CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The last time North Carolina got blown out, Feb. 9 at Miami, coach Roy Williams made a line-up change that resulted in a smaller, faster, more aggressive team that finally seemed to jell en route go going 6-1 – until Saturday’s 69-53 lopsided loss to then-No. 3 Duke.
But barring something odd happening during practice over the next few days, there will be no line-up change this time around, Williams said. The third-seeded Tar Heels will play either Clemson or Florida State in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament on Friday.
“We’re going to stay with P.J. [Hairston] as the 4-man, there’s no question,’’ Williams said Monday. “But during the course of games, we might play big guys more. It’s getting too much credit, because our players are the ones that did it – but that line-up has been better for us, so we’ll stick with that right now. But Ol’ Roy is not going to be small for the rest of his coaching career, I tell you.”
Williams is most comfortable having a couple of true post players in his starting five, but with none of his young big guys (Desmond Hubert, Joel James, Brice Johnson) consistently asserting themselves this season, he opted last month to put his best offensive players on the floor from the get-go – meaning the 6-foot-5 Hairston instead of the 6-9 Hubert.
The result had been more points and cohesion -- until Saturday, when the Tar Heels shot just 23 percent in the first half, made only one 3-pointer for the game and lost their composure early, when the taller Blue Devils opened the game with a 14-0 run.
“We just need to learn from our mistakes,’’ said Hairston, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds in the loss. “Because we know what we can do, we know we can play with poise, we’ve overcome adversity a lot with this line-up before. Nobody believed it would work, and we’ve proved everyone wrong.”