Following a long exam filled layoff, it is commonplace for a basketball team to lose some of the momentum gained in the first 15 days of the season. While that may be the case for a lot of teams and quite a few North Carolina teams have struggled following an extended break – not the 2004-05 Tar Heels. Led by six players in double figures, the Heels pounded an outmanned Loyola Rambler squad 109-60 in front of 19,136 Smith Center fans.
"You approach [the game] just like any other," Sean May said following the Carolina win, "I go through the same routine, no matter if it is an exhibition game or we are playing Duke at Duke. I go through the same routine, no matter what. I think that is how you
approach the game--you do the same things that you've always done.
"In terms of playing, you try not to play to the level of your competition. You try to make them play up to you. A lot of times when you have more talent, they are not able to reach that point. That's what this team has got to learn--in the past sometimes we would play to the level of our competition"
Carolina continued the trend of jumping out of huge first half leads beginning with the Manuel dunk and ending with a Wes Miller three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer. In leading 63-36, the Tar Heels scorched the nets for 68% shooting from the floor and 11 for 12 from the line. In the half, twelve Heels saw action, nine of whom scored with Jawad Williams and Rashad McCants hitting for 11 and ten respectively. Freshman Marvin Williams scored 10 including his second three pointer of his young career.
Unable to play ‘up to Carolina' and as the Heels blazed away, the only way the Ramblers managed to stay within eyesight of the home team was to shoot 52% from the floor and get three three-pointers from guard Dave Telander. For a team gaining steam on the defensive end of the floor, Coach Williams let his Heels know that 63 points were great, but the defensive effort would simply not do.
"At halftime, I challenged them to be more attentive to get a hand up on every shot since they had shot 52 percent in the first half," Coach Williams said. "We still gave them some open shots, but I thought we challenged their shots a little bit better in the second half."
That the Heels did and meeting the halftime challenge came quick and easy as the Ramblers could manage only four buckets in the first ten minutes of the second stanza. With the clamps on, Carolina eased away and led 93-46 with 11:03 left in the game. The only remaining question would be the margin of victory though the Heels used every minute to prepare for what lies ahead in the schedule.
"I kept challenging them during the game today—the score was pretty much out of control fairly soon," Coach Williams said later, "But I kept trying to challenge them to build habits, and I think that this group is more experienced in trying to build habits, and I think that will help us down the line."
With that in mind, Coach Williams substituted liberally and managed to accomplish several goals – resting Raymond Felton and getting quality minutes for nearly everyone else. Ten Tar Heels played in excess of ten minutes with Marvin Williams and Felton the only two over twenty minutes. Byron Sanders and Wes Miller played nine and eight, respectively.
In the end, Loyola would shoot just 27% in the second half – 38% for the game as the Heels finished with 58% shooting overall, ten of 18 from three point range.
Eleven Heels scored with Jawad Williams' 17, McCants' and Marvin Williams' 16 leading the way. Sean May had his most complete game of the season with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Marvin Williams pulled down nine rebounds to lead the team and continued his aggressive start to his rookie campaign.
"I just try to work hard. Effort, I try to give as much effort as I can and always end up with the loose balls," the freshman Williams said following the game.
"I don't fear anybody…I don't want anybody to work harder than me so maybe that it's it. But I just play basketball," Williams continued when asked where that aggressive manner of play came from, "I make sure he'll (Coach Williams) never have to coach my effort. I give 120% every time."
So after seven games in the first 15 days of the season, North Carolina will take another week off before heading to Virginia to meet the Hokies of Virginia Tech in a game the folks from Blacksburg have waited on for a long time.
"I want us to have a couple of good days of practice so we can be sharper than we were today, when we go up to Blacksburg," Coach Williams said in his closing comments, "I think they'll be excited. It's going to be their first ACC game. We have to make sure that we match that enthusiasm."