Tar Heels battling stress, trying to avoid 0-3 ACC start
North Carolina will try to avoid matching the worst ACC start in program history Saturday at Florida State.
The Tar Heels, 10-5 overall, followed Sunday’s nine-point loss at Virginia with a 68-59 defeat Thursday to Miami (11-3, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
The loss dropped North Carolina to 0-2 in ACC play for just the fourth time. The Tar Heels’ only 0-3 start came in 1997.
Coach Roy Williams said the good things he has seen from his team in practice isn’t translating to games, and it’s creating stress for a team that began the season a consensus top-15 selection.
“When you’re a basketball player at North Carolina, people expect a lot of things of you,” Williams said. “I’ve got some really good players who are hurting right now and they’re also feeling a little stressed. No question about that.”
Williams said UNC lacked a sense of urgency in the loss at Virginia, but that wasn’t the case against the Hurricanes, who outscored the Tar Heels 38-27 in the second half.
James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock led North Carolina with 14 and 11 points, respectively. But McAdoo and Bullock combined to shoot 2-of-16 from the field in the second half.
“I feel like everybody’s mad, everybody’s stressed, trying to figure out what we need to do for us to win games,” said Bullock. “Somehow we have to pull it together and get tougher playing against these ACC teams because they are great teams. Every night we have to come out ready to play.”
The disappointing ACC start has left more than just the players feeling anxious.
“I’m stressed. There’s no question about that,” said Williams. “I’m not a guy to panic. I’m not a guy to give up or anything like that. I’m going to come in (Friday) and coach the crap out of them.”
Florida State (10-5, 2-0 ACC) posted lackluster non-conference results, losing to the likes of South Alabama, Mercer and Auburn, but the Seminoles have started conference play with wins at Clemson and Maryland.
The Tar Heels were blown out in Tallahassee last season before falling to FSU in the ACC tourney title game.
“They’re pretty doggone good,” said Williams. “They got off to a slow start last year then started playing great. And they’re playing great right now.”
Williams said his team has to avoid letting the stress affect its confidence.
“You have to get away from that,” he said. “Life is going to throw you some curveballs. Life’s going to throw you some adversity, but if you’re always worried, you’re never going to get that change.”
P.J. Hairston, who entered the Miami game averaging 12.1 points, was limited to five points on 2-of-7 shooting against the Hurricanes.
“It’s a terrible feeling,” Hairston said of the 0-2 start. “It’s not really much to say except we just have to play better. We feel like we can do that if we come together as a team.”
North Carolina, at least, has history on its side. The 2008-2009 team that started 0-2 in the ACC responded with a 10-game win streak and went on to claim a national title. In 1997, the Tar Heels’ 0-3 league start was forgotten after a 16-game win streak and an ACC tourney title and Final Four appearance.
Florida State has won six of their last seven and four of its last six against North Carolina.
“We have to go down there and regardless of our stress and regardless of our confidence,” Williams said, “we have to go play and do the best we can in practice (Friday) to get better.”
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