One thing you can say about the victory by #12/11 North Carolina (2-0) over Holy Cross (1-2) by the final of 62 to 54 is… UNC surely did not play like the first two games this season. Actually, for most of the game, it felt like the team was not playing like a fringe Top 10 team. Some might argue it was not playing like a ranked team.
If you are a optimist you could say that head coach Roy Williams’ team struggled for most of the game, especially in the first half. If you are a pessimist you could just critique this game as most players “stinking it up”. And then there is me… and my look at the game is simple. After getting it going a week ago the whole team had a lot of practices to realize that once again their two perimeter players, P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, were not going to be on the court once again.
As Marcus Paige, who was the silver lining in this game scoring a career high 23 points (16 in the second half), said in Thursday’s presser not having the two guards is frustrating. Well, that is exactly how the team looked on the court last night… frustrated.
The off guard said this of the game…
“I mean we have to get somebody to score from the perimeter consistently and I feel – being one of the veterans I guess – I’m the perimeter. It’s a job I can take on and be aggressive you know, Coach has confidence in me as a shooter and as a scorer, so its just something I felt I had to do to step up, especially with P.J. [Hairston] and Leslie [McDonald] out.”
To be noted Brice Johnson, 12 points and 5 boards, also looked good in the game, which was needed as James McAdoo got himself into foul trouble in the game.
And while he did have a pretty good game, Johnson was not too happy about it…
“I’m not going to enjoy this win. That, that was ugly. That was terrible. I will not enjoy this win. I mean it’s a win at the end of the day, but I’m not going to enjoy it. We could have done a lot better that that. We had 25 points in the first half, that’s not Carolina basketball.”
On the other hand, who looked way off in this one was J.P. Tokoto, who had the first shot of the game, an air ball from about the charity stripe, and was never “in the zone” offensively against the Crusaders.
As a team what was very evident is that while Carolina was the much more skilled and bigger team it went into the intermission tied up at 25 a piece and losing in the rebounding stats 25 to 20. If this continues there is no way that UNC can compete with the big time games they have coming up. UNC would eventually win the battle of the boards by one, 39 to 38, but they would end up tied on the offensive ones, eight a piece.
This lack of owning the boards has nothing to do with either Hairston or McDonald missing, and so that is something that the current players on the team need to address themselves. They say that rebounding is all about wanting it, to me the lack of this last night was once again due to the frustration of this team with the on-going NCAA situation.
Just like we will see plenty of times, coach Williams inserted many players and line ups in this game, with nine players receiving double digit minutes vs Holy Cross, while two others got at least four on the floor. On the flip side, just three players scored in double digits, which were Paige (23), Johnson (12) and McAdoo (11).
Tokoto, even if he did not shoot well, was able to help out with five assists and seven boards, while Kennedy Meeks led all Heels with eight rebounds.
And while I can go looking for more small nuggets of bright side in this one, it would be a bit homer of me to do so. This was definitely not what anyone, including the coaches and players, had expected when it came to this game.
Now, unlike the previous two games, North Carolina has a short turn around before they play again tomorrow, against Belmont, with tip off being at 4:00 p.m. EST in the friendly confine of the Dean Dome. How they turn it around, or not, will go a long way to see how this team can do without the two guards.