As it turns out, there is life on this planet after all.
There is a tremendous temptation here to get crazy excited about this win. It similar to the guy who happens upon pool of drinkable water after wandering the desert for two days. He falls in the pool and sucks up as much liquid as possible. He is the happiest man on earth at that point so much so that he really does not want to think too much about whether the pool will be there the next time he needs a drink. UNC fans feel much the same way. It has been a long while since we saw UNC play and win a game this way. It wasn't perfect nor did we see all the problems solved in one fail swoop. The backcourt scoring still is not there and the perimeter shooting continues to be MIA at all the wrong times. I lost count of the number of times UNC got a great look from three and hitting that shot could have been a dagger. For example. UNC is up 38-34, comes down and finds Leslie McDonald in the corner for an open shot. A three there makes it 41-34 and the Dean Dome would have been rocking. McDonald misses, Zeller misses the putback and only hits one free throw after the foul. A seven point lead with the crowd going nuts possibly changes the game. Instead UK went on a 7-0 run to take the lead back. No one expects UNC to be 12-25 from three every game but 4-11 in this one with three of those coming at clutch times may have made a huge different in the dynamics of the game. The good news is I honestly believe the personnel is there for better three point shooting unlike a year ago where it was Will Graves and Wanda.
What stands out about this game to me as much as anything basketball related was the attitude the team played with. The Heels showed emotion, they were engaging each other and when Harrison Barnes capped off a personal seven point run with a putback dunk, watching him stand in the paint letting out a primal yell might just be "the moment" where the season turns for him. Granted his scoring mostly went dry after that but I also wonder had he not picked up two quick fouls thus sending him to the bench if he may have continued the momentum. That stretch from Barnes is exactly the kind of run we expected the #1 recruit in the country to bring not to mention the emotion he showed after the dunk. We will see more of than from him and if we do it should be fun to watch.
How about John Henson and Tyler Zeller? Heading into this game, I thought Zeller and Henson would be able to produce and did they ever step up. Zeller had 27 and put up the very Tyler Hansbrough-like 11-12 shooting from the FT line. What was more impressive about Zeller was his ability to score from all over the court. He hit outside shots, scored in the post, got to the FT line and hit them. With that kind of diversity in his offense, defending him will be tougher. The fact Zeller can hit outside shots should have Roy Williams thinking of ways to utilize that and having Barnes post up. Henson was all over the place blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, after watching a third straight game where Henson's offense seems polished I am pretty sure we can dropped "seemed." Overall that kjnd of offensive output from the post gives the Heels a foundation on which to build a sound house. Alongside the Heels team defense which is as good as it has looked in a very long time, hope for UNC fans is in style. Speaking of defense, Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland have shown they are extremely valuable on the defensive end. Yes, it is enough to tip the scales in their favor when comparing them to Kendall Marshall and Reggie Bullock. If these two can at least be average on the offensive end, UNC will be in good shape.
This game was a perfect mix of UNC players bringing the proper mindset to the court and some actual success on both ends of the court. Anyone asking whether they can keep it up is not wrong nor is anyone who wants to make this game, the cornerstone of a "new season." This one was all about the hope that somehow the talent UNC has will mesh into a cohesive unit capable of beating good teams. Having done that, UNC has a quality win in their pocket with an understanding of how it feels to play and win versus a good team. It was not perfect. There are still issues to work out but I would think UNC is a lot closer to figuring things out than they were at any point last season.