It's a start.
For the first twenty minutes, you'd have thought nothing had ben learned from the College of Charleston game. Carolina was tentative, error-prone, and pushed around by a Virginia Tech team that was just playing tougher. Malcolm Delaney played despite his ankle injury and put up 20 points in the first half, as his team went into the locker room with a four point lead and what looked like all the answers for defeating the Heels at home.
But in the second half, the team UNC fans have been waiting to see came out of the locker room. The three-point shots started falling, but they were just the icing on the cake; after missing their first eleven, the first one to fall came when UNC already had a five point lead. No, what did Tech in was a defense that began to find itself and an offense that capitalized on fast breaks instead of bouncing them out of bounds. A quick scoring burst to restore confidence early, and the pieces began to fall in to place. From there, the threes could fall and the defense could finally start pulling in rebounds. After allowing 13 offensive rebounds in the first 25 minutes of play, Tech only had two for the rest of the game. UNC became the team they should be, allowing no second chances, converting steals and rebounds into fast break points, and putting together enough of an outside threat to allow the bigs the chance to do their thing.
Ed Davis finally got his first 20/10 of the season, finishing with 20 points and 11 rebounds. He also had 4 turnovers, as did Tyler Zeller; neither seemed prepared for physical play. All the guards were deemed healthy enough to play, save perhaps Justin Watts, while Drew and Strickland got the start, Marcus Ginyard contributed 20 minutes and Leslie McDonald 11. The injuries may have benefited McDonald the most – after seeing him on the court only rarely in the fall, his substantial playing time against Albany and CoC seemed to have earned more prominence in the rotation. Larry Drew was the most impressive of the bunch, hitting every shot from the field and the line, including a shot-clock expiring bomb that took any remaining life out of the Hokies. He also had eight assists, two steals and only two turnovers.
Like I said at the top of the page, it's a start. The team still hasn't put together forty minutes, and all of the old problems are still hanging around. But in what was absolutely a brutal weekend for the top teams (5 of the Top 10 lost, as well as FSU, New Mexico and Washington), UNC came through and won decisively at the end. It's a nice way to open the ACC season; let's see how things go from here.