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February 4, 2012Carolina will learn today whether the extra rest Coach Roy Williams gave the team after Tuesday's poor shooting performance in a victory at Wake Forest will make a difference.
Fifth-ranked UNC (19-3, 6-1 in the ACC) will play at Maryland (13-8, 3-4) at 4 p.m.
The Tar Heels defeated the Demon Deacons 68-53 but shot 31 percent from the floor. Williams had worked the team hard since a 90-57 loss at Florida State on Jan. 14. Then, starting on Jan. 26, the Tar Heels had a quick succession of three games.
The team had Wednesday off and practiced just 50 minutes on Thursday.
"We tried to give our guys their legs back some," Williams said. "We went the shortest practice we went all year that was not before a game."
Senior center Tyler Zeller said the players welcomed the break to get mentally and physically fresh for the stretch run that is starting on Saturday. This will be the last game of the first half of conference play.
The second half of the conference schedule will begin at 9 p.m. on Wednesday at the Smith Center in the bi-annual meeting with Duke.
"It was definitely nice," Zeller said. "Hopefully we'll come back and practice very well today. Late in the season you kind of get a little run down. We kind of got our legs back, and hopefully that will help our shooting [against Maryland]."
Carolina could be without leading scorer Harrison Barnes (17.7 points per game) against the Terrapins because of a sprained ankle he suffered in Winston-Salem.
Barnes sat out of practice on Thursday and has spent a great deal of time getting treatment. Williams said he did expect Barnes to practice some on Friday.
"He said it felt a heck of a lot better than [Thursday]," Williams said. "On Wednesday morning is when they did the X-rays. The X-rays were negative. He had quite a bit of swelling.
"He was on crutches a little while that morning, and got off them Wednesday. He put in an incredible amount of time, getting treatment."
Williams will have some mixed emotions on Saturday. First-year Terrapin coach Mark Turgeon played and coached under Larry Brown at Kansas and later under Williams when he replaced Brown.
The two have remained close.
"I coached a [junior-varsity] team back in Kansas when I was 24 years old," Turgeon said. "After the last game, I remember calling Coach Williams, and said 'I don't know if I'm going to be any good at this. I'm not you, and I'm not Larry Brown.
"Right then he said, 'That's your problem; you've got to be Mark Turgeon. That has always been good enough.' From that conversation on I've always just tried to be me but take what some great coaches have taught me and coach the way that makes me feel comfortable."
In fact, Williams called Turgeon after the Terrapins lost at Miami earlier this week and Turgeon got ejected following back-to-back technical fouls.
"He's part family," Williams said. "I'm going to have some bad thoughts about competing against him. I called him because I didn't want him beating himself up over getting the technicals and getting tossed and losing the game in [double] overtime.
"We as coaches have a tendency to think we're more important than we are."
The Tar Heels will have to find a way to defend the ACC's leading scorer in Terrell Stoglin. Stoglin scored 36 points against Miami, but he made just 9-of-26 shots from the floor.
"He has tremendous ability to make shots," Williams said. "He's a high-quantity shooter, but he makes a lot of shots, too. He carries the team. He can make three or four shots in row and you could believe you guarded him very well.
"He can make guarded shots. We've got to try to keep his percentage down."
Stoglin is averaging 21.8 points per game.
As for the Tar Heels, Zeller said he thinks that UNC will bounce back from the poor shooting at Wake Forest.
"A lot of stuff went wrong, but at the same time you can also change a lot of it," Zeller said. "You have to go in and put up a few extra shots to get a few extra shots to fall."