Wrap-up: Carolina holds off Long Beach State
UNC 96, Long Beach State 91
Things seemed to be going well when UNC was up by 14 at the half. The bigs were doing their job on the boards and Carolina was shooting superbly, with four different players hitting 3-pointers in the first half. Harrison Barnes and Leslie McDonald in particular seemed to be seeing the basket very well.
There were some really good things about the 40-minute effort Carolina put in. In fact, the Heels’ offensive efficiency continued throughout the game (56 percent FGs, 48 percent 3PTs), and the team tallied its lowest number of turnovers on the season with 11.
There were also some bad things about the 40-minute effort — like defense. As in, where did it go? As in, Long Beach State just hung 91 points on UNC at the Dean Dome. As in… you get the idea. Perhaps Carolina was focusing so intently on its offensive possessions that it was lapsing on the other end. Maybe the team was just stressed that exams would be starting in a few days. Who knows?
One bright spot is the continued “fight” this year’s team shows when compared to last year’s. How many times last year would LBS’s comeback have caused Roy’s boys to lay over and succumb to the momentum shift? This year there’s much more urgency to maintain the lead and keep games leaning in UNC’s favor — an element that will be crucial heading into Saturday’s very winnable match-up with No. 25 Texas.
- Harrison Barnes seems to be settling down. His stat line shows it – 19 pts, 10 rebs, 7-16 FG – and even though he shot a not so stellar 2-5 FT against LBS, he’s one of the better free throw shooters on the team. Now, if he would start taking less of those contested 3-pointers (3-8 against LBS) he would be downright effective.
- Leslie McDonald can shoot. Five of six from beyond the arc and 17 points off the bench. Not too shabby for only playing 16 minutes.
- Larry Drew will be the starter for the foreseeable future. We all like Kendall Marshall – more on him below – but the past few games his play has looked a bit more “freshman” than it did early in the season. Drew II has stepped his game up and his defense keeps him on the floor.
- More on Marshall – Kendall Marshall is a much better outlet passer and shooter than Drew II. One could almost see an offense/defense subbing situation arising later in the season. As soon as Marshall has the ball he’s looking to heave it downcourt to the streaking fast-break player. One or two dribbles and then he’s usually gotten rid of the ball. This is great for Roy’s offense and it should pay dividends as he gets more experience. Oh, and if he’s open, he makes his jump shots. Nice.
- John Henson might be the worst free-throw shooter in the ACC, but he’s got the best smile. Seriously, doesn’t he look like he has more fun than anyone on the floor?
- As a team, the free-throw shooting still isn’t there, but it’s slightly improving. UNC shot almost 60 percent against Long Beach State. Yes, that is actually an improvement.
- As thin as UNC is in the frontcourt, it’s the 16th best rebounding team in the country.
- Dexter Strickland is becoming a weapon. With his speed and defensive pressure, Strickland has to be making opposing teams nervous when he’s on the floor. It’s especially fun to see him take off after an opposing team turns it over and be gliding in for a lay-up without taking a dribble.
- Oh, he also won the game for us. Strickland scored UNC’s final six points in a five-point victory.
Player of the Game: Harrison Barnes (19 pts, 10 rebs, 2 asts, 1 stl) and Dexter Strickland (13 pts, 3 asts, 1 stl). Barnes looked way more settled-in during this game – though he still took some ill-advised treys. Strickland was cold-blooded at the end of the game and caused some havoc on defense.
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the Danny Green Award): Leslie McDonald. As was said above, McDonald did some serious damage in limited time. During his 16 minutes of run, McDonald tallied 17 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal.
You’re making it too easy for the Crazies: John Henson. I know you can’t just get perfect free throw form overnight, but let’s cut down on those air balls, mmk?
Ice in his veins: Dexter Strickland. Strickland scored UNC’s last six points, two on a dunk and FOUR FREE THROWS in a row.