Here is something to think about as you read this recap, North Carolina (5-1) lost to Nevada-Las Vegas 90 to 80 because they didn’t rebound well and not because of their three point shooting. While twitter and the Carolina web boards are in full melt down mode to me this is one of those games that can be called the perfect storm, aka what could go right for UNLV basically always did and what could go wrong for UNC seemed to have done so. Having said all of that, let’s remember what I said in my preview of this game, where I believed that if the Heels didn’t bring their best they would be going back to Chapel Hill with a loss. Head coach Roy Williams’ squad were not on top of their game and as such they lost by 10, after leading 42 to 38 at the half, to a pesky team that would not go away and in all sincerity had nothing to lose.
While the war of the boards was lost it was not the only thing that needs to be looked at. The dribble penetration was something that UNLV used a lot last night and while the rotation of the bigs to stop the ball worked the Runnin’ Rebels just kicked it out too easily and made the shots from most everywhere. One thing that I thought I would see the coaching staff do was to switch up Dexter Strickland on the opposing’s poing guard, as the junior shooting guard is quicker, and put Kendall Marshall on the two. Then of course, if you want to go back to something that has been in most every post since the season started, the so-called 900 pounds elephant in the room, the free throw shooting was once again below par. And while it might not have been the difference in winning or losing against Nevada Las Vegas, it did not help shooting so poorly from there. As I said this was the perfect storm.
On the offensive side the trio up front just did not performance to the level they have been, John Henson’s 11 points and 8 rebounds just was not what you have come to expect. Tyler Zeller scoring 5 points and 7 boards is even more surreal. While Harrison Barnes led the trio with 15 points and 5 rebounds, but tweaked his ankle and left the arena after the game using crutches. That alone is something to worry about, if UNC was to lose him for even just one game, especially in the next week, it would make this one loss turn into a three game slide. Marshall just had eight assists, but mostly because the shots were not falling for his team mate, while Strickland scored a dozen points in this game. Off the bench we once again saw P.J. Hairston scoring well from the arc, going 3 for 5, totalling 15 points in just 13 minutes. The head coach said this of the game…
“I was surprised that we didn’t rebound the basketball better,” Williams said. “I was surprised about a lot of things we didn’t do. We have to be stronger with the basketball. We have to guard the basketball better. We never did get the flow going. We have to be whole lot more patient.”
For most this might be a cop out of sort, but if this was a bump in the road and not a preview of things to come, this loss will mean nothing when Selection Sunday arrives. And depending on how you look at it, fortunately or unfortunately, we will see what this loss really is with the next two games coming up, with two ranked teams, including Kentucky, which should be the new top ranked team in the country when the squads match up in Rupp Arena. As I try to do after each game I will have the grades for this game up later today, and maybe more thoughts as the first loss of the season sinks in, until then, if you are a UNC fan remember this: the big picture is winning it all, not winning all the games.