It had been a mediocre couple of games for the Tar Heels. Sure they were winning, and handily, but Roy Williams wasn't happy with the effort, there'd be long stretches without scoring against inferior competition, and a general sense of listlessness. You had to wonder how they'd do once the competition ramped back up again.
Pretty well, it turns out. Carolina came out ready to play and jumped all over the Longhorns. Eight players scored UNC's 38 first half points, with no one opting more than seven points. And in the second half it was all Harrison Barnes, as he would finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds as the Heels won easily.
Texas came out attempting to run with Carolina, and UNC was more than willing to take advantage of that. They kept the game at a grueling pace that exhausted the Longhorn bigs, choosing to score on fast breaks or interior drives and passes. The Heels only attempted seven three-pointers, one more than the number of dunks the team had. Many of which were monsters; Dexter Strickland got things started off early and in one memorable sequence P.J. Hairston absolutely posterized his opponent, followed in the next thirty seconds by a John Henson tip, a Kendall Marshall steal and a Reggie Bullock basket. UNC had six points with Texas barely making it across half court, and the lead would never again be closer than 14.
As impressive as the offensive highlights would look on Sportscenter however, it was Carolina's defense that stood out in this game. UNC held Texas to under 35% shooting, and 9 for 25 from beyond the arc, as the freshmen did't have the poise to hang with the more experienced Carolina team. J'Covan Brown would finish with 16 pints, but it would take him 37 minutes and 18 shots to do so, and he hit only two shots from the held after halftime. Myck Kabongo was bothered by an earlier injury, and puled from the game for good once it became clear which way the wind was blowing; he turned the ball over four times while notching only one assist.
Carolina, meanwhile, played possibly their best game of the season, controlling the boards in a way they'd failed to do against a smaller Longhorn team last year. The shooting was a little off, but otherwise the play was strong, with Reggie Bullock continuing to evolve into... something, shooting less threes and grabbing more rebounds. More importantly, there was a greater urgency in going after loose balls, and fewer mental lapses as are prone to strike the Heels. Texas is better than most ACC teams UNC will face this season, and the Tar Heels handled them easily. If they can continue this level of play, it looks to be a very good New Year.