Game Wrap-Up: Blue Devils outlast poor-shooting Tar Heels
UNC 68, Duke 73
So that headline is a bit misleading. This wasn’t the most retched shooting night for the Heels but it was far from good and has been continually blamed in part for the loss since Wednesday, especially the free throw shooting percentage down the stretch that could have been a difference-maker.
Any loss to Duke hurts, but this one being well within grasp for a team that on paper should have been blown out by the Blue Devils makes it that much worse. Are we proud of the overall effort by North Carolina? Hells yeah we are. There are some obvious issues we’d like to see corrected, you know, like shooting. Overall though, not bad.
- Rub it in, we were wrong. Kind of. We said Dexter Strickland would never be replaced by P.J. Hairston in the starting lineup baring some sort of injury or suspension. P.J. finally got a start but Dexter also stayed in with Desmond Hubert being the starter replaced. There’s no telling how fast the Heels would have come out of the gate against their arch rivals without P.J. in the starting five, but with him they scored nine points before the under-16 timeout. In UNC’s previous three games of Miami, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, it had scored two, six and two points respectively before the first media break — so they almost equalled those three games combined. No word yet if Roy will continue with the small starting line-up or if this was a match-up thing. “Who knows?” said Roy. “I may start five different guys on Saturday.“
- Like we say, a lot of things factored into the loss for the Heels, composure being one of them. The Heels let a 10 point lead in the first half evaporate to four going into halftime. Once that lead was gone about halfway through the second half, UNC started chucking up more early-in-the-shot-clock prayers than we could count. Surprisingly the Heels committed fewer TOs than the rattled, at-home Dukies. Ten of Duke’s 17 were in the first half as well. Now you know why UNC should have had a bigger lead 20 minutes in.
- The Heels deficiency at the charity stripe became glaringly obvious at the end of the game, but let’s not forget missed layups as a culprit contributing to Duke’s comeback. At one point Mason Plumlee, who was in foul trouble, simply backed off JMM as he drove to the basket and McAdoo launched it wide of the rim off the glass. When the expected pressure didn’t come, Mac was caught off guard, but that’s no reason to miss what would have been his easiest basket of the game.
- P.J. was cold? What? Yeah, he was actually. While Hairston scored a team-high 23 points, he was only 1-7 from downtown. If he’d had a typical shooting night for him, 37.7% on the year, he would have hit at least one more and probably two more (37.7 percent of 7 is 2.6). Man, could really use those six points, eh?
- Defensive intensity. If you’re looking for a silver lining, maybe this game forces this squad to realize what kind of effort they’re capable of putting in on defense. The Heels were stifling in the first 10 minutes of the game, and played well for random stretches the rest of the night. Again, they forced 17 turnovers out of Duke, who usually averages 11, with 10 coming in the first half alone.
Player of the Game: P.J. Hairston (23 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk, 1 stl) P.J. came to play in his second career start. Perhaps he’s earned the spot for the rest of the year?
Highlight Reel: JMM was certainly on Sportscenter for his reverse, two-handed slam.