Well, it was a win that required copious amounts of toughness and players who kept their heads in the game when it seemed like an opposing guard was set to take the game over. Outside of that, a solid defensive effort and the play of John Henson, who is an offensive force after all, many of the same concerns and issues arose that have been there. The offense is haphazard at best lacking any semblance of a flow or a go to scorer when times get tough. Larry Drew continues to be unimpressive running the show whereas the shifts we saw Kendall Marshall on the floor a discernible improvement in the way the Heels look. I don't know how much the production is different as a team but there is a certain aesthetic quality to the offense with Marshall out there versus Drew. Harrison Barnes continues to be a mystery. Call it pressing, nerves, succumbing to pressure or just a funk he is in, the fact a player everyone said was a can't miss #1 NBA pick in 2011 cannot take a game over much less find a semblance of himself offensively is a tad disturbing. It has a reached a point where you have to wonder if maybe there is a hidden injury no one is talking about. I keep thinking "this will be the game" only to be disappointed. There is a sign here and a play there which indicates Barnes is all that but until it clicks in for him, the doubts will persist, possibly more so for him than the rest of us.
There is probably not enough that can be said Henson's offensive work in this game, mainly because he was the only Tar Heel to reach double figures. Henson was 8-11 from the floor while collecting seven boards and two blocks. The impressive part is Henson's ability to score in the post but also create some shots for himself. While everyone else struggled, particularly Tyler Zeller despite going against a lineup that lacked a player over 6-8. Henson came to play. UNC also got spot contributions from Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall who were a combined 9-12 from the floor for 22 points. None of that trio played more than 15 minutes and neither Marshall or McDonald missed a shot.
Likewise Strickland was 3-5 from the floor and got some nice buckets in transition while also playing tough defense on the Cougars' star guard Andrew Goudelock. For a stretch in the 2nd half it looked like Goudelock was going to go Harold Arcineaux on UNC before running out of gas. The Tar Heel defense gets credit for causing that to happen and keeping Goudelock in check. Yes, 28 shots is a lot for one guy but it is important to remember Goudelock was taking shots with a man on him. He was also pulling up from Efland at times and hit a few of them. In the end Goudelock did end up with 28 points but he earned ever last one of them and shot poorly to do it. The fact Charleston shot 35% from the floor as a team is a better gauge of how the defense played than one player's point total.
I would like to think this is a game UNC can build on. The Heels could have easily wet the bed when they fell behind by five in the 2nd half. UNC outscored the Cougars 29-19 over the final 12 minutes of the game when it could have unraveled in the worst possible way. There were also periods of solid contribution from multiple Tar Heels like McDonald, Bullock, Strickland, Marshall and of course Henson. We know the parts are there. We know the potential is also there. It really seems like a question of getting the correct combination of players on the court all performing at a relatively consistent level. For example, imagine what this game would have been like if Zeller and Barnes are 8-12 and 7-12 from the floor respectively alongside the play of Henson. Or if you flesh McDonald or Bullock or Marshall's stat lines out with more minutes. Then again, we are not simply talking about all cylinders firing but say three. I think the pieces are there. I think there are enough players on this team capable of contributing to the offense to make it significantly better than it is. Part of that is up to the players and part of it is up to Roy Williams getting the correct personnel on the floor. Oh, and hitting better than 59% from the free throw line and not getting run off the backboards would help too.