With its top four scorers gone, young North Carolina is looking for any sort of consistent offense.
So far, Marcus Ginyard has been the Tar Heels’ best option.
Ginyard matched his career high with 17 points in the sixth-ranked Tar Heels’ latest victory, and he’ll look to keep them rolling when they host Valparaiso on Sunday.
Ginyard’s all-around game caused coach Roy Williams to make him a starter for all 39 games during North Carolina’s 2007-08 run to the Final Four. He was limited to three games last season due to a stress fracture in his left foot, but a medical redshirt gave the senior one more year in Chapel Hill.
Ginyard has taken advantage of the opportunity as the Tar Heels (2-0) work to overcome the departures of Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Lawson and Danny Green. Ginyard had 12 points in an 88-72 win over Florida International on Monday, then scored 17 in an 89-42 rout of North Carolina Central on Wednesday.
Ginyard, a career 43.5 percent shooter, went 12 of 17 from the field in the first two games, an improvement Williams credits to an offseason’s worth of work on his jumper.
“When he shoots it now, I think it’s going in. I really do,” Williams said. “I like that it’s got great spin. He gets it up in the air. It’s not flat and it’s going to land softly, so I do expect that he’ll be more of a scorer. But I want him to be Marcus Ginyard, and then whatever he scores will be fine.”
Ginyard has been known primarily for his perimeter defense and hustle, but wants that to change.
“I’m just really trying to get outside of being labeled,” Ginyard said. “Everybody I guess wants to label you as one thing and I just want to be a player - do anything I can and everything I can.”
While Ginyard has taken charge in the backcourt, the Tar Heels appear to be in good shape up front.
Deon Thompson, who scored 10.6 points per game last season, is averaging 16.5. Meanwhile, the interior tandem of 6-foot-10 Ed Davis and 7-foot Tyler Zeller is shooting 69.2 percent.
North Carolina beat Valparaiso (0-1) in each of the past two seasons, taking the most recent matchup 85-63 in Chicago on Dec. 20 behind 25 points from Hansbrough and 12 from Thompson.
The Crusaders were tied for 299th in the nation with 61.3 points per game last season, but looked better offensively in their season debut. They couldn’t defend, though, allowing Ball State to shoot 57.8 percent in an 88-78 road loss Friday.
Sophomore guard Brandon Wood, who sat out last season after transferring from Southern Illinois, led the way with 25 points in his Valparaiso debut. Forward Cory Johnson, an Iowa State transfer, had 21.
“I thought you definitely saw our youth at times tonight,” coach Homer Drew said. “I was really pleased with our offense and thought Cory did a really good job battling inside. (But) our defense has to get better, especially on the interior.”
The Crusaders haven’t beaten a ranked team since knocking off then-No. 13 Mississippi 70-69 in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament, winning on current assistant coach Bryce Drew’s buzzer-beater.