No. 5 Tar Heels looking for board work in Hawaii

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

For North Carolina coach Roy Williams, establishing a physical tone is something he wants to see from his team during four games in Hawaii.

That has started to happen during the fifth-ranked Tar Heels' first three games, though too sporadically for the coach.

"I always look at how many points they got on offensive rebounds," Williams said, referring to opponents. "We've still got to do a better job on the backboards."

North Carolina (3-0) meets Hawaii (2-1) on Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu before three games next week in the Maui Invitational.

"You could say physical, but just overall a little bit more aggressive," swingman Justin Jackson said in describing the emphasis on rebounding.

The Tar Heels have used various combinations in the first three games, something that should pay off across the season.

"It's just a work in progress and I think that Coach does it for a reason," forward Kennedy Meeks said.

North Carolina and Hawaii are facing off for the first time since the mid-1990s. North Carolina has won all four previous meetings. The Rainbow Warriors are 2-18 all-time against teams ranked in the top 5.

Hawaii has been in a pair of one-point results and a six-point decision during the first week of the season.

"I'm really proud of our guys, they've been thrown in the fire at even a higher magnitude because these were all close games," said second-year coach Eran Ganot, according to a Warrior Insider report. "I'm proud of the poise they showed in all three, even the first night when we lost. Our job is to get good shots at the end, and we did."

Hawaii is led by UCLA transfer Noah Allen, a 6-foot-7 senior who averages 16.3 points per game.

Ganot said the wear and tear of the opening stretch is something worth monitoring already.

"We got to go back to work, but right now, first we got to rest them (the players)," he said. "It always starts with us getting healed up, and refreshed. ... And then, obviously we'll be looking at North Carolina."

North Carolina likely will play without forward Luke Maye on this trip because of a sprained ankle.

The Tar Heels also won't have assistant coach Steve Robinson, who's staying behind because of a blood clot in his right leg.

He has been advised to avoid travel. The former Florida State head coach also missed last week's opener at Tulane.

Robinson is in his 14th season on Williams' North Carolina staff.

"It's uncomfortable for me," Williams said of Robinson's absence.

While he was on the bench for two recent home games, Robinson's status for future road games is undetermined.

"I hate it because we're not going to a place where there's 24 feet of snow and wind," Williams said of this trip. "It's a nice place to go and we've had some good moments in the Maui tournament. We won a couple of them. But I'll miss him from a personal viewpoint, but he has got to take care of his body."

When Robinson isn't with the team, director of basketball operations Brad Frederick has been cleared to serve as an assistant coach.

Friday's game caps a tripleheader at the arena, with Rainbow Classic games preceding it.