It has been a tumultuous relationship to say the least. We have questioned your heart, effort, ability to play Division I basketball. You called us spoiled. Errant passes were thrown. Things were said. Feelings hurt. It has not been fun.
Then, with UNC sitting at the table having pushed all in on the season, Drew takes the ball and the team on his shoulders splits three defenders, tosses the ball over a guy who is one of the national leaders in blocked shots and wins the game.
Now I will not go as far as to say "all is forgiven" because that would be too easy. However there is no reason why this cannot be a turning point. The kind of play we talk about a year or two from now. The moment Drew broke through. I have no idea whether the continual transfer rumors are true or if Drew will be at UNC next year or not. I do know that what happened today could be something to build upon.
The game overall was outstanding as basketball games go. When it started it certainly looked like UNC was going to go out with a whimper after MSU jumped out to a 16-4 lead. Then the Heels picked the tempo up, started hitting some shots while watching MSU show some of the worst shot discipline in the history of mankind. There was not a three pointer MSU would not take regardless of how bad it was. A dry spell by the Bulldogs got the Heels back into the game and into the lead at the half.
For whatever the reason, the start of any half continues to bug the Heels and it was true here. MSU came out of the locker room and took the lead back, pushing UNC to the brink with leads of eight and seven at different points of the 2nd stanza. The Heels, to their credit, pushed back getting contributions from various players. Marcus Ginyard, Dexter Strickland, John Henson, Will Graves Tyler Zeller and Travis Wear all scored during a 10 minute span where crawled back into the game. Then down the stretch it was all Graves and Drew to carry the Heels to the win.
With UNC trailing 71-68 and 1:16 left Drew drove into the lane and found Graves who scored and was fouled. Graves got the three point play to tie the game. On the next possession with UNC trailing by one, Drew ran the offense then got the ball to Gravers curling at the top of the key. Graves turned and adjusted the shot to avoid the defender. The shot banked in for three giving the Heels a two point lead. Two huge plays from Graves, facilitated by Drew that had most Heels fans saying: "About freaking time."
Following two made free throws by MSU, Drew did not hesitate taking the inbounds pass, pushing the ball up and find a seam to hit the game winner. In a season where so much as gone wrong it feels pretty good to see this team not only rally on the road against a team most people thought should have been in the NCAA Tournament but to do it on the backs of players who have had their share of struggles in their time with the program.
Oh and John Henson is a complete freak of nature that must stay four years so we can adequately study said freakness for the good of mankind. Henson has a nice game, continues to play with enthusiasm. Dexter Strickland likewise had a solid game, did a great job pushing the ball up at times and appears to have regained some of his lost confidence.
Overall it was nice to see them win again, see them advance in tournament play. Yeah, it is only the NIT but winning is fun regardless. One more thing. This win ensures the Heels finish above .500 this season. Nice...for what its worth.