Wrap-up: Zeller wears homecoming crown as UNC beats Evansville
UNC 76, Evansville 49
Tyler Zeller was all smiles before the game. Playing under 60 miles from his hometown, Zeller was playing in front of his family (mother and younger brother Cody seen above) and the first sold-out crowd in Evansville in over five years. And while Tyler walked off the court with that same smile, the Purple Aces weren’t feeling so well. The team that earlier his year beat Butler fell victim to a Carolina team that at least for a half was clicking on all cylinders. UNC shot 50 percent from the field in the first half in route to a 19-point halftime lead. The second half didn’t start so well, as the Heels only put up 9 points in the first 8 minutes, but Evansville was too beaten down by that point to get up during the ten count.
- Carolina did something it never seems it can: put away an opponent. Even when UNC plays lower tier teams it never can pull away. Last night, as was mentioned above, the Heels were already up by 19. Even with a slow second half, the Heels used defensive pressure to keep the Purple Aces from getting back in the game.
- UNC used that defensive pressure to force 23 turnovers on Evansville. Combine that with Carolina only committing 13 of their own, and the Heels definitely won the possession battle.
- UNC didn’t get away from its game plan last night. Although Evansville actually outscored the Heels in the paint, the bigs touched the ball almost every time down the court. They didn’t always convert, but they did get to the line 36 times. Justin Knox who finished with 13 points, second on the team behind Zeller, got to the charity stripe six times and Big Z was there ten times.
- The team as a whole shot well from the line, an amazing (for the Heels) 12-15 in the first half and finishing at 72.2 percent.
- The same cannot be said for the 3-point shooting. UNC hit four in the first half but went 0-7 in the second. Larry Drew II did finally hit a long-range jumper after some nice in-and-out ball movement from Z to II.
- Player of the Game: Tyler Zeller – (18 pts, 8 rebs, 2 asts, 2 blks) In the game he made happen, Zeller didn’t disappoint the home crowd. Not to mention mom and dad.
- Stat Stuffer (aka the Danny Green Award): See above. John Henson might have made this, but he did commit four assists.
- Block Party: Henson – With four blocks you have to give the man some piece of hardware.
- Was that Donnie Baseball?: Yeah, it was. Apparently Don Mattingly’s an Evansville native and has season tickets to the Purple Aces. Would anyone have guessed Mattingly as the chance celebrity sighting in Indiana?