It is about dang time.
I am glad to see that some of the players decided to login to THF late last night after I posted my preview post and take to heart my plea for some dominating basketball, especially on defense
It is has been said by various people but that first half was the best half of basketball this team has played all season. And the defense was exactly the kind of overwhelming, angry hornets swarming a target defense we all have been expecting to see from this team. And while I agree with Roy that NCSU missed some shots they could have hit I am convinced that the way UNC was operating on defense so upset the Wolfpack's balance on offense nothing went right. Regardless of the problems NCSU has had on offense coming into this game, UNC exploited that and rebounded like men possessed which feed the fast break over and over and over. Obviously keeping up that kind of effort nursing a 30 point leads is a tall order and UNC allowed 49 second half points in large part because the Heels basically let off the gas on defense. However, when you crushed the life out of a team in the first half, as long as you keep the opposition about right there in the second I have little complaints.
On offense, if UNC had been clicking the whole game this could have been a repeat of the 2005 game in Charlottesville where the Heels went up by 50 at one point late in the second half. It seemed like it took UNC a little time to get things clicking but once they did it was an incredible display of how potent the offense can be if the dominoes start falling. Aside from that the most impressive piece of the offense was the balance as pointed out by J.P. Gilgio at ACC Now:
They won Saturday because Green, Deon Thompson and Quentin Thomas — aka the supporting cast — were effective.
Put it this way, UNC would have won by five if Tyler Hansbrough (13 points) and Ellington (13) hadn't scored a point.
The ability to win games with different players on a game-to-game basis is the sign of a great team, and really an asset UNC has been missing since Sean May, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Marvin Williams left for the NBA.
The fact everyone was involved meant Ellington and Hansbrough were not the main offensive threat on the floor. A quick rundown on how each player did.
Tyler Hansbrough-Poor shooting day but had 13 rebounds.
Wayne Ellington-Only took nine shots, played excellent defense.
Danny Green-Stat line of the day and possibly the season so far. 13 points, 14 boards, 6 assists and blocked four shots. Incredible effort off the bench and in only 23 minutes of playing time.
Deon Thompson-Quiet 16 points on 7-15 shooting. Also had three blocks and may be rounding into the form we saw during the summer.
Marcus Ginyard-Made some key plays. Had five points, five assists and four rebounds.
Ty Lawson-ZERO turnovers to go along with five assists and 16 points on 4-6 three point shooting. If he gets into the perimeter shooting business alongside Ellington one can only imagine what kind of damage they can do.
Quentin Thomas-Solid, solid, solid play filling in for Lawson who spent some time on the bench getting his right ankle taped after tweaking it. Thomas also had four assists and ZERO turnovers reversing what has been a disturbing trend for him. This hopefully will be a confidence builder for him.
Alex Stepheson-Eight points, six rebounds and two blocks. Very nice to see Stepheson get back in the groove and make significant contributions while getting well above his average in minutes played.
I know I am running the risk of sounding a tad too giddy about this win but given some of the defensive efforts UNC has produced this season, it was nice to see them come out and bury someone. In the final analysis, this game could end up being the signature win that puts this team on track to play at the level expectations have been calling for since the beginning of the season. Certain individual players who needed a shot of confidence got that in a big way today. Thomas and Stepheson needed a game like this to help them find a place and we can only hope it persists as the season moves on.
In terms of the way the team played, a game like this can be seen as the light bulb coming on, especially as it pertains to defense. NCSU has a plethora of issues, especially on offense. The PG situation is dreadful, team chemistry is non-existent and there appear to be rampant problems with player effort at key times. So in respect to these issues UNC should decimate them in a game at home. The bugaboo so far this season for UNC is they have shown a penchant for substandard play against an inferior team out in the first half. Teams like Nicholls State, Valpo and even UNCA hung in far too long against a team ranked #1 in the nation. UNC came out and asserted it's will, made life on offense a living hell for NC State and when that happens the best fast break(arguably) in the country goes absolutely nuts.
The next few games will tell us if this was one great game(like the Arizona game last season) that was followed by poor efforts down the line or the beginning of something beautiful. A trip to Atlanta this week will be a good test to see if UNC is possibly locked in for the long haul.