CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In the minutes after Duke’s Austin Rivers hit the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat North Carolina on Wednesday night, the fifth-ranked Tar Heels’ emotions ran the gamut: shock, disgust, depression.
By now, as they prepare for Saturday’s game vs. No. 20 Virginia, coach Roy Williams wants them to angry. And focused.
“The only good you can take from it is to become more determined,” Williams said after the Wednesday loss. “You ought to be ticked off. You ought to be flat-out ticked off and that’s the best language I can use. If you start wallowing in the sorrow for yourself and feeling frickin’ sorry for yourself, you ought to just go home.
“My team better by God come back and decide they’re going to be better. We lost a game that we could have won. If we don’t learn something from that and come back and be more determined, then I’ve got the wrong group. And I don’t think I have the wrong group. We’re going to come back and go to work.”
And there’s plenty to do.
A few things to watch:
Remember, last summer, when it looked like UNC might have almost too much depth on the wing? Not anymore. Freshman P.J. Hairston will sit out Saturday’s game because of a sore foot, joining Leslie McDonald (redshirting the season after off-season knee surgery) and Dexter Strickland (season-ending knee injury last month) on the bench.
(Hairston was in a walking boot Friday, so that might prevent him from joining his street-clothes counterparts the pre-tipoff “Jump Around” dance.)
“This is just more adversity that we have to fight through,” point guard Kendall Marshall said Friday, according to the Associated Press. “Numbers are thin right now, obviously. I believe one of Coach’s rules is you’re not allowed to get hurt now.”
Look for senior Justin Watts to get more playing time in place of Hairston. UNC’s reserves have managed only 15 points, total, in the past three games.
ACC PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR CANDIDATES
After sitting out last season because of ankle surgery, Virginia forward Mike Scott might be the most valuable player in the league for all he contributes to the Cavaliers: 17 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and 60.3 percent shooting.
But what are his chances for ACC Player of the Year? It could depend on how he fares while on the same court as a couple of other candidates. UNC sophomore Harrison Barnes, the league’s preseason player of the year, is averaging 17.7 points – and scored 19 of his 25 points Wednesday in the second half of the Duke loss. Tar Heels forward John Henson is averaging 14.2 points, and leads the league in blocks and rebounds.
And then there are Marshall (6.8 ppg, 9.8 assists per game) and 7-footer Tyler Zeller (15.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg), who are going to make it difficult for voters to choose which Tar Heels make which All-ACC team.
Questions are swirling about UNC’s killer instinct – or lack thereof – again after allowing Duke to come back from a 10-point deficit in the final 2 minutes, 38 seconds Wednesday to win.
How will the Tar Heels respond?
“We’ve just got to prepare for March,” sophomore guard Reggie Bullock said, according to the AP. “We wish we could’ve won that game, but we can’t get that game back so we’ve just got to look forward to the next game coming up.”
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.