Grinding, survive and advance, tough, ugly, etc, etc, etc.
At this stage of the season these games are almost self contained. Just like during the NCAA Tournament, UNC faced a team that played a different tempo, tough defense and was an overall challenge in every respect. Winning such a game by any means necessary is all that matters. As a point of analysis we can certainly talk about what went wrong but such an exercise is somewhat pointless. This game has no bearing on the next and certainly no bearing on a week from now in Durham.
Given how poorly Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall played in stretches that is probably the best way to look at it. Barnes appeared to be forcing things at times and when he did get open looks he simply didn't finish. Throw in missing the front end of a one-and-one which would have sealed the game, Barnes was certainly off. Bullock had issues on both ends and got lost at the worst possible time on the Sammy Zeglinski three with under ten seconds left in the game. Fortunately for UNC, Zeglinski missed but seeing that his desperation crap shot at the end of the half with Bullock all over him went in, we can call it even. Marshall was held to one point, six assists and had two turnovers. He was also routinely toasted by Jontel Evans on the defense.
On the plus side, UNC did get spot boosts from P.J. Hairston who scored five in the second half and also some board work from James Michael McAdoo. However it was John Henson and Tyler Zeller carrying the load. Henson was much better after intermission than he was before where he forced some shots away from the basket. In the second half, Henson made some big plays and was a shocking 7 for 8 from the free throw line on the game which ended up being a huge difference.His one handed lefty dunk off an alley-oop from out of bounds with two seconds left on the shot clock was the highlight of the game.
Then there was Tyler Zeller who got off to a fast start scoring UNC's first eight points then ending the game with 20 points and six rebounds. With UNC up one and the shot clock fading, Zeller made a nice pump fake then drive to the basket for a dunk to put the Heels up three with 13 seconds left. A senior leader making plays when his team needs him most is exactly what has been asked of Zeller and he has yet to disappoint. He may have also given himself a leg up on the ACC POY race, especially with UVa's Mike Scott posting six points, seven rebounds in a foul riddled game for him.
UNC's win puts the Heels at 12-2 in ACC play and on track to face Duke for all the regular season marbles next Saturday. The only remaining obstacle is Maryland at home on Wednesday.