A win is a win is a win.
Marcus Paige scored 11 of his 15 points in overtime and J.P. Tokoto had a career high 22 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four blocks as UNC overcame a sub par performance across the board to knock of Davidson 97-85.
After the debacle versus Texas where UNC was run off the boards and had trouble defending against drives to the basket, Roy Williams put the team though a 5 AM practice on Thursday. The physical nature of the Texas game followed by two tough practices left the team a little ragged.
"I was exhausted. I was kind of a long week you know. We had a couple of tough practices, tough game, physical game against Texas," said Marcus Paige. "It took me a while to kind of get into the game. I didn't feel like myself for 30 minutes"
The wear of the past week, which included the resolution of the eligibility concerns with Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston showed in the first half. The team was not sharp on either end except for J.P. Tokoto. With both Paige and Brice Johnson scoreless in the first half, Tokoto carried much of the offensive load with 14 points. He also led the team with five rebounds to go along with three steals. Tokoto's play cannot be overstated enough. He was easily UNC's best player all night. And despite some of the offensive struggles, UNC seemed to wake up from their slow start to take a 31-22 lead with 6:07 left. Through the end of the half Davidson responded with a 27-13 run to take a 49-44 lead early in the second half.
Fueling the Davidson run was a the play of Wildcat guard Brian Sullivan and UNC's inability to keep opposing drivers out of the lane. The Sullivan performance is old hat for anyone who has watched UNC for any number of years. He came into the game shooting 28% from three and in this one was 7-14 from beyond the arc. Some of the shots were open and yet others were well defended with a hot shooter burying anything he threw up or so it seemed. However, as much as that will draw the focus of people because it is a familiar site, UNC's bigger issue was the interior defense. Davidson got far too many easy looks at the rim. They drove at their own leisure into the lane and were able to make shots at the basket even with Tar Heel interior defenders coming over to help. Giving up three point shooting is an issue but even more so when the defense cannot keep nominally smaller players from scoring at the rim.
On the offensive end, Paige continued to struggle and Johnson, in his first start of the season was virtually non-existent. He picked up two early first half fouls and ended up being out of the game by the 3:59 mark of the second half with only two points. Fortunately for UNC, Kennedy Meeks provided a boost with nine second half points. James Michael McAdoo also had one of his better nights at the free throw line going 9-14 on his way to nineteen points. As the game wore on it became a nip and tuck affair. UNC pulled ahead but Davidson responded and even held a two point lead late before a pair of Paige free throws knotted the game at 79.
After surviving a contested three from Sullivan, Paige took the game over in the extra session with nine of UNC first eleven points including a dagger three to give the Heels a seven point lead midway through the period. And after a game on Wednesday where UNC missed 23 free throws, the Heels were 11-12 in overtime from the line and finished the game 34-47.
Now the Heels get a much needed period of rest before facing Northern Kentucky on December 27th. While criticizing the team's effort is an immensely popular thing to do from the recliner it should be noted that this has indeed been a very tough week for the team both physically and emotionally. While some will treat that as an excuse, it important to remember we are talking about human beings here who have physical, mental and emotional limits. The sense you get hearing the players talk after the game is they may be close to those limits. The upcoming break of six days, much of it spent at home with their families should allow them to recharge before taking the court again.