After a choppy first 30 minutes, the Tar Heels asserted control and cruised to the win.
It was only an exhibition game. That mantra could be applied to soothe rising panic and calm a little hype depending on which part of the game you saw. Basically, there were times UNC struggled, especially shooting the ball. The Heels were 3-16 from three which was actually 1-11 until P.J. Hairston hit a pair of threes during the two minute stretch UNC finally began to pull away. So the perimeter scoring was so-so, the interior scoring was much better with James Michael McAdoo(16 points), Joel James(13 points) and Brice Johnson(8 points) accounting for nearly half the offense.
That sort of thing is not wholly unexpected. UNC is going to be bigger that Shaw's interior players and three point shooting is generally streaky anyway. So in that respect, one probably shouldn't panic about the outside shooting nor should anyone get overly excited about the interior play. However, the nature of being fans and needing a basketball fix means there is going to be plenty if speculation based on what was observed tonight which is fine. That's what blog comment sections are for.
While I maintain there is not much useful you can draw from a game like this, there are certain fundamental observations to be made. One is the play of both Marcus Paige and Joel James. Paige didn't have a great stat line. He only had one assist versus three turnovers. He shot 2-7 from the floor and 0-4 from three. However, what Paige did appear to do was execute like a Roy Williams point guard should. Paige pushed the basketball and made two pitch ahead passes to teammates who then passed it off for easy baskets. Paige doesn't get assists for those plays but he certain set them up by pushing the basketball. Paige will have growing pains as the season progresses but in his first live fire situation, Paige looks like he is picking up the system.
The same can be said of James who, like Paige, will need to go through the transition. However, James has one thing in his favor which is his size. James is a grown man. He is going to be a load for opposing defenses to handle. He is a little raw offensively and will have games he will struggle against better teams but already there are signs James will be an effective players as the season moves into January and February. Brice Johnson also fits into this category but his slight frame could cause him problems James won't have to deal with.
Another couple of interesting observations. UNC had 19 assists on 32 made FGs. Reggie Bullock had five, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald each had three. It would not surprise me to see assists spread out this way considering how this team is constructed. Speaking of Strickland, not only did he play but he started which was a surprise. He also did not wear any sort of brace on his knee and looked mostly the same in the way he moved. The only exception there was he did not try to take it to the basket which was either by choice or his speed isn't quite what it was a year ago.
Overall, it was not a huge surprise. This team has a ton of growing up to do and it won't happen overnight. The good news is, there are not many coaches better at bringing a team along and having them peak at the right time than Roy Williams. So it might be rough early on as the team finds itself and players figure out their respective roles but if those things happen, this team should be solid.