Commentary

UNC hoping Green returns to form

Updated: March 27, 2009, 1:07 PM ET
By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Following the ACC tournament earlier this month, North Carolina coach Roy Williams was concerned enough about Danny Green to call him in for a "nice meeting" to "discuss some things." At the top of the list was Green's latest numbers: 3-of-25 from the field ("two of those were tip-ins," Williams is quick to add), 1-of-12 from 3-point range, and nine points in two games.

[+] EnlargeDanny Green
Bob Donnan/US PresswireEverything comes easier for North Carolina when Danny Green is on his game.

It was the first time Green had been held below double figures in scoring in consecutive games since the last game of December and first of January, so Williams met with his senior forward to "find out where his head was at and see if there was anything wrong."

"He said, 'Usually shooters don't shoot like that or shoot that bad when they're shooting this percentage all year,'" Green said. "He was wondering if anything was going on, or if there was anything he could do to help, but like I said, there's nothing really wrong with me. I just had a couple of bad games."

As the No. 1 seed Tar Heels (30-4) prepare to face No. 4 seed Gonzaga (28-5) at 9:57 p.m. ET on Friday in the regional semifinal of the NCAA tournament, they're hoping Green left his shooting slump in Atlanta, but his performances in the first and second rounds last week in Greensboro, while better, weren't entirely convincing.

There were times when Green showed flashes of his regular-season form -- he averaged a team-high eight rebounds and had five steals in the two games -- but he still finished 9-of-24 from the field (37.5 percent) in wins over Radford and LSU. Over the past six games, Green is 19-for-69 from the floor (.275), and 7-for-30 (.233) from 3-point range.

Green's shooting struggles have been overshadowed by the interest in point guard Ty Lawson's ever-popular injured big toe. That's no surprise, considering Green plays on a team that boasts higher-profile NBA prospects, but his defense and shooting touch from the perimeter -- when he's on -- are invaluable assets to a team trying to win the national title.

Green's 3-pointer with 6:30 left to play against LSU last weekend gave the Tar Heels a 70-63 lead, UNC's largest margin since early in the second half.

When he's hitting 3s, it's hard to leave him to go in and double on Tyler, so it makes the team that much better when he's making shots.

-- UNC guard Bobby Frasor

"When he's really making shots like that, it's hard for guys to double down low and it opens up our offense," said forward Tyler Hansbrough. "I think he also is a driver, too. Whenever players guard him, they have to worry about that jump shot, but also his ability to go around somebody."

Green is fourth on the team in scoring with 13.2 points per game, and he's tied with Lawson for the lead in steals with 61. When he takes the court against Gonzaga, Green will set a UNC record by playing his 142nd career game.

While in Greensboro, Green averaged 11.5 points, eight rebounds, 2.5 steals and was 3-of-3 from the free throw line. Green earned his first double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds against Radford.

"I wouldn't say it was a great performance," Green said after UNC's 101-58 win over Radford, "but [it was] a lot better than the past weekend. The games are more than just winning. We're having fun as well. But it's a lot easier to have fun when you're winning games."

Green has hit 66 of 161 3-pointers this season (41.0 percent), and is second on the team in 3-point field goals made. He made only 2 of 7, though, against Radford and LSU.

"This whole year I think Danny's been keeping us in a lot of games," guard Bobby Frasor said. "When he's hitting 3s, it's hard to leave him to go in and double on Tyler, so it makes the team that much better when he's making shots. I know Coach has been talking to him, but we all have faith in Danny, we're going to keep coming back to him."