I'm sorry, it's going to take me a few minutes to process this. Not because Carolina lost; that was unfortunately expected. No, I just had to listen to Jimmy Dykes for two hours. I'm lucky I can remember my name.
All right, let's give this a go. UNC had a decent first half, considering they lost Tyler Zeller to the bench halfway through and the entire backcourt was held scoreless. John Henson was a beast inside, playing with a quickness and use of his body to score we've been hoping to see for a while. The defense was solid, and the Heels did an excellent job denying Illinois offensive rebounds. Even if they went into the half down seven because of a silly mistake from Henson and a resulting three at the buzzer for the Illini, the team showed promise. A good second half start would have erased that deficit easily.
Instead, they turned the ball over four times before the first TV timeout, and fell behind by thirteen. Illinois adjusted for UNC's lack of perimeter game, began hitting the boards more and shooting better. Carolina just floundered. They finished with eighteen turnovers, split evenly among most of the backcourt. Want evidence to bolster your Marshall vs. Drew arguments? Drew had 2 points, 7 assists, and 3 turnovers. Marshall had 3 points, 2 assists and 4 turnovers. Not a big difference there. Harrison Barnes continued to struggle – Roy Williams is currently ripping into ESPN for their Barnes coverage, apparently – going 2 for 9 for eight points. (His counterpart in Champaign, Jereme Richardson, went 6-12.) Tyler Zeller was never much of a factor in the second half, as Illinois cut off his passing lanes, and Henson couldn't carry the team alone. By the time the outside shots began to fall – UNC would hit five threes in fifteen attempts, the most since the Hofstra game – the lead was to great to be overcome, at least with the second half defensive effort.
On offense, the Illini were actually pretty beatable; they shot well from behind the arc, going 8 of 12, but took less shots there than they had almost all year. Mikes Davis and Tisdale had stong second halves inside, and finished with 20 and 14 points, respectively. UNC generated 14 turnovers themselves, and although there were defensive lapses, especially early in the second half, Carolina could have survived them. They couldn't survive the 10 steals though, the scant rebounding margin (again, UNC had two more boards than their opponent), or their own poor free throw shooting. Even when Illinois was willing to stop the clock with a foul to allow UNC back in, they couldn't capitalize. Carolina shot a new low from the line, 47.1%, and that's the most depressing statistic so far this season. The Heels have cracked 70% there only once this season, and it pretty much summarizes the team's struggles. There's a lot of talent, but not the will and basketball smarts to apply it. Until that comes around, it's going to be a long season.