For the second straight game UNC floundered in the first half, and fell behind, only to claw their way back with solid defense and win the game late. It's an unfamiliar way of winning to most Carolina fans, and not a habit I think we want to get into, but a win is a win, and this team is showing a lot more backbone than last year's squad. That's really all there is to say.
Oh, and Kendall Marshall tore the game up. That's probably worth discussing.
Marshall took the simmering point guard debate among Carolina fans and cranked the heat to eleven. Given extra playing time by virtue of Larry Drew's foul trouble, Marshall had an excellent second half, and finished the game with 9 points, 9 assists, 3 steals and 0 turnovers. More importantly, he finished out the game, entering at the 5:33 mark with the game tied at 47 when Drew picked up his fourth. After quickly falling behind by five – Reggie Bullock took three straight ill-advised shots, all misses – Marshall hit his own three in response that sparked and 8-0 run. And in the waning moments, he again came up big, with tough defense on Malcolm Delaney to prevent a game-winning three and clutch free throws to seal the win. Expect Drew to still start the next game, but also expect the grumblings from the fans to be loud.
Delaney, of course, had another huge game for Tech against the Tar Heels; he finished with28 points and despite being in foul trouble a lot late sat only one minute of the game. The same could not be said of Jeff Allen, who was out much of the first with two fouls and was held to 4 points and 7 rebounds. For the most part, the game followed Allen's lead, and was incredibly ugly. There were a combined 35 turnovers between the teams, and UNC was often out-hustled, especially in the first, to loose balls and rebounds. The play was often lackadaisical and almost incompetent at times. A team with more depth and less ball-handling problems of their own would have torn through North Carolina.
John Henson did a good job of firing the team up with some tremendous dunks as the Heels reasserted themselves; he'd finish with 17 points and 8 rebounds, but be on the bench in the final minute again. He's free throw shooting is killing him, as he went 1-4 from the line, not that the team was much better. Harrison Barnes will probably also get a lot of talk tomorrow, for a brief spurt where he took over the game and made three of four shots for eight points. It's not much different from the previous flashes of brilliance we've seen, except this came in the final two minutes, and propelled the Heels over the hump to the win.
This is a team still finding it's footing; the good news is that the next game against Georgia Tech should be a little easier. Still, the first half and much of the second was almost exhausting to watch, plagued as they were with unforced errors and a lack of rhythm. UNC had a lead at 2-0 and then the next at 55-52 with 3:20 to play. That can't continue to happen, and this team needs to get a solid gameplan going. And that may involve a change in point guard.