What we watched on Saturday at Rupp Arena was not a moral win for the Tar Heels, as top ranked Kentucky (8-0) squeezed out a victory against North Carolina (6-2) by the final of 73 to 72, it was a loss period. By all means it was an exciting game, which I was happy to see that head coach Roy Williams had his team focused and could have easily have won the game. But, in the end, they did not, and that is the bottom line, for this game. However, unlike college football, the hardwoods are not made of single games, they are made of the compilation of a season, meaning that this UNC team has shown they can be the team we want it to be and that the loss to UNLV was but a bump in the road.
While there is many positives to point out in this game, there is also a few negatives that need to work out as well. Most significant is the four seconds where after John Henson’s shot was blocked no one donning the carolina blue fouled the Kentucky player with the ball. Had they done so, even if both free throws are made, the Tar Heels could have had a shot at a three with more than four ticks left on the clock. The other part of the game that needs to be pointed out was the five minutes that Carolina went scoreless, had they been able to keep scoring in that part of the game Kentucky would have probably lost the game. Finally, the first part of the game where coach Williams’ squad had six turnovers, ending up with 13 altogether for the game. If you are going to go far in the tournament you have to avoid scoring draught and turnovers, and if you want to win it all you will have to face a team like Kentucky on the way to cutting the nets, Saturday UNC showed that they can play with the best of the land, now they have to work at being the best of the best. On an individual basis I think the bad third foul by Harrison Barnes hurt the team as well.
On the offensive side I think that the fan base can breath easier when it comes to the three point shooting as the team hit 11 out of 18 (61.1%) with four different Heels hitting at least 2 of them. On the free throw line the team can still improve, as they hit 11 out of 14 (78.6%), but the fact that the bigs, Henson and Tyler Zeller, went 8 for 8 is a very good thing as they will be fouled more and more as the season goes on. Another thing I have to say is interesting is that Carolina played nine players, of which eight at least 14 minutes and only two of the starters played in the 30’s (Kendall Marshall had 35 and Henson with 33), on the other side Kentucky played eight, only six in double figures and all the starters were on the court for at least 30 minutes. It might not mean a lot but I have to believe that if this was to keep up the Wildcats will be tired come post season time.
Looking back at this game there is plenty to think about. How many would have believed, a team a lot of the fans thought could go undefeated, would have two losses after just eight games. Or, how many would believe that this team could hit double digit three pointers in that same amount of games, twice! Now the team has one more day to prepare for their next game, against Evansville at the Dean Dome, which is ranked 261 in the RPI. While this is a long way from the last two games, where Wisconsi was ninth and Kentucky was first, it is also one of those games where you could be scared of a let down game after tough competition.