P.J. Hairston finally got the start on Wednesday against the Duke Blue Devils, a move fans have been screaming for all season long. North Carolina head coach Roy Williams has insisted all season long that the best five players were starting and earned their starting positions in practice. Anybody watching the games or even just looking at the stat sheets knew that wasn’t the case. Roy finally responded on Wednesday, but will he keep P.J. in the lineup for good?
The Tar Heels have struggled to score all season long against elite competition and have routinely found themselves in big holes to start games. Starting Dexter Strickland, Desmond Hubert and Marcus Paige all together, three players who combine for less than 16 points per game on average has aided opposing defenses by allowing them to focus in on Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo.
Roy finally made the move against Duke and almost pulled off the upset and the results to start the game were far better than what we have seen all season long with Carolina holding the lead the first 26 minutes of the contest. Hairston came up big with 23 points on 8-18 shooting with eight rebounds and two blocked shots. Hairston defended his position well and played tough all game.
Inserting Hairston wasn’t the only move Roy made with his rotation. Only Leslie McDonald who played 20 minutes off the bench played more than four minutes among the reserves. Roy finally played his best players big minutes and UNC almost defeated one of the best teams in the country.
Here’s what Roy had to say about inserting Hairston into the lineup:
“One of the ways we’ve been struggling is scoring and so putting P.J. in there gives us another scorer in the lineup,”
“For us, he’s such a good scorer and Duke’s 4-man – Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston – is not a focal point of their offense because they’re a 3-point shooting team or throwing the ball to Mason inside. So we hoped that P.J. would be able to battle and guard inside. He did fine with that.”
Roy on tightening the rotation:
“I was trying to win the dadgum game,”
Still Roy was noncommittal when asked about the long term approach of the rotation.
“I don’t make decisions about how many minutes a guy’s going to play. I’m going to play the guys that I want at that specific time. We may play five guys 40 minutes on Saturday. I may be back playing 12 guys in the first half.”
One would think that given Hairston’s performance and the way the team started the game, P.J. would be in the lineup for good, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.