Asked this week about the keys to winning on the road, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said it takes very good players -- as well as poise, confidence, focus and toughness.
The Tar Heels haven’t shown much of the latter quartet of qualities away from the Smith Center this season, contributing to their 2-5 record when not competing in the comfy confines of home. And they’ve got another challenge when they play at Boston College on Tuesday night.
“Going into BC is not easy," Williams said. “BC, they shoot the ball well, they shoot more 3s than anybody in our league, present some match-up problems for us.
“Everybody will be fired up when North Carolina comes; that’s the way it is, and that’s the way I like it because if nobody is fired up when you come in there, that means they’ve been beating your rear end a lot, so I don’t like that scenario for sure.”
The Eagles have struggled of late, losing four straight ACC games. Three of those losses, though, were by five or fewer points – meaning the Tar Heels can’t afford to fall behind big, like they did in defeats to Butler in the Maui Invitational (29 points), at Indiana (32), at Texas (19) or at NC State (28).
Williams said his team will need to have a focused, confident mindset to win on the road. And the Tar Heels have shown they can do that already this season, winning at always-rowdy Florida State.
“I think it’s a toughness factor, handling the adversity and sticking to what you’re supposed to do, as opposed to trying to go do it on your own,’’ he said. “I think it’s handling the adversity that we have, and making sure [that] whatever your job is, that you do that job to the best of your ability.
“… So far, I haven’t done a very good job of getting this year’s club to handle that, and yet we are probably the youngest club I’ve ever coached or the least experienced that I’ve ever coached. But we’re trying to do the same things with this group that we’ve done in the past, and hopefully it’ll take hold pretty soon.”
A few things to watch during the game, which tips off at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU:
UNC’S BACKCOURT SCORING
One of Williams’ biggest concerns this season was where his team’s points would come from, and the Tar Heels aren’t getting many from their starting backcourt. Point guard Marcus Paige and shooting guard Dexter Strickland combined to shoot 4-for-18 against NC State, and they are 20-for-76 in ACC play.
Remember how young the Eagles were last season? That hasn’t changed much.
Boston College starts three sophomores -- led by Ryan Anderson (16.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg), a unanimous selection to last season’s All-ACC rookie team -- and two freshmen -- led by Olivier Hanlan (13.7 ppg), who has earned ACC Rookie of the Week honors three times already.
Freshmen and sophomores have played 3,589 of the 3,825 minutes this year for the Eagles, according to BC’s games notes. Also, 95 percent of the scoring, 94 percent of the rebounds and 97 percent of the assists have come from underclassmen.
Both teams rank in the bottom third of field-goal percentage defense in league play: UNC is ninth at 43.8 percent, and BC is 12th at 48.3 percent. Who will be more stick-to-itive? ... UNC reserve P.J. Hairston has seen his minutes drop to 17 each of the last two games; it will be interesting to see whether his playing time increases, or if Williams tweaks the rotation. ... UNC has won seven of the last nine games against BC, including three in a row.