And there is hope yet.
After a first half filled with many of the same issues we have complained about ad nauseum including inexplicable turnovers, poor decisions on offense, lack of effort in defensive rebounding and general haphazard execution the Tar Heels listened to whatever it was Roy Williams said at halftime. UNC followed up a ragged first half with a lot of energy on both ends of the floor. The defensive effort in the 2nd half was outstanding and it accompanied by much better offensive execution in general. That led to the Heels seizing a double digit lead late in the 2nd half but this time they held the line, something they could not do six days before.
On big piece of that puzzle was Will Graves who hit a trio of three pointers in the 2nd half but also snagged a couple of key rebounds late. Overall Graves ended up with 13 points, six board and two blocks most of which came in the 2nd half. UNC also got decent guard play from Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland despite both being in foul trouble. Drew had 14 points, eight assists, two steals and only two turnovers. Strickland chipped in seven points, three assists against one turnover. Strickland's play put some pressure on the Hokie defense since it seemed he could get the basket any time he wanted. The monster game of the night belonged to Ed Davis who had a double-double going for 20 points and 11 rebounds plus four blocks. Overall UNC had 10 blocks in this game and forced most of VPI's 12 turnovers in the 2nd half when the ratcheted up the defensive pressure.
The question is whether this one half of play marks a turn in the season. It could be. In 1997 it was the 2nd half versus NCSU and the Heels pulling the win out which turned the tide in that season. The same could be true here. UNC needs to hone in on what they did right from a focus/energy perspective. The positive here is less about the basketball things that went right and more about the "sense of urgency" Roy keeps talking about. They acted like it was important. They went after rebounds and loose balls like the postgame meal depended on it. And for all I know, given Roy's approach, the postgame meal might very have been dangled in front of them during the intermission. Whatever Roy said needs to be tatooed on their foreheads so they can read every time they look in the mirror. I think I speak for most of us when I say I can live with shots simply not falling or the breaks of bad officiating and balls bouncing the wrong way. As long as they showed up and get after it like they did in the 2nd half, the game will take care of itself. You might not win all of them but at least no one can complain about the effort.