Since this game was the “White Out” at the Dean Dome, I like to make my own t-shirt for this UNC basketball team… we are not perfecta… but this one makes it a trifecta. Meaning with the 82 to 77 win over #11 Kentucky #18 North Carolina (7-2) has now beaten the pre-season number one, number two and number three programs. And they have done so in a way that was not by chance or luck, they did it proving that they belonged as a top team in 2013-14.
If not for the two bumps in the road against Belmont and UAB this team, without junior P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, could easily be the number one ranked team in the nation. But the “what if’s” mean nothing, and so this team is a Top 25 team and I feel that is where they are supposed to be. Speaking of the two guards still missing in action Dick Vitale said before the beginning of the game that he had spoken to Bubba Cunningham and that things could be coming to a resolution for both players. However things go, I am just very glad that both the program, the team and the players will know the outcome.
In my preview I said that Carolina needed junior James McAdoo to show up strong for the game. He surely did, scoring 20 points in this one (12 of 19 FTs), as well as having five rebounds and four assists. Leading all the Carolina scorer was sophomore shooting guard Marcus Paige, who has 23 (21 of them in the second half) and was 10 for 10 from the free throw line. Both players were on the floor for all but three minutes.
“It was crazy,” said Paige, a sophomore who was 10-for-10 on free throws. “That was the most intense (this building) has been since I’ve been here.”
The surprise of the night was J.P. Tokoto, who first hit a very long two (toe on the line) and then hit a very long three, ending up with 15 points, the most exciting of them being a fast break when Kentucky was pressing in the last seconds of the game.
In the first half, when Kentucky was winning by three, I tweeted that even if the Wildcats had the lead if you had looked at the compusure of each squad, it seemed that the Tar Heels were the ones in control.
The Tar Heels broke a 46-46 tie when back-to-back turnovers led to North Carolina baskets, setting the tone for a series of fast-break scores. But, even more important, was as coach Williams said, the next five baskets were scored by five different people. In other words, this was once again a collective win for a team that is improving on a daily basis. And speaking of collective work…
But I would not be doing my job as a blogger if I did not say there were also things that needs to improve some more. Carolina missed 19 free throws, and if the Heels had lost thing game, that would be the first focus of attention. The other thing was that Kentucky out-rebounded North Carolina by 12. This is a bit less of a worry, because UNC won’t see this much height the rest of the way, but it might see it again once March Madness comes around.
On the other hand I also need to point out one major thing that this team is doing well, both on the individual basis and as a team. This squad might not be as good as it can be on the offensive side but it is playing very well on the defensive side of the ball, the 18 turnovers by Kentucky proof of that. And when you can play good D, you will get run outs, and that is the best offense that anyone can have.
In the end, at the Dean Dome, North Carolina proved that this team is for real. What they need to do now is keep the momentum going against lesser teams than the ranked ones they have beaten and go in full ahead into the ACC part of the schedule. Next up… Texas on 12/18, tip off time 7:30 p.m. EST, TV coverage by ESPN.