That's more like it
Tar Heels roll past Old Dominion in Williams' debut
Posted: Sunday November 23, 2003 12:26AM; Updated: Sunday November 23, 2003 12:29AM
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Shot selection was better, the unselfishness returned and the defense picked up for No. 9 North Carolina in Saturday night's opener.
And it seemed like old times with Roy Williams back on the bench.
The storied program lost a combined 36 games the last two seasons, but the Tar Heels gave their new coach an impressive victory in his debut, beating Old Dominion 90-64 Saturday night.
It all came with former coaches Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge watching as Williams passed muster in his return to his alma mater.
"I told the kids that that was No. 1 and now we talk about this year," Williams said. "We don't talk about the stuff in the past. That will be a lot of fun for me."
Rashad McCants had 18 points and a career-high eight assists against an Old Dominion team that returned four of its six best players.
Sean May, who missed most of last season with a stress fracture in his left foot, was back in form with 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks as the Tar Heels shot 61 percent.
"Guys weren't trying to do things by themselves tonight and that wasn't always the case last year," May said.
Abdi Lidonde led Old Dominion with 15 points.
"Well, everything went according to script," ODU coach Blaine Taylor said. "They're good, Roy's good, a great crowd, a great environment. Their energy was very, very good."
Williams, who left Kansas this spring after 15 seasons to replace Matt Doherty, was greeted with a standing ovation as entered the Smith Center floor, waving to the crowd several times and his family in the stands.
He also won some points with the student section when he held up a T-shirt that read: "North Carolina basketball, worth coming home for." Williams then threw the autographed shirt into the crowd.
"My first thought as I came out was that I didn't see myself ever walking out of that tunnel as the head coach of North Carolina," Williams said.
Then it was down to business for the coach who learned his craft under the Hall of Famer Smith.
The Tar Heels shot the most 3-pointers in the ACC last season, but weren't firing away much from the outside under Williams, who yelled repeatedly from the bench to "get the ball inside."
"They are really taking to heart some of the things that Roy is trying to do," said Taylor, whose club lost to the Tar Heels 67-59 last year. "This is quite a good start for them."
And North Carolina's defensive pressure was evident from the start as Old Dominion (0-1) missed 22 of its first 29 shots, turned it over 11 times and had six shots blocked in the opening 20 minutes to fall into a deep hole.
"We played the way we wanted to defensively," McCants said. "That was big tonight and it will be big all year."
The Tar Heels received a scare 7 1/2 minutes in when preseason All-American Raymond Felton tumbled to the floor during a drive, clutching his ankle. The point guard limped off, but returned three minutes later and made an acrobatic shot as he was falling and being fouled.
Felton's three-point play was part of a 22-6 run that gave North Carolina a 17-point cushion midway through an opening period in which the Tar Heels shot 59.3 percent.
North Carolina pushed its lead to 22 by the first TV timeout of the second half, after Jawad Williams scored on a pair of layups and May added a hook shot and a fast-break basket.
The coach with the best active winning percentage even got his new team running like some of his Kansas clubs in the second period, using a 18-0 surge to salt it away with 12 minutes left.
"We had a little bit of star-gazing in this setting," Taylor said of his young club. "We watched and soaked up the experience rather than played basketball. Maybe this was more than it was fair to think we could handle at this juncture."