Wrap-up: Miami and Clemson
UNC 73, Miami 64
UNC 74, Clemson 52
If there was a theme for the past two games, it might be something like, “Move on, nothing to see here.” While there have been some good statistical games — Barnes went for 20+ in both games and Henson has been stuffing the box score pers usual — we haven’t seen much in the way of an inspired performance. This might be a little nit-picky at this point. I mean, coming back from 8 down in the second half on the road at Miami is a pretty effing good win. And the Clemson game ended up a blowout in the end. But why haven’t these wins given UNC fans the confidence that this team has what it takes to cut down the nets? Is it an issue of of inflated expectations.
I think I have to side with UNC’s own Kendall Marshall on this. After the Miami game, he told ESPN’s Robbi Pickeral, “I feel like this whole year, all we’ve been battling is what’s wrong with us. We’re 22-4, we’re doing something right. It is frustrating that when we win, all the questions are still negative.” He specifically mentions winning margin as a sticking point. Why don’t they win every game by 20?
Considering how last year’s team played with an underdog mentality and won a lot of games by scrapping their way through the second half, we should have seen this coming. Think how hard it would be to completely change your mindset from being the underdog to the overwhelming favorite. Also, remember this team has Harrison Barnes, a player who arguably holds the world record for unreasonable expectations being placed on him. That just seems to be the theme with this squad. Two years ago the juniors and seniors on this team were playing in the NIT. We should probably cut them a little slack for overcoming second half deficits on the road and only winning by 9, ya know?
- Harrison Barnes has shed any slump he might have had in January. Barnes scored 23 against Miami and 24 against Clemson, and he’s averaging 19 per contest in ACC play. He’s also been grabbing a respectable 5.5 rebs per game in ACC play, not too shabby considering Henson and Zeller claim most of the boards before anyone else gets a chance. I think what’s been most improved is his decision-making. Not necessarily the decision itself, but the quickness with which he makes it. Early on, Barnes would catch the ball, maybe fake a shot, maybe fake a drive, then proceed to either pass it or actually make said drive. The problem was his delay had let help-defenders get set and be ready to crash the lane on his drive. Now he catches the ball and immediately makes his move, or not, and the lane has been much more open.
- Carolina has jussssst enough outside shooting. Prior to the Miami game, UNC was in an abysmal slump from beyond the arc. But since, the Heels connected on 5-18 against Miami and 6-14 against Clemson. If you begin tracking in the second half versus Miami (Heels were 0-6 in the first), they’ve hit 11-26 in the last 60 minutes of play, or about 42 percent. It’s a pretty small sample size, but considering where those numbers were in the previous 4-5 games it’s a much-needed sign of improvement. The problem? Pretty much all of that improvement has come in the form of Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes. P.J. Hairston has gone 0-4 in that stretch. Hairston’s great start to the season has been derailed by this unexplainable downtrend. Before ACC play, Hairston had hit 24 of his 64 attempts for a 37.5 percent — not necessarily spectacular but a nice clip for a frosh. Since ACC play? He’s 6-39 for just 15.4 percent. Normally, we’d attribute this to a freshman adjustment to the rise in competition once conference play begins, but UNC actually played a pretty tough non-conference schedge, beginning with Michigan State and including Kentucky, Long Beach State, Wisconsin and Texas. As the ACC is down, it’d be tough to argue that the competition has actually gotten better since 2011 ended, which is what makes this slump so unexplainable.
- James McAdoo is slowly coming around. McAdoo has been showing promise in his time coming off the bench. It almost seems like he’s started just playing harder, not necessarily caring what kind of numbers he puts up, and it helps the team far more. He’s still only averaging around 10-13 minutes per game, so when he’s on the floor he should be running and grinding the other team into being tired, and more or less that’s what he’s been doing. You no longer get that “oh shit” feeling when he checks in thinking he’s going to lose a few turnovers and maybe grab a board before exiting. Now you think “OK, Mac’s going to give us a couple of solid minutes and then we’ll get a starter back in.” That’s a good feeling.
- Kendall Marshall is really just ridiculous. Marshall has been just DROPPING dimes on foes. Go now and read this piece from today on the ESPN blog. Marshall is almost certainly going to break the UNC single-season assist record held by Ed Cota and has a very good chance to set the ACC single-season record. Dude is on fire.
- Desmond “Dunktron 5000” Hubert. Des must have eaten his Wheaties Saturday morning because he played with the intensity of three Tar Heels in his limited minutes against Clemson. In seven minutes of PT, Hubert was 2-2 from the floor for four points and grabbed two offensive rebounds. He really looked like he was having fun on his second field goal with a leg-lifting jam against the reserves.
Player of the Game(s): Harrison Barnes (23 pts, 6 rebs, 2 asts, 0 TOs against Miami; 24 pts, 7 rebs, 2 asts, 2 stls against Clemson) Barnes has picked his game up in recent weeks and now seems like he’ll get 20 every night. Last year showed us that dude knows how to peak at the end of the year, is the @Barnesbot booting up for the post-season push?
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the Danny Green Award for a short time before it’s officially renamed the John Henson Award): John Henson (14 pts, 11 rebs, 2 asts, 3 blks, 1 stl against Miami; 13 pts, 8 rebs, 3 blks, 2 stls against Clemson) Henson has regained elite blocking prowess after a few subpar (for him at least) games earlier in the month.
Dejected Look of the Weekend: This goes to Clemson coach Brad Brownell. The camera focused on him right at the end of the game Saturday and he looked as if he’d just given up. It was awesome. I guess he was just marveling at Kendall Marshall. (same link as above)