Going into the fourth game of the season my concerns were about the squad’s shooting at the free throw line and beyond the arc. Watching the top ranked team play their second game at the Dean Dome tonight one issue was still there while the other wasn’t. Number one North Carolina (4-0) defeated Tennessee State (2-3) 102 to 69, which even covered the 27.5 spread that the Vegas insiders had on the game, and made it the 41st time that under head coach Roy Williams a team scores in the triple digits since he has come back to Chapel Hill. Both halves began the same for the guest squad, hitting two three’s, however in the first twenty minutes they did it back to back, while in the second they had 8 misses between the two shots, and it was close to the 14 minutes mark. As the television announcer said a bit later in the game about the Tigers “they seem like a tired team”, while the Heels, with their running game in full force did not look fatigued at all.
What they looked like was a well oiled machine, getting 31 assists on 42 shots made, the most ever under coach Williams. Sophomore Kendall Marshall had 15 of them, giving him his third game of 15+ assists in 24 starts and second in three games, while no other Carolina player has ever had more than one in their career. In all the sophome floor general has 43 assists to 12 TOs this season, giving him a 3.6 to 1 A/TO ration. Dexter Strickland had a decent game, with six points, three steals and three TOs, but as Gino Gaudio, one of the two ESPN3 announcers calling the game stated, “he seems to look to score a bit too much when at the one”. Up front John Henson had a stat filling night, scoring 16 points to go with 10 rebounds, six assists and four shot blocks. It’s the third straight double double game for the power forward and the 12th out of the last 14. Harrison Barnes also scored 16 points, while Tyler Zeller scored a dozen points to go with seven boards. But for this one, when it comes to scoring, it was Reggie Bullock coming off the bench with a 6 for 7 performance from outside the arc, ending up with 23 points overall, that the fans going wild.
All in all the Tar Heels were better from the three point line, 11 for 18 (61.1%), than they were from the charity stripe (9 for 16) 56.3%. And while that is fine for this game the reality is that I am pretty sure that the 3 point shooting is not going to be that high as an average, and as such I want to see the free throw shooting improve as the season progresses. Ex coach Gaudio said during the game that “you can coach free throws”, I am not so sure what he meant, but I am sure that if anyone can coach this team it’s our head coach. Another stat to keep in mind was that no one on coach Williams’ team played more 27 minutes and in all eight players had 12 or more minutes of playing time. Lastly, UNC had no problems in the rebounding category as they dominated them 41 to 23, wiping away thoughts of how they did against Michigan State in the season opener.
What next for the squad? Getting ready to travel once again, this time to Las Vegas, where they will be taking on South Carolina on Friday, tip off time 10:00 pm EST. After that another game the following day, still part of the Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational, and then back to the friendly confine of the Dean Dome to prepare for back to back Top 15 match ups, first with #11 Wisconsin at home and #2 Kentucky on the road.