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December 30, 2009
Heels fall apart late but still beat Albany handily
CHAPEL HILL - Roy Williams learned a lesson from his anger stemming from North Carolina's last game, even if his players didn't.
Williams, who hurt his surgically repaired shoulder by slamming his good hand into his chair during a sloppy win against Rutgers two days earlier, was calm - though still frustrated - after his team played terribly down the stretch of an 87-70 win against Albany.
His players, on the other hand, didn't seem to get the message Williams attempted to send via two practices on the day between the games.
The Great Danes (4-10) outscored the Tar Heels 23-2 over the final 7-plus minutes after Carolina (11-3) had been up by as many as 38 points in the second half.
So Williams vowed that it wouldn't be a pleasant New Year's Eve for the Tar Heels.
But other than that, he refrained from ranting about the poor play like he did after the Rutgers game, opting instead for a reference to the Patrick Swayze film "Ghost."
"He could never say, 'I love you,' he could only say, 'Ditto,'" Williams said. "I felt like walking in here and saying, 'Remember my press conference Monday night? Ditto,' and walk my butt back out of here."
Williams was not as jovial in the locker room.
"You can definitely tell he's still upset," point guard Larry Drew II said. "But he can't spend all his time upset, throwing things around. He's not the one to blame."
It probably didn't help that UNC was without Marcus Ginyard, who was missing his second straight game, as well as the guy who normally would have started in his place, Justin Watts. Both had sprained ankles.
Ed Davis, who led Carolina with 18 points, had three of his four blocks in the first four minutes of the game, when the Heels seemed to come out with the competence that was lacking against Rutgers.
Freshman John Henson had his best game of the season, hitting 4 of 6 shots and drawing a standing ovation in the first half when he twice stopped Albany from inbounding the ball thanks to his length.
The start of the second half was even better for the Tar Heels, who built on a 46-29 halftime lead to go up 38 when Davis scored his final points of the game with 7:35 to go.
"What we have to do is we have to get to the point where we can play the way we played in the first 10 or 12 minutes of the second half and try to create that all the time," Williams said.
Instead they did the opposite.
"It seemed like we just collapsed," Deon Thompson said.
While Williams didn't have to be as demonstrative as he was against Rutgers, there were clearly points late in the game when he wasn't thrilled.
When Albany cut the lead from 38 to 23 over a 4-minute span late in the second half, Williams called a timeout to lecture his team.
But it didn't help much, as Carolina kept faltering and failed to score, hitting just one more field goal after Davis' final bucket.
"I can't tell you why it's happening, but we are making the same mistakes," Drew said.
Williams said this is probably the most negative he has ever been with any team he has coached. But the fact that he wasn't as visibly angry after this win shows that he might be gaining faith a little bit at a time that this group will eventually pull itself together.
"There's still plenty of time," Williams said. "But I've got to figure out a way to get them to do what I say, and they've got to figure out a way to do it."