Wrap-up: Tar Heels Tame Wildcats


(Photo by N&O)

UNC 73, Kentucky 73

Box Score

If you had asked me Saturday morning whether UNC would be able to seal a victory against Kentucky with its free throw shooting, it might have elicited laughter. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what happened in Chapel Hill as the Heels picked up a huge confidence-building win against the No. 10 Wildcats with Tyler Zeller hitting 11-12 from the line and Larry Drew hitting two crucial free throws down the stretch.

Zeller’s shooting touch contributed to a career day (27 pts, 11 rebs, 5 blks), and he was helped by the ever emerging John Henson (13 pts, 12 rebs, 3 blks). The Tar Heels were able to hold Kentucky’s latest highly touted freshman du jour, Terrence Jones, to just nine points and six rebounds before he fouled out. At times the defense seemed to break down, but just like in the Illinois game, the Heels never seemed to be out of it. Obviously the outcome was different against the Illini, but the “fight” seems to be much stronger with this year’s team as opposed to last year’s.

Harrison Barnes (12 pts, 4 rebs) came alive on a run in the first half in which he scored seven straight points, looking scary good on a one-handed stick back that would have made Blake Griffin say “whoa.” Much like the Hofstra game, however, Barnes disappeared in the second half and didn’t score in the second 20 minutes. We’ve seen the flashes, and its clear Barnes is very talented, both skillwise and athletically. He’ll start to scare other teams once he can produce over the course of a whole game. It seems like he’s headed in the right direction.

Takeaways:

  • Zeller and Henson are the unquestioned offensive leaders for the Heels. Any possession in which neither of them touches the ball at least once is a waste.
  • Dexter Strickland’s quickness makes him a great defender. When he gets his hands out in the passing lanes, any tip of the ball has the potential to turn into a one-man fast break.
  • Barnes’ explosiveness has been hiding all season. How awesome was it to see him elevate over everyone for that put back? (Don’t worry, video below)
  • Larry Drew was cool under pressure. We’ve been really high on the play of Kendall Marshall, but its been Drew’s level-headedness that’s kept the Heels in the past two games.
  • It seemed like UNC was looking for the extra pass, something it hasn’t done very well in highly contested games like Illinois and Minnesota.
  • UNC didn’t score a field goal in the final 6:46 of the game. Their free throw shooting saved the Heels, but that kind of drought often doesn’t earn you a win.
  • Carolina finally decided to drive the basket more frequently. Too many times this season, the Tar Heels have settled for jump shots (I’m looking at you, Barnes), but against UK there was more driving, dishing and throwing the ball to the post, as was evidenced by the fact that four Kentucky players fouled out.
  • Reggie Bullock played more minutes than Marshall, Leslie McDonald, Justin Knox and Justin Watts. He only had one point, but Bullock’s size helps on defense, and when he’s open he’s a good shot. It looks like Roy is developing some trust with Reggie, as he was in at some crucial points in the game.

Superlatives

Player of the Game: Tyler Zeller (27 pts, 11 rebs, 5 blks) Easy call here. Zeller’s free throw shooting was superb, and Kentucky had no answer for him down low. He also swatted everything that came near him in the paint on defense.

Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the Danny Green Award): Could easily go to Zeller, but the nod will go to double-double machine John Henson (13 pts, 12 rebs, 3 blks). Might it be possible that Henson’s slightly, ehh, slight frame could allow him to fly under the radar on opposing teams’ scouting reports all season?

Cold-blooded Killer Award: Tyler Zeller and Larry Drew II for sticking their free throws at the end of the game.

Bring tha’ Ruckus: Let’s just draw attention to this one more time: