The newly-inducted Hall of Fame coach pulled out Deon Thompson, Bobby Frasor, Quentin Thomas, William Graves and Danny Green following a missed 25-footer and a turnover, highlighting the early season issues plaguing the Tar Heels.
“I was not very encouraged by the way that we started the second half, and that’s the reason I took those five out,” Williams said. “Then I put five more in, and I wasn’t very encouraged by the way they played either, so I put five more in. Again, that’s part of it – trying to get better throughout the course of the season.”
Preseason ACC Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough led all scorers with 23 points, while Deon Thompson added 17 points and 10 rebounds in the eventual 114-62 blowout, but North Carolina committed 17 turnovers and shot poorly behind the arc (2-13 on three-point attempts). The problems were apparent from the opening tip of the 2007-08 season’s first exhibition contest at the Smith Center.
“I don’t mind turnovers, but when they’re careless turnovers, I think it’s really bad for your basketball team,” Williams said. “And I thought most of the turnovers in the first half were of that variety.”
Williams expects his players will take note of his decision to insert a third team of Patrick Moody, Marc Campbell, Mike Copeland, J.B. Tanner and Surry Wood into the game while nursing a 16-point lead against the Division II Bears.
“I’ve got a pretty smart team,” Williams said. “If they didn’t figure it out now, I’ll remind them of it tomorrow, so I’m pretty sure they’ll remember it then.”
The final 52-point margin of victory was primarily due to a solid Tar Heel defensive effort. Shaw shot 33.8 percent (23-68) for the game, after managing to knock down just 29.4 percent (10-34) of their field goal attempts in the first half. Ty Lawson accounted for four of North Carolina’s 16 steals on the night, which played a large role in Shaw’s 26 turnovers.
“I think we’ve really gotten better and better, and I think we’ve got a chance to be a really, really good defensive team, even though we lost some good defenders with Brandan [Wright], Wes [Miller] and Reyshawn [Terry],” Williams said. “But I think that everybody on our team has gotten better in different stages and in different levels. I would say that we’ve probably spent 70 percent of our practices on the defensive end of the floor anyway.”
Junior Marcus Ginyard agreed with his head coach on the added emphasis on the defensive side of the ball.
"Compared to my previous two years here, this is the toughest he's stressed defense - he's definitely making an effort to beat it into us," Ginyard said.
But despite the turnovers and poor shot selection, Williams indicated that this game was more about preparing for the season than performing perfectly in an exhibition in front of 19,343 fans.
“It wasn’t the best night for us, but I told the guys that we’ve always talked in terms of an exhibition meaning a glorified practice, and I do think that we gained out there today by far than we would have in practice,” Williams said. “It’s fun to get a chance to play against someone else, instead of beating each other up like we’ve been doing for 17 practices.”
North Carolina’s next exhibition game is Friday, Nov. 9 against Lenoir-Rhyne College at 7:30pm.