Both North Carolina and Mississippi State will go deep into their benches during their stay in Hawaii, but for vastly different reasons.
The deep and talented ninth-ranked Tar Heels take on a depleted Bulldogs squad in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Monday night.North Carolina (3-0) has mainly cruised through its first three contests, including a 78-63 victory in Friday night's stop at Long Beach State before heading across the Pacific.Sophomore James Michael McAdoo scored a team-high 18 points for the Tar Heels, who finished 10 of 27 from 3-point range. They were 7 of 27 from behind the arc in their first two games combined."It's a good step," McAdoo said. "It taught us a whole bunch about our team. It's just another win under our belt, a confidence booster, but we still know we have a lot of work to do."Twelve players logged minutes Friday, including freshmen Marcus Paige (15 points, six assists), Brice Johnson (10 points), Joel James (22 minutes off the bench) and J.P. Tokoto.Coach Roy Williams said to expect more of the same throughout this tournament."The younger players are going to play more minutes," Williams said. "You can't just play the starting five for 35 minutes. We're going to play 10, 11 or 12 guys in the first half of every game."That doesn't seem to bother McAdoo, who leads North Carolina with 21.0 points per game."I'm impressed with everybody on this team," McAdoo said. "The four freshmen are all making leaps and strides tremendously in each game we play."First-year Mississippi State coach Rick Ray wishes he had that luxury.The Bulldogs (1-1) already have been playing without freshman guards Jacoby Davis and Andre Applewhite after each tore his left ACL before the season, and junior Jalen Steele is expected to miss six weeks with a fractured left wrist suffered in Tuesday's 78-58 win over Florida Atlantic.The day after Steele's injury, junior Colin Borchert was suspended for a violation of team rules, leaving Ray with six scholarship players for the Bulldogs' trip to Maui."I don't want to hear excuses," Ray said. "I'm trying to instill in our guys that nobody cares about our situation. All anyone cares about are the wins and the losses."What this does is give guys a chance to step up and compete."Sophomore Roquez Johnson scored a game high-tying 17 points off the bench in Tuesday's win. Despite having a limited roster, Ray said he plans to try and keep up with the Tar Heels' fast-paced game."Carolina is never going to change as far as how they push the ball," Ray said. "They're always going to be up-tempo. But we want to play fast, too. It's not a situation where we want to slow it down. Any opportunity we have in transition, we want to take advantage."North Carolina has won each of the five all-time meetings, including a 76-74 victory on a layup with two seconds remaining in the second round of the 2010 NIT.The winner of this contest will face either Butler or Marquette, while the losers from each game will match up on the other side of the bracket.