Guard Play Vital to Tar Heels' Success

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –-- The ACC's top rookie at center, two veteran wing players and a freshman backcourt tandem, as well as a handful of almost interchangeable parts that entered the season with little to no collegiate playing experience. It's almost like No. 20 North Carolina is playing with house money.

And the future looks bright, especially considering the overall youth and inexperience of the club.

Roy Williams and the Tar Heels (10-2, 2-0 ACC) have made the most of that formula and look to add another notch in its unblemished conference record on Saturday when the Tar Heels take on Miami (9-6, 1-1) on Saturday at the Smith Center. Tip-off is at noon for a nationally televised game on ESPN2.

"There's no question, I'm extremely proud of the way they've handled themselves," Williams said during his weekly press conference on Friday. "With freshmen, you can't get too comfortable whether it's a bad response or a good response. But they have really done a nice job in most situations. They've really done a nice job of handling stress, expectations, or whatever."

But while most expected David Noel and Reyshawn Terry to pick up their level of play with more minutes, and of course, there was never a doubt Tyler Hansbrough would have to step right in; the solid guard play turned in by starters Bobby Frasor and Marcus Ginyard – as well as backup Wes Miller – has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise for UNC fans.

The guard rotation will be tested against a Hurricanes' offense which relies heavily on its three starting guards: Anthony Harris, Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite. It's an experienced and versatile triumvirate that is coming off a sensational performance against Maryland. (See Previewing Miami)

"They've got three great guards who can really challenge you," Ginyard said.

Ginyard leads UNC with 19 steals. While it's his defense that earned him starting shooting guard honors since the start of the season, Ginyard's presence doesn't wither down the stretch in tough ballgames either.

He scored all eight of his points against then-No. 10 Kentucky in the second half, including two key free throws with 19 seconds left to help preserve the Tar Heels' victory with 19 seconds left. All of this coming after having surgery in September to repair an injured left wrist, and working out practically the entire preseason in a cast.

"As a freshman in high school, I was playing behind a lot of good players that are now in the Atlantic 10," Ginyard said. "That helped me because the only way I could beat those guys out of some playing time was by playing good defense.

"It was just a personal decision I made as a way to get more playing time."

Frasor (pictured, right), viewed by many scouts as more of a combo guard in high school, ranks fourth in the ACC this week with 4.8 assists per game. His 17 steals on the season is second-best on the team and he has more assists than turnovers in nine out of 12 games this season.

"From Day One, I was playing point guard in practice on the white/blue team, either/or," Frasor said. "It's been fine. I played the point position four years in high school. Everybody thought I played the ‘two' because I played that in summer ball, but I was a point guard four years in high school and my dad was a point guard in college."

Frasor has already proven his steady nerves in big games. Against All-America Dee Brown in the 68-64 loss to Illinois, he scored seven points and turned the ball over only twice in 33 minutes of action. He was also instrumental in perhaps the Tar Heels' biggest win so far this season by scoring 17 points and converting 6-of-7 field goals in the second half against N.C. State.

"Coming here and playing in pick up games this summer really helped me," Frasor said. "You don't know what to expect, but that helps you learn quicker. Offensively I've adjusted well. I'm looking for my shot more, handling the ball better; everything is coming together."

In addition, Miller continues to get the most out of his size and athletic ability by protecting the basketball, (17 assists, 10 turnovers), bringing in defense off the bench (12 steals) and sinking 43 percent of his three-point attempts – two of which were vital in Carolina's close win at Virginia Tech on Tuesday.

Miller's first three cut the Hokies' largest lead of the second half down from five to two points and the second gave the Tar Heels a 51-48 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish the rest of the game.

"It's been sweat and brains," Williams said of Miller's continued improvement. "He's much better defensively than he was last year, and he's light years better than he was the first year he was here. He's concentrated and tried to work on everything we've talked about in practice.

"The primary reason we put Wes in is he's got that ability to shoot the three and he's gotten much better defensively."

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