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UNC 74, Charleston 69

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Cougars vs Tar Heels boxscore

First things first; it's a better outcome than last year. It may not feel all that better, as UNC trailed often in the second half, but 74-69 is infinitely more comforting than 79-82.

Of course, last year's shocker and this year's squeaker were both the result of one man, Andrew Goudelock. Last season he went 10 of 20 from the field and hit four threes to finish with 24 points. This year in Chapel Hill he was 11 of 28 with five threes to finish with 28. The early spurt in the second half to take the lead was almost entirely his doing, as he was draining some incredible threes from absolutely insane places. He's a pretty impressive player.

The difference is, this year he was alone. In Charleston last season, all five Cougar starters finished with double-digit scoring; tonight only two other players managed that. It's becoming clear that the Heels are going to work around their opponents' top scorer. The don't appear to have the defensive strength to shut them down, so they work on denying the other options. This will probably cause problems against teams like Duke that are heavy on talent with lots of ways to score, but will suffice against most of the teams on the schedule in December.

What won't suffice is poor rebounding, which again plagued the Heels. For the third time in five games, UNC had a two rebound margin or less, and against a team with no player over 6'9" that was inexcusable. The Cougars finished with 18 offensive rebounds, the most UNC has allowed this season. Those second chances helped slow the pace of the game down, giving Charleston time to poke holes in the defense. True, there were a lot of long rebounds – Charleston took 31 threes – but this still needs to be improved upon.

Also not working still is Carolina's outside shooting. Leslie McDonald had the team's only two successful threes, while Larry Drew and Harrison Barnes were both 0-for. It was Barnes' fourth game without a three in six outings; we've gone beyond feel-good stories about staying late in the gym after games, and into genuine concern. Free throw shooting is also still a problem. Although no one had a particularly disasterous night (even Henson was 3 of 4) everybody sent to the line missed one shot, leading to an overall 64% performance from the line.

What did work was something we haven't seen from UNC in quite some time: pushing the offensive tempo to tire the opponents out. Goudelocke last made a basket with about nine minutes to play. After that, Charleston was beset by turnovers, and outside shots that fell short from tired arms. Carolina finished with six steals, and John Henson turned it on late, finishing with a team-high 19 points, 8 rebounds, and four blocks. In the end, it was good enough for a win, and a stiff enough test to serve as preparation for Illinois on Tuesday. It wasn't enough to leave me confident they'll be able to make it two in a row, however.