Sophomore guard Marcus Paige was made available to reporters on Thursday afternoon because he has already finished his exams. Eleven of his teammates, however, had exams scheduled two days ahead of the matchup with the Wildcats, which ultimately prevented UNC from practicing on Thursday.
That’s been a common theme this week for the Tar Heels.
“By the time we play Kentucky, we will have had a full practice on Wednesday and a full practice on Friday and that’s it the whole week,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “So it has been really hard.”
When asked if this week represented a standard exam schedule with regards to practicing, Williams said no.
“I can’t give you a reason why, but it’s a little more limited than what we’ve had in the past,” Williams said. “We do a lot of running and shooting sometimes, but still get some practice time in… It really has been much more limited practice time than we’ve ever had.”
UNC hasn’t played its best ball coming out of the exam break in recent years. Last season, East Carolina scored 61 points on 52.9 percent shooting in the second half to pull within four points with 27 seconds remaining. In 2011-12, the Tar Heels defeated Appalachian State, 97-82, despite going “brain dead there for a while,” according to Williams.
In 2010-11, UNC lost to Texas, 78-76, in Greensboro on Dec. 18.
The hectic exam schedule makes it difficult to maintain the rhythm attained through the opening month of the season.
“Exam week kind of sucks in terms of not having everyone on the page,” Paige said. “People are taking 8 a.m. [exams] and you just have a crazy schedule. But guys are still finding ways to get into the gym. We have two full practices – one tomorrow and we had one yesterday. Yesterday was a pretty good practice, So if we just get our rest and come with the mindset tomorrow to have a great practice, I don’t think it should be much of a factor.”
Considering UNC’s roller coaster ride of a season thus far, Paige may have a point. After all, it’s not the ranked opponents that have presented problems for the Tar Heels thus far.
“You still have to bring it against those other teams, but it’s a lot easier to get up for a game as big as the one we have Saturday,” Paige said.
The benefit for Kentucky resides in the fact that its exams begin next Monday. With classes ending on Friday, the Wildcats have been able to maintain a regular practice schedule this week and defeated Boise State, 70-55, on Tuesday night.