Wrap-Up: Heels slouch and take first loss to UNLV
UNC 80, UNLV 90
It’s one of those sports clichés to say that your team just got out-hustled and outplayed and that the better team won, but that’s what happend to the Heels in the championship game of the Las Vegas Invitational. The Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV were unstoppable on the “neutral” court that was about four miles from their campus and stopped every run Carolina made at them in the second half.
I’m not here to make excuses for playing in what was a true road game, but the energy that UNLV played with had to be helped by the venue. UNC looked like it didn’t want to be there, getting outrebounded (again) 46-37 and in particular giving up 13 offensive boards. This was the No. 1 team in the nation at rebounding last year. What happened?
- UNLV might have shown a model for beating Carolina: crashing the boards relentlessly, shooting the three, and getting ball pressure on Kendall Marshall. The Rebels stuck mostly in man-to-man, but whoever was guarding Marshall picked him up full-court for a lot of the game. Kendall couldn’t get settled and made some uncharacteristically bad passes in transition.
- Lackluster perimeter defense. Yeah, I know, UNLV hit a ton of threes and seemingly couldn’t miss in the second half, but most of those threes weren’t really contested. Giving players at that level a wide-open look is not something to do if you want to win, but Carolina could barely get a hand in their faces. Not good for facing teams like Duke and Kentucky.
- Let’s talk about rebounding again. How did 2010-2011’s best rebounding team get outrebounded AGAIN? In the final 10 minutes of the game, UNLV took some pretty dumb shots (mostly threes) early in the shot clock. But instead of corralling the board and preceding to reduce the deficit, UNC allowed the Rebs to get the offensive rebound and a new shot clock. This is all about effort.
- Free throws. It’s been said many times this season, but Carolina desperately needs to improve at the line. If they had shot 75 percent instead of the lowly 60 percent they shot in the game, that’s five extra points. Those five extra points would have made it a much closer game in crunch time before the Heels had to start fouling to get the ball back. In case you were wondering, UNLV shot 83 percent from the stripe.
- Where is the Black Falcon’s killer instinct? Barnes loved these games last year. When the final result was in doubt, he usually took over to become the Black Falcon we all know and love. That’s been missing this year and it was apparent in his 6-16 performance Saturday. It looked like he tweaked an ankle, too, so we should keep an eye on that.
- One bright spot was P.J. Hairston, who was seemingly unfazed by the scoreboard when he came in the game. He went 3-5 from beyond the arc and provided some valuable scoring to aid UNC’s second half runs (or attempts at runs). Las Vegas was a coming-out party for Hairston, who also had a great game against South Carolina on Friday. Now if we can just get him to cut down on those fouls.
Player of the Game: P.J. Hairston (15 pts, 3-5 3FG, 4-4 FT) Hairston has that Rashad McCants-like ability to be completely unfazed by his surroundings and to just keep shooting. He still makes some freshman mistakes, but it looks like his shooting ability is transferring to the college game well.
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the John Henson Award and former Danny Green Award): Nobody really filled it up against UNLV.
Party Foul: Fans rushed the “neutral” court after UNLV pulled off the upset in Las Vegas. So much for that.