12/13/04 — OPINION -- Heel's subs log minutes in blowout

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OPINION -- Heel's subs log minutes in blowout

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on December 13, 2004 1:55 PM

Except for Roy Williams' concerns about having a long layoff between games and what he considered a bad practice on Saturday, all signs pointed to a North Carolina blowout of Loyola-Chicago on Sunday.

Boy, was it ever.

The Tar Heels shot a stout, 58 percent from the floor, put six players in double figures and turned in an improved, second-half defensive performance on their way to a 109-60 rout of the Ramblers.

The point-total was Carolina's highest of the season. The Heels peaked at a 50-point lead late in the game -- the largest margin for Williams' club this season. Marvin Williams and Sean May helped UNC outrebound the Windy City visitors by nearly 20.

Impressive numbers.

Still, facing a Loyola squad that was clearly outmatched, arguably the most important numbers were at the end of the stat sheet -- minutes played. Nine Heels played significantly more minutes than their season averages. Just as valuable, point guard Raymond Felton, nursing an injured left hand, and the rest of the starters stayed rested and fresh.

Williams got to see both reserve point guards Wes Miller and Quintin Thomas run the offense with the first team, while freshman forward Marvin Williams started the second half and nearly finished with a double-double.

"I was able to get Raymond out and get him some more rest time for that hand," Williams said. "I wanted him to play a little bit to get back in the rhythm, but hopefully with another short week this week ... hopefully his hand will be even better by the end of the week.

"The score was out of control pretty soon, but I kept trying to teach them to build better habits."

Five of Carolina's next six opponents are from conference's which tradionally get just one NCAA Tournament berth. The Heels aren't necessarily facing all slouches, but it would be a big surprise if the eighth-ranked Heels aren't 12-1 in early January. It would also be shocking if the bench didn't get similiar minutes in at least a few of those games as they did on Sunday.

Reserve forward David Noel believes the next stretch is key going into what promises to be a grueling, ACC schedule.

"It's helping out a whole lot getting guys in and getting quality minutes. Down the road, hopefully they can help us in bigger games," Noel said. "When we substitute we can build our depth. That helps us stay fresh and keep our defensive pressure up.

"This stretch should be helpful before we play a real tough ACC schedule."

Carolina finishes final exams on Wednesday, then travels Sunday to Blacksburg, Va. to face Virginia Tech in its first-ever ACC game.

"Our next game is a conference game," Williams said. "I think they (Virginia Tech) will be excited because it will be their first ACC game. We've got to match that enthusiasm."

Are the Heels starting a successful trend after a long lay-off?

A rude awakening to the ACC awaits the Hokies if Sunday is any indication.