Wrap-up: UNC stomps on Evansville
UNC 97, Evansville 48
The Heels needed a game like this. After a nail-biting win at home against Wisconsin and the emotionally draining one-point loss to Kentucky over the weekend, what this team really needed was to just destroy someone. For the Evansville Purple Aces, that was an unfortunate fact.
It took a minute or two to warm up, but once the Heels got going it turned into a romp rather quickly. The offense, led by Harrison Barnes’ 14 first-half points, was clicking and the defense was stifling. At one point, Dexter Strickland stole the ball from his mark and took it the distance for a layup — two plays in a row. Barnes, who usually gets his points, got them in the manner we have all been wanting him to, by taking it to rack. Tyler Zeller, matched up against a 6’8″ forward, even looked like he had snapped out of his funk in a stat-sheet filling performance (see: foreshadowing.)
After amassing a 30-point lead and holding the Aces to 22 in the first half, it was more of the same in the second. The starters left the game with eight minutes remaining and it was scrub time from then on. Game, set, match.
- As was mentioned above, Barnes was able to get to the rim with ease. There was an awesome inbounds play in which he threw it in the Zeller in the post, then curled around Zeller, receiving a touch pass from Z, and elevated for the slam. That’s the epitome of what his game can be, and we should hope to see this kind of play more often for the rest of the season.
- Desmond Hubert got some nice minutes. The New Jersey freshman tallied eight rebounds, 2 points and 2 blocks in 13 minutes. He’s kind of like John-Henson-lite. He’s long and has great instincts. The offense will come along as he gets more P.T., and hopefully during this nine-game homestand he’ll be able to get a lot of that.
- James Michael McAdoo, the awakened. McAdoo has looked a little lost at times this season. While he has all the physical tools to be a star, he’s adjusted slowly to the college game — not unlike Barnes. Perhaps it’s because the Heels have played a tough schedule to start the year, because against the Purple Aces — an admittedly lesser foe — he looked confident and aggressive. He showed his explosiveness on some dunks. When he was in with the reserves he looked like the best player on the floor, far and away. Maybe he and Zeller can get their swagger back in this homestand of games before the Heels head into ACC play. That would be ideal, don’t you think?e
- Reggie Bullock continued his shooting spree. After a great outing against Kentucky, in which he cold-bloodedly hit a three to bring the Heels within one in the final seconds, Bullock went 4-7 from beyond the arc and grabbed a couple of boards and a steal in 17 minutes. The importance of his development cannot be understated, so I will not. REGGIE IS AWESOME! Don’t worry though, he’ll make me take that back by going 0-8 against Long Beach State.
- P.J. Hairston rolled his ankle in the second half. It was a not a pretty picture in the slow-mo replay. He did return to the bench after a brief visit to the locker room, so hopefully it is nothing serious. P.J. has been a great asset this year, and the Heels will need him in conference.
Player of the Game: Hard to name one in such a lopsided game, but we’ll go with Reggie Bullock (15 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast, 1 stl, 0 TOs). If Reggie can keep consistently nailing treys, it’s going to have a monumental impact on how teams can guard the Heels, opening up the floor for the bigs and Barnes.
Stat Stuffer (a.k.a. the John Henson Award and former Danny Green Award): Tyler Zeller (12 pts, 10 rebs, 4 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk) Could have easily gone to Henson as well, but Zeller gets the nod for notching a stat in each of the primary categories.
Double Take Award: Dexter Strickland. I was watching the game on my DVR as I wasn’t able to watch it live, and when I saw Strickland take in his second consecutive steal for a layup, I had to rewind to make sure it wasn’t just deja vu. Nope, he straight played that kid twice in a row.