Wrap-up: Heels Run Over Long Island to Advance
UNC 102, LIU 87
After last week’s performance in the ACC Tournament, no one really knew what to expect from the Heels in their opening round game. After finishing the season with a convincing win over Duke, Carolina struggled in each of its conference tournament games, falling behind by double digits early in each contest. The team was able to mount some impressive comebacks over Miami and Clemson, but when it ran into a seasoned Duke team that was hitting it shots, it didn’t have that last bit of magic left.
After the game against Long Island, it would appear the rust that was plaguing the offense has been shaken off, but what’s troubling is that while the Heels found their offense, they someone forgot to play defense. This wouldn’t normally be an issue for a Roy Williams-coached team. Traditionally under Roy Carolina has outscored opponents with ease to win most of its games. This year, however, the team has built its reputation on defense. John Henson even won ACC Defensive Player of the Year. It’s not exactly settling to give up 87 points to a 15 seed.
That being said, scoring a lot of points is a great confidence builder moving forward. The first-round game (no matter what the NCAA calls it) is one of the only places a No. 2 seed like Carolina could reasonably expect that it could depend on just outscoring its opponent. So this blip on the defensive end is getting a pass from The Rafters. The team needed an outing like that after the week it had last week, though I refer only to the offensive production and not the 18 turnovers.
At least that’s how I’m rationalizing it. Bring on Washington.
- The Heels three other 100+ point games this year (Hofstra, St. Francis, Boston College) produced a single 20+ scorer, Harrison Barnes’ 26 against BC. Last night the Long Island game provided three scorers with more than 24 – Barnes 24, Henson 26 and Zeller 32. This isn’t for a lack of sharing the ball. While the other big-scoring outings were case studies in balanced attack, the points were coming too easy to be ignored for the Carolina front line. Don’t worry, the guards (and Barnes) were still involved enough to take a ton of their own shots (3-17 from beyond the arc).
- Efficiency check-up: The Justins (Knox and Watts) were perfect from the floor. Both shot 1-1 FG. Leslie McDonald was not quite as stellar (0-7).
- This was the first game in the Big Dance for every player except Tyler Zeller and Justin Watts, and neither played that much their freshman year. This really is new territory for the team. Add in the fact that Carolina is one of the younger teams in the tournament and it’s safe to say that the Heels will be less experienced than almost every team they play going forward.
- Dexter Strickland came out on fire in the opening minutes. We haven’t seen a stellar Dex in a while. His knee has been injured but it didn’t appear to bother him against LIU. Hopefully it will stay healthy for the next three weeks.
Player of the Game: The big trio gets the nod for sheer production – 82 points
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the John Henson Award): Harrison Barnes (24 pts, 16 rebs, 3 asts, 2 stls) Henson was a candidate as always but Barnes outrebounded him and added in some assists and steals to counter the fact that Henson had 6 blocks. …………OK so Henson could have had it too.