After a couple of lackluster performances against teams Dexter Strickland's high school team could beat, UNC played a legitimate opponent in Texas. The question coming into this game was whether this Tar Heel team would answer the bell. Question answered. Granted I would not go as far as to call Texas a great team. The Longhorns are young but also a probable NCAA Tournament team. By the end of the year this kind of game could be a #1 vs #8 match-up in the NCAA Tournament. UNC won it by 19 by dominating the defensive end and getting a solid offensive effort.The Heels got off to a good start on both ends and by halftime had methodically taken control of the game. In the second half they never really let Texas back into the game answering every little run and hitting 74% of their free throws.
Harrison Barnes had been facing plenty of questions about his play after a pair of nine point outings where he shot a combined 8-24. Barnes stepped up his game for Texas going for 26 points(19 in the 2nd half) on 9-15 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds and played big on the defensive end with a block and two steals. This was a strong game from Barnes. He was aggressive and went after the boards hard. There were a few shots he probably should not have taken but that was part of him trying to be assertive and for the most part it led to his best game of the season. Oh and Barnes did all of that in 25 minutes, talk about efficient.
Outside of Barnes, it was a really balanced effort. John Henson had 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Henson is really getting out in transition more than he has before. That led to some easy baskets and one spectacular assist in which Henson touch-passed the ball to Reggie Bullock for layup. Speaking of Bullock, another nice game being the spark off the bench. The sophomore from Kinston continues to play at a high level. Bullock had 12 points, six rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal in 22 minutes. In fact Roy Williams is effectively splitting Bullock's time with Dexter Strickland much the same way he did between Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green in 2008. The notable difference is Strickland brings more to the table than Ginyard and Bullock is not quite at Green's level....yet. Bullock is a year behind where Green was in 2008 plus the injury also set him back. This game was a perfect example of Bullock doing what Green did which was simply being active and hitting outside shots.
Kendall Marshall racked up nine assists and set a UNC record for most assists through the first 50 games of a career with 361. Tyler Zeller did not have a good shooting night going 3-11 but he had good looks, they simply did not fall. Zeller did collect 11 rebounds as UNC controlled the boards to the tune of 49-34. Dexter Strickland and P.J. Hairston also played well, especially on the defensive end. Hairston continues to be very good on defense and is somewhat underrated in that department. Strickland was quiet on the offensive end but Texas' leading scorer J'Covan Brown ended up 6-18 from the floor with four turnovers in part due to Strickland's defense.
If you care to nitpick, UNC was a little lax on the defensive glass in the first half giving up 13 offensive rebounds to Texas. The second half saw the Heels take more control of the rebounding on the defensive end. Texas did shoot better in the second half which cut down on the defensive rebound but overall UNC's defense was very good. Texas ended shooting 34% from the floor on all shots and 36% from three with many of those contested.
The Heels head out on Christmas break returning for practice on December 27th to prepare for a December 29th meeting with Elon followed by a New Year's Day game versus King Rice's Monmouth team.