Wrap-up: Heels stun Spartans in East Lansing
UNC 79, Michigan State 65
You’ve heard the Jekyll and Hyde analogies ad nauseam for the past few days, so I won’t bore you with that comparison. But really, did you see this coming?
Sure, even eternal pessimists like the Rafters staff thought UNC had a chance to win. I mean, a very small chance, but a chance. The Heels had beaten Louisville on a neutral court, and the roster has some talented players. Plus, it was an AMUSING SUGGESTION to say UNC would win just to feed the up-and-down narrative that already existed due to beating the Cardinals and losing to both Belmont and UAB.
I guess that’s why the narrative exists, eh?
UNC played with a different energy than the home team from the tip. Hustling after loose balls and crashing the offensive glass, they just looked like the better team. To be super obnoxious, “THEY WANTED IT MORE” and delivered some balanced offense, with five players scoring double digit points and never allowing MSU to take the lead. The big question now lingers: Is this a sign of things to come, or an omen that the roller coaster is still just getting pulled up the hill for that first big drop?
- UNC diversified its scoring. That basically means the team didn’t rely solely on Marcus Paige for offense. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson led the way with 15 and 14 respectively. J.P. Tokoto chipped in his first career double double with 12 points and 10 boards. Nate Britt calmly stroked clutch free throws. Michigan State wasn’t able to clamp down on Paige a la UAB and stifle the offense. Everyone was getting buckets.
- Low-post game sighting! Meeks and Johnson weren’t just getting easy put-backs (although there were some of those to be had). UNC was actually feeding the young guns down low and they were — gasp — backing down their man and drop-stepping their way to points in the paints. Brice just made it look too easy when, with the game tied at 49 all, he took two straight post feeds for layups.
- J.P. Flokoto. Tokoto was dropping Tokotoaters all over the floor. He still makes some boneheaded decisions and led the team with four turnovers, but his game is rounding into form. The “early-career Danny Green” is strong with this one.
- What to do with McAdoo? JMM was noticeably silent yet again, BUT he hustled, made good defensive plays and didn’t force his offense. In fact, we noted on Twitter it was one of his better games. He was a solid contributor to the team effort — and it obviously benefited UNC. Is he just a role player? We’ve seen what he can do when he’s not the focal point (see 2012), so maybe that’s a better path for him to take with more post feeds going to Johnson and Meeks instead.
- Rotation emerging. Roy is still playing 11 players a game, but a majority of minutes are now going to the starters (Paige, Britt, James, McAdoo, Tokoto) and bench sensations Johnson and Meeks — with a little Isaiah Hicks, Jackson Simmons and Luke Davis sprinkled in.
- Free throw woes. Are they gone? The Heels hit 70 percent from the charity stripe against MSU, including some clutch ones down the stretch. Ahh, who knows?
Player of the Game: Brice Johnson (14 pts, 6 rebs, 2 blks) Johnson showed up when he was needed, calmly backing down his man and putting the Heels back up 4 after the Spartans tied it at 49 in the second half. They would not get closer.
Stat Stuffer: J.P. Tokoto (12 pts, 10 rebs, 2 ast, 1 blk) If it weren’t for the costly turnovers, J.P. might have found himself winning the coveted Rafters Player of the Game.
Game Ball: Kennedy Meeks (15 pts, 7 rebs, 1 ast, 1 blk, 0 TOs) We just love this kid. Meeks set a career high in points and continues to get more PT.