I'll admit, I can be a self-entitled, whiny fan. Case in point: UNC has had of late an absolutely stellar defense. Tonight they held Miami to 41.1%, forced 17 turnovers, and otherwise stifled the Hurricane offense, limiting them to just five more points than in their previous outing against Virginia, despite what was probably twenty more possessions. Now great defense can be thrilling, and there was some of that. Tyler Zeller had a beautifully athletic block tonight and Dexter Strickland took a pair of steals to the other end for two buckets. But Carolina's defense isn't designed to be exciting – they actually rate pretty low on turnovers caused per possession. Instead they've just been unrelenting, always in the opponents face, forcing bad shots and methodically tracking down rebounds. This defense is why the first two conference games haven't been close. It's solid, consistent play.
And it's so boring.
Now, I will take an easy win over a nail-biting game almost any day. As would, I expect, Roy Williams and most of the team. But UNC's defensive style of play this season has left it to the offense to generate the thrills, and for a second straight game, the Heels didn't really deliver. Harrison Barnes in particular had an off-night shooting, going 2 for 13 overall and 0-6 from 3. Henson and Zeller also struggled a bit in the first half, although Miami's strategy of "foul early and often" probably didn't help, and the team as a whole was pretty abysmal from beyond the arc.
That left a fair amount of the scoring duties to UNC's guards, Kendall Marshall and Dexter Strickland. In a game where the other team's backcourt was supposed to be the threat – Malcolm Grant would instead finish with 5 points – Marshall and Strickland did the yeoman's work with fast breaks and dribble penetration. Marshall would notch his first double-figure scoring game of the year, while Strickland would do him two better and finish with fourteen points. Reggie Bullock, although limited in scoring, had some great rebounds on pure hustle.
So yes, I suffered through a snoozefest of a game tonight. And I hope to be subjected to many more over the next few months, as Carolina continues to suffocate their opponents' offense, and leave us with long stretches where the outcome is no longer in doubt. It'll make blogging difficult, but I've got the rest of the ACC to turn to for close games. For UNC, I'll take the dull blowout.