In what was the first of three games in five days fifth/sixth ranked North Carolina (9-2) showed some rust from a week off defeating Appalachian State (4-6) by the final of 97 to 82. For the Tar Heels this could have been a trap game after being off for a week, but the squad, led by senior Tyler Zeller, played well enough to got the job done at the Dean Dome. UNC never trailed in this game, had a lead as large as 29 points and shot 54.5% from the field, and while this will be a win for Carolina, the 22nd in a row in the friendly confine of the Smith Center, it was not their best performance of the season. There was both team and individual lapses on the offensive side and once again an opposing guard was able to do more than they should have against the Heels D. This is what head coach Roy Williams said about the game against the Mountaineers…
For the senior seven footer it was a great performance, as he had a double double with 31 points (11 for 15 from the field and 9 for 10 from the FT line) and 10 rebounds. Junior forward John Henson followed up with a 17 points and six rebound game, making this the first game of the season where the 6’11″ forward does not lead the team in boards gotten. As I said in my preview for this game the offense needed to start by going inside, what I never figured was that the Mountaineers would never double team anyone in the paint. The other two Heels with double digit scoring came off the bench, sophomore guard Reggie Bullock and freshman guard P.J. Hairston both ended the game with ten points. And while between Zeller and Hairston they hit on 19 of 22 free throws, the rest of the team faired a lot worst, going 4 for 11, and the team as a whole shot 69.7%, better than usual, but still not good enough. Sophomore point guard Kendall Marshall had 13 assists, but was yanked from the game when his second turnover was a bad play that coach Williams didn’t appreciate. The floor general would come back minutes later but the point was made about making certain plays.
The one number for the team that was good to see were the minutes played. Marshall with 29, junior shooting guard Dexter Strickland with 22 and the other three starters all with 26 minutes. Off the bench Bullock got 23 minutes, Hairston 13 and freshman forward got 14. This makes it look like coach Williams is going to go with an eight man rotation and try to let others get a few minutes when possible. The one number for the team that was not good was that the team was once again not shooting well from beyond the arc, going 2 for 10 in this game. The one number for an individual that was not so good was the fact that sophomore Harrison Barnes, who had 24 consecutive double digit scoring games, ended the game with nine in this one, going 4 for 12 from the field and not getting any chances from the charity stripe. Lastly, the thing that truly stood out for me was that the Heels, playing against inferior competition, went 6:35 minutes without hitting a bucket. If this happens when UNC plays teams their own level it is going to hurt them badly.
The coaching staff doesn’t have much time to get ready for their next game, as the team will be once again in action against Nicholls tomorrow night. Tip-off is at 7:00 pm EST and the game will be televised on ESPNU. It will be interesting to see if Barnes comes back strong in this one and if the team as a whole stops having lapses during the game.