McDonald opens floor; will FTs improve?

Don’t expect North Carolina to average nine 3-pointers a game, but Leslie McDonald's reinstatement will open up a whole new game as he settles into the lineup. That is, if the Tar Heels can get this free throw thing worked out -- more on that later.)

McDonald’s 4-for-9 performance from the 3-point line ranked him second on the team in made 3-pointers despite playing just one game. The more coach Roy Williams plays McDonald and Marcus Paige in the same lineup, the more opportunities will open up in the post.

“Being able to bring that shooting ability to the team I think that could help us out and spread the floor out a little bit on our opponents and just help Marcus out,” McDonald said. “We’ve been seeing him getting box-and-1s and a lot of guys have been pressuring on him so [I’m] trying to relieve the pressure.”

Carolina currently generates the fewest points from behind the arc of any team in the country. Just 13 percent of the Heels' total points have been 3-pointers. By comparison, during Carolina’s national championship seasons in 2005 and 2009, 3-pointers accounted for 26 percent and 23 percent of the total points, respectively.

What was ironic in McDonald’s return is that he took and made 3-pointers with no problem, but he got bit from the same free throw bug that has plagued the rest of the team. McDonald shot 79.5 percent from the line last season but made just 3 of his 8 free throw attempts against Texas.

“I’m a little disappointed in my free throws, I know I’m better than that,” McDonald said. “I’m known to shoot a high percentage from the free throw line. It’s something I’ve just got to work on.”

He’s far from alone in that.

The mounting misses from the line have somewhat nullified the benefit of going to the line. The Heels average at least one free throw for every two field goal attempts -- the highest free throw rate in the ACC – which would be celebrated in most years.

But with this bunch it generates more of a wince when any player besides Paige and his 91.2 percent efficiency steps to the line. Carolina collectively has the seventh-worst shooting percentage nationally at 59.6 percent.

The Heels lead the nation in most missed free throws per game at 12.8, edging out Marshall (12.3), Texas (11.9) and Kentucky (11.4).