Roy Williams finally inserted P.J. Hairston into the starting lineup Wednesday night against arch rival Duke and North Carolina despite losing played their best game against an elite team all season. The Tar Heels got out to a to a double digit lead and held the advantage for the first 26 minutes of the game. Hairston tied his career high with 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds seven of which came on the offensive glass, three assists and two blocked shots leading the team in all those categories.
Inserting Hairston wasn’t the only major move Roy made in his rotations. Williams has made use of multiple rotations all season long using 23 different combinations against Miami, he used less than half that against Duke on Wednesday. He also went with a much shorter bench using only Leslie McDonald who played 20 minutes off the bench more than four minutes.
All five starters played at least 30 minutes and former starter Desmond Hubert played just one minute. The result was a more efficient offense in the half court with better spacing provided by more shooters being on the court together. This gave more room to operate allowing the Heels to attack the basket off the dribble, something they have struggled at doing this season.
UNCs previous starting lineup was severely limited offensively with Hubert on the floor and Dexter Strickland limited as a shooter defenses were able to concentrate on shutting down James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock limiting the Tar Heels options and often times it resulted in them facing large deficits early in the game.
With just seven games remaining and the Heels sitting at 16-8 (6-4 ACC) record UNC is on the NCAA Tournament bubble. 20 wins may be enough to get them into the tournament but it’s going to be close if they aren’t able to pull off at least one upset win over either NC State or Duke to close out the season. These moves were necessary, these were the right moves, they were just made far too late in the season.