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UNC Basketball vs. Tennessee Tech: Three Things to Watch

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Expect more defensive intensity tonight from the Heels

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

In both in the postgame press conference and Tuesday night’s radio show, Coach Roy Williams was not happy at all with the overall effort in the second half versus Stanford. I suspect it was not a pleasant week of practice for Carolina.

The next two games should be easy home victories, but do not expect the North Carolina Tar Heels to just cruise through those games. There is still a lot to improve, especially on the defensive end of the court, before UNC begins their nonconference gauntlet.

Here are three things to watch when Carolina takes on Tennessee Tech.

Competing for a Full 40 Minutes

The first half against Stanford showed was this team was capable of against a Power Five school. UNC doubled up on the score by halftime, had more than double the total rebounds, shot 60 percent from the floor, and held the Cardinal to 36 percent shooting.

In the second half, Carolina was outscored, out-rebounded, and outshot from the floor.

Although the Heels won, it was not the type of finish Williams expects from his team. Williams noted on his Tuesday night radio show that his team “didn’t break a sweat” on defense in the second half. To sum it up, there was just plain and simple lack of effort guarding the opposition. Stanford brought more effort and hustle after halftime and that was reflected on the scoresheet.

The most uncharacteristic part of the second half was the lack of execution on the glass. After holding a 24-11 rebounding edge at halftime, Carolina was outrebounded in the second half and held just a 45-35 advantage at the end of the game.

Tonight, look for the Tar Heels to put a big emphasis on these two items: effective guarding and rebounding.

Kenny Williams Keeping it Up

After a scoreless game against Wofford and just a single point versus Elon, Kenny Williams broke through with 12 points in the Stanford game, going 4-6 from the floor, including 2-3 from three.

It is no secret that Williams is one of, if not the best defender on the team. His contributions go beyond just points in the boxscore. He was the team’s defensive player of the game against the Terriers.

But if this team wants to be a contender, Williams needs to find that sweet outside shot.

Nothing can make up for action during a game, and with two games against lesser opponents, this will be a great opportunity for Williams and others to find a groove.

More Lineup Combinations?

Carolina has floored the same starting lineup in three games this season, but there was an interesting observation from the Stanford game.

Luke Maye led the team with 26 minutes, while Cameron Johnson and Nassir Little each were second with 24 minutes.

Little came off the bench for 24 minutes and had more or as many minutes as four starters. Is this the beginning of Little eventually creeping into the starting lineup?

That remains to be seen. But it will be curious to see if extended minutes with lineup combinations other than the “traditional” starting lineup will be used in the next two games.

The “small” lineup, with the 6’6” Little subbing for Garrison Brooks, has been used quite a bit. With the talent on the floor (Little, Maye, Johnson, Williams, and Coby White), it is obvious why this combination is earning minutes.

Another lineup, although used briefly, is the “big” lineup. Brooks has been paired with Sterling Manley in the low post. With the continued progression of both players and potential need for this lineup, either due to matchups, foul trouble, injuries, or otherwise, it may be worthwhile to get some more minutes with this pair on the floor.

An additional consideration is how Leaky Black will be used. Behind Little, Black had the most minutes off the bench versus Stanford and it was evident he has great stat-stuffing potential. He finished with eight points, six rebounds, five assists, and one steal in 15 minutes of play.

Expect a lot of players on the floor the next two games and keep an eye on combinations and the chemistry they create.