Williams' inconsistent Tar Heels still rebounding

Williams' inconsistent Tar Heels still rebounding

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Roy Williams always wants his North Carolina teams to run. He knows they can't do that without hitting the glass, snatching down a rebound and kicking the ball out to start the break.

It's why the Hall of Famer has always emphasized rebounding since taking over at UNC a decade ago - and why Williams' Tar Heels have always ranked among the Atlantic Coast Conference's best at crashing the boards. It's one thing this year's group has generally done well even as they've struggled at times after losing four NBA first-round draft picks.

``The simple fact of the game is the quality of my shot against the quality of your shot,'' Williams said Friday. ``And if I rebound it more, some of my shots are going to be close shots. They're going to be tip-ins or follow dunks. That's been the whole reason for me since the day I started.''

Since Williams left Kansas to return to his alma mater in 2003, the Tar Heels (11-5, 1-2 ACC) have ranked either first or the second in the league every year in both rebounds per game and rebound margin. In fact, they've led the ACC in both categories in six of Williams' first nine seasons, according to STATS LLC.

Throw in offensive rebounding - the Tar Heels have led the ACC in that for the past four seasons - and North Carolina has led the league in all three categories in each of the past two seasons.

This year's team lacks a true go-to post player such as Sean May and Tyler Hansbrough from Williams' two national-title winners in 2005 and 2009. Nor does it have anyone on the level of Tyler Zeller or John Henson, the frontcourt tandem that helped the Tar Heels to the nation's top rebounding margin last season before becoming first-round picks.

Yet the Tar Heels still lead the league in offensive rebounds (15.7 per game). They're second in total rebounds (43.2) and rebounding margin (plus-6.6) to Maryland, their opponent Saturday.

``If we see one guy in practice not box out, we stop and run every day,'' Williams said, ``because I really do believe it's that important.''

Those rebounding numbers impact everything the Tar Heels do, from their ability to get the ball into transition to whether they're playing with any toughness on the interior. It will certainly be a critical factor against the Terrapins (14-3, 2-2), who rank second nationally in rebounding margin at 11 per game.

Maryland, led by 7-foot-1 center Alex Len, hasn't been outrebounded all season.

The Tar Heels were outrebounded in three of their five losses this season, while they barely took an edge on the glass in the other two.

Compare that to last weekend's win at Florida State. On the same court where they lost by 33 a year earlier, North Carolina took a 41-19 rebounding advantage - including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points in the 77-72 win.

``It's a huge emphasis,'' freshman point guard Marcus Paige said. ``Offensive rebounds are one of the best parts of our offense and obviously we try to control the defensive rebounding as well. ... This year it's more of a collective effort. We don't have (Zeller and Henson) pulling in double-digit rebounds every night, but we have all of our guys committed to try to own the boards.''

In a sign of how different this UNC team is from its predecessors, 6-9 sophomore James Michael McAdoo averages a team-high eight rebounds per game, while the next-best rebounders - 6-7 junior Reggie Bullock and 6-5 sophomore P.J. Hairston - are both guards with size.

The Tar Heels have often rotated freshman big men Brice Johnson and Joel James, and sophomore Desmond Hubert alongside McAdoo in search of consistent help inside, though none of the three are playing more than 14 minutes per game. Williams has even gone small with a four-guard lineup for stretches this year.

For now, Williams doesn't care who's pulling down the rebounds - as long as his Tar Heels are the ones hauling them in.

``We work awfully hard to run after (made shots), too,'' Williams said, ``but there's no question it's easier to run off the missed shots so we have to get some of those rebounds.''

Also Friday, Williams said junior guard Leslie McDonald is doubtful to return after missing the past two games with a right knee injury. Williams said the reserve hasn't been able to fully practice since tweaking the knee - the same one that sidelined him all last year - last week.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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