Coach Roy Williams is using the early part of the season to experiment with his young North Carolina team’s gameplan.
He’ll get another chance to do so before heading into a difficult stretch as the No. 11 Tar Heels host Nevada on Sunday night.
North Carolina (5-1), the reigning national champion, has a roster consisting of nine freshmen and sophomores, and Williams is trying to find the right scheme to prepare them for the start of the ACC season in January.
He may need to do that a bit sooner, though. Following this meeting with Nevada (2-2), the Tar Heels face No. 2 Michigan State, third-ranked Texas and No. 5 Kentucky over their next four games.
“He’s definitely trying to see who plays well together and who meshes well together,” senior forward Deon Thompson said. “Coach is still trying to find out what this team is about.”
Williams continued to tinker Monday, as every member of the team played in a 93-72 win against overmatched Gardner-Webb.
“These kind of moments are good to get some guys some experience and to try some different things,” said Williams, who earned his 599th career win. “So we tried to see if we could work on some things that we need to be working on.
“I did tell the guys in the huddle one time that we’re getting close to that point that I’m not going to play everybody just because I like their smile, that you’ve got to produce when you get out there.”
Thompson is certainly producing, leading the Tar Heels with 16.8 points per game while tying sophomore forward Ed Davis for tops on the team with 9.0 rebounds.
Thompson matched his career high with 22 points and pulled down 10 boards Monday, one game after notching season lows of 11 points and seven rebounds in an 87-71 loss to Syracuse on Nov. 20.
Davis is emerging as a solid compliment to Thompson, averaging 12.2 points. He’s made 11 of 18 shots while posting 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over the last two games.
North Carolina has won all four meetings with Nevada—two at home. The Tar Heels won 84-61 at Reno last Dec. 31 in the teams’ first matchup since North Carolina cruised to a 106-70 victory in Chapel Hill on Dec. 27, 2007.
Nevada fell to 0-2 on the road Friday, shooting a season-low 35.4 percent and making 1 of 14 3-pointers in an 85-76 loss to Virginia Commonwealth.
Forward Luke Babbitt went 12 for 25 from the field for a career-high 27 points - 23 in the second half - and added 11 rebounds.
Babbitt has picked up where he left off, topping the Wolf Pack with 20.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. He led them in both categories as a freshman last season, averaging 16.9 points and 7.4 boards.
Babbitt had 22 points against North Carolina last year.