius Peppers – As much as many UNC fans wanted the hoops program to move on and live on its own without the football players, that might not be possible this season. Curry's maturity stabilizing influence at point guard and Peppers' brute strength, agility and approach would be very welcome additions. With them UNC has an excellent chance to continue all of the amazing streaks that exemplify this program's long standing greatness. Without them the Heels might be in for a long season.

Students – Perhaps the worst moment of the night came when Carolina's students began chanting "SAT, SAT, SAT…" late in the game at the Hampton players and fans. Is UNC so pathetic that the students had to resort to such disgusting and inhospitable ways and treat their guests so poorly? UNC has long prided itself on being a school with tremendous class. That certainly wasn't the case on Friday. Those kids should be ashamed of themselves.

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels return to action Tuesday night as they host the Davidson Wildcats in a rare in-state non-conference home game for UNC. Davidson is coached by Bob McKillop, who coached Matt Doherty in high school in New York.

*****

Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.


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