Roy Williams looked downcourt at his lollygagging Tar Heels and screeched, "Hey, run back."

The coach then spun on his well-polished heels and squatted in front of his bench to make sure the rest of his guys got the message.

North Carolina, at the time, led Penn by 24 points.

Basketball fans who glanced at the Quakers' schedule and spied the Dec. 4 tip against a Carolina team that was destined to be Top 5 might have wondered why in the world Penn would want to play a game that would likely be nothing more than a demoralizing loss.

The bigger question is why top-ranked UNC chose to play it. November and December, to be sure, are built for walkover games where Big Bad National College gets to write the score on Little Upstart U, but ordinarily BBNC doesn't leave its own leafy campus. LUU comes to your house, takes its check and sheepishly goes home. Memphis and UCLA, the Heels' compatriots in the Top 5 (until the Bruins tumble-bumbled to No. 7 with their loss to Texas), had their share of the Austin Peays and Cal State-Bernardinos of the worlds, but they had them in their own back yard.

The Washburn Ichabods didn't host Kansas in Topeka. They went to Allen Fieldhouse for their 32-point beating.

The last time Syracuse left the state of New York for a pre-Big East game, state troopers arrested Jim Boeheim at the border for desertion.

Yet, Williams next will take his Heels to Rutgers, a bottom-of-its-league opponent that nonetheless plays in a nasty environment, and the Heels already played at Davidson, BYU, Ohio State and Kentucky.

Ol' Roy may play the aw-shucks Southern gentleman, but the man is no fool. Carolina came out of the Palestra with a lot more than the expected 106-71 rout of the Quakers.

"I love going on the road," Williams said. "I think it's important for kids to learn to maintain your poise when not everyone is cheering for you and I think you get a much better read on your team by putting them in difficult situations."

The knock on Carolina last year was it was a team with a game-day uni, practice helmet. The Heels had the body, a roster with second-five talent that a lot of first squads would have envied, but they lacked the head and heart, an affliction that eventually cost them what had appeared to be a predestined date with the Final Four.

Perhaps not coincidentally, that crew didn't do a lot of early-season bag packing. UNC said goodbye to its home state just three times before the month of January, hitting the road for the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York, where it lost to Gonzaga and beat Tennessee, and taking a St. Louis sojourn so Tyler Hansbrough could play in his hometown. Tellingly, the Heels opened the ACC season in Blacksburg, Va., and promptly lost to Virginia Tech.

And so this year it is barnstorming by charter, with character-building lessons in musty, crowded gyms like the Palestra. The fans were stuffed "in the corners" as Associated Press reporter Jack Scheuer likes to call it, filling every open space in the place and some that technically weren't seats. The students were well prepared, unveiling a snazzy glossy poster of a high-school Hansbrough in full glamour-shot yearbook pose when the UNC junior hit the foul line, and the requisite clever rollouts during the TV timeouts.

Philly guy Wayne Ellington tried to explain the Palestra to his teammates before the game, but said he couldn't convey just how unique it is and how close the students are to the court - a sneaker's length, maybe.

"I think it's really good for us to come in an atmosphere like this," said Hansbrough, who admitted to chuckling at the posters. "I thought it was great. I always like playing in these little gyms like this, it kind of reminds me of high school a little bit. I love it. I think I feed off the atmosphere."

The fact is eight games in and six on the road, the Heels aren't quite cured of what ails them. Sure, they won by 35, but they also allowed Penn to keep it respectable and even dangerous in the first half. The Quakers twice got within three and shot 57 percent from the floor in the first half. Were it not for 14 first-half turnovers, this actually could have been a game. That shouldn't happen, not to a team that lost to Lafayette two games ago, unless Jerome Allen got hold of a uniform somehow.

Against Penn the danger lasted for all of a blink, with North Carolina turning a 29-26 lead into a 40-30 distance in less than 3 minutes and a 13-point gap by halftime.

Against Duke? Against Virginia? Not so simple.

Which is what got Williams to screeching.

"I've learned that we can have some spurts offensively and we have a heckuva lot of work to do defensively," he said. "I told them jokingly in the locker room, but they don't know I was joking, that I was at one time considering 12 straight days of two-a-days if we didn't start playing defense better. But they're not sure I was joking. I like that little bit of doubt." *