Thirty-one percent. Forty-four percent. Thirty-five percent. Thirty-eight percent. That's UNC's shooting percentage over their last four wins. Carolina is in a bit of shooting funk, as opposing teams have learned to double-team Tyler Zeller and John Henson and make the rest of the team beat them. And as along as the Heels continue to struggle from the perimeter – they missed their first eight threes tonight – that plan is going to have some success. Carolina continues to win, but the wins get uglier and uglier.
Tonight's game was saved by the Heels offensive rebounding. Miami had the strength to contest the boards, even with Reggie Johnson on the bench for much of the first half with two fouls, but they just couldn't. UNC pulled down 21 second chances, the third straight game (and eighth on the season) they've gone over 20 in that category. 20 additional chances can make any team difficult to beat, and after trailing by eight at the first TV timeout of the second half the Carolina was finally able to get on track and put the Hurricanes in their rear view mirror.
I'm hesitant to say UNC actually improved in the final fifteen minutes, so much as Miami regressed to an incompetence greater than their opponent's. After hitting quite a few open threes in the first half, the Hurricanes became cold and turnover-prone. The game kept getting uglier and uglier; Harrison Barnes turned on his second-half brilliance to lead all scorers with 23, but even he was tossing up air balls and uncontrollably stumbling through the lane.
The defense wasn't as strong as the first Miami game. Carolina looked lackadaisical at times and Reggie Johnson and Kenny Kadji were able to be a little more physical than I'd like. Surprisingly, the best defensive effort came from Kendall Marshall, who did a very good job of stopping Durand Scott. After nine first-half points, the Miami point guard would finish with only 15, and the last 4 came in garbage time.
Also of note: P.J. Hairston played eight minutes after missing the Virginia game; he would finish with four points. Justin Watts had nine minutes on the court after playing eighteen against the Cavaliers, but was much more noticeable here, playing some of the best ball he has all season. Kendall Marshall played the entire second half without substitution.
Carolina next gets the change to extend the greatest streak in basketball by playing Clemson in Chapel Hill. The Tigers may be turning a corner with their twelve-point upset of Virginia yesterday; it's also may be the easiest game remaining on the schedule. If UNC is going to start finding their shot again, now would be an excellent time.