That is about the only way I could describe this one. It was just an odd game where UNC seemed in control once they retook the lead in the first half after being down three but at the same time that really big back breaking run of complete and total domination was ever elusive. A microcosm of this was seen at points where I thought the Heels did a good job playing defense, forcing bad shots or passes only to have the ball slip out of the hands, picked up by a UCSB player who then found an easy basket from it. Or there was the case of Ty Lawson knocking the ball away, diving to the floor for it and getting called for a travel out of it. The game ended up being a tough test which might surprise some but it was also a true road game played at a small arenda with the local fans rocking for the home team. Major programs do not play many true road games. UNC opts to do so and there is a risk of something nasty happening in doing so. The Heels stepped up and avoided that tonight.
The return of Tyler Hansbrough was a subdued affair in general. Hansbrough had 13 points, nine of those off FTs as he also went 2-8 from the floor. The rust was obvious for Hansbrough and he only had a short put back and dunk to show for his FG shooting. Hansbrough ended up with seven boards, five of them offensive helping the Heels to rediscover their rebounding edge which appeared lost for two games. Deon Thompson started slow but eventually picked up the slack with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Likewise Ed Davis had a solid game with 10 points to fill out a decent game on the Tar Heel frontline.
I stated in the preview that I thought Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green were pressing too much with Hansbrough out and once he returned they would relax and find their games. I am not sure if tonight was correlation without causation but these three played extremely well for the first time this season. Tonight we saw the real Lawson who had 19 points on 6-7 shooting and hit two critcal threes over the UCSB zone. Lawson needs to work on the FT shooting but his performance was all it should have been. Same goes for Ellington and Green. The former shook off a horrid shooting start in the first two games to post 17 points on 6-10 shooting including 3-6 from three point range. If Ellington can shoot anywhere close to that going forward this team will have the perimeter offense it needs. Green, who apparently has a bruised hamstring, picked up 11 points in mostly timely baskets.
The bench guards/small forwards were mostly pretty quiet. Larry Drew had a couple of nice feeds for assists but that was all. Bobby Frasor had a horrible night shooting missing all five shots he took and committing three turnovers which is uncharacteristic for him. Will Graves also did not score and basically played scant minutes resting the starters.
As I said, the dominant game seemed just out of reach but the Heels did enough to keep a inspired home team in check and got the win. It is on to Maui where Hansbrough, who said he was pain free, will probably sit out the game on Monday. Roy said he cannot imagine playing him three games in a row and that is probably a good idea.