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UNC’s Brice Johnson on final possessions: ‘We really haven’t practiced them’

Nov 18, 2013, 2:45 PM EDT

Belmont v North Carolina Getty Images

There’s a lot to be concerned about if you’re a North Carolina basketball fan right now.

For starters, they just lost at home to Belmont. As good as the Bruins have been in recent seasons, they are still a team that just won their first game against a top 25 opponent in a decade and didn’t even enter this season as the favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

That’s a bad loss, one that becomes all the more concerning when you think about the defensive breakdowns that allowed J.J. Mann to get three open threes in the final minute or the 26 free throws the Tar Heels missed.

Should I remind you that none of North Carolina’s big men are North Carolina quality? Or that, right now, Marcus Paige is being forced to play out of position because the suspensions of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald have left UNC bereft of perimeter? What about the fact that Eric Prisbell, who is as tuned in to this case as anyone, has been quite vocal on twitter about how bad he expects the punishments to be?

This could be a long year for the Heels, so this might feel a bit like I’m piling on, but I’m not. This is quite concerning:

After the game, Williams took the blame for the loss. It was in part due to the fact that he admitted he hadn’t drilled his team enough on end-of-game situations like the one it botched Sunday.

“We really haven’t practiced them,” Brice Johnson said. “With the veteran guys on the court, I think we would know some things. But we just froze up in the moment in the end.”

There may be a reason for it. Williams is dealing with a number of new players and has a group of guys that are trying to figure out new positions. It might have been more important to Williams to make sure that his guys learned their role in his system. I might be able to understand that if it was the first time that his players had been quoted admitting they don’t practice end-of-game situations enough.

Most teams get drilled on this at the end of a practice or a shootaround, spending 15 or 20 minutes playing out different situations — down two with 20 seconds left, tie game with five seconds left, etc. Knowing what play to run without having to call a timeout, knowing who should be getting the final shot, being comfortable enough to have an internal clock knowing how much time is left, learning to operate quickly yet calmly without rushing. These are all things that should be practiced and can be improved on.

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