Yes, UNC can drive 55.
In some ways that ended up being way more difficult than it needed to be. UNC's biggest issue, which has now been on display through four ACC games, is the lack of offensive consistency. Well, better stated, the lack of said consistency from opening tip to final buzzer. UNC was good on both ends in the first half. The defense forced turnovers and Reggie Bullock dropped 16 points in what we might look back on as being his break-out game at UNC. Kendall Marshall got the start and played well with Larry Drew coming off the bench with some intensity quite frankly some of us were not entirely sure he had. It was easily the best half of basketball UNC has played this season versus a quality opponent
The second half brought to light the same offensive woes we have become accustomed to. UNC got sloppy with the basketball and shot poorly from the floor. In particular the three point shooting was a paltry 1-8 with Harrison Barnes nailing on the only three of the half, albeit a huge one with UNC caught up in a tied game late. The coming and going of the offense makes this team maddening to watch. Even with a good defense, often times the best way to hold a team at bay is match points or score often enough to keep them at arm's length. With UNC holding a 10 point lead near the second TV timeout of the 2nd half, the Heels' offense went cold. 56-46 eventually became 59-58. 63-58 then became a 63 all tie with a back and forth of fruitless possessions between the two before the Barnes three broke the stalemate. The issue for the Heels is one of making shots often enough to keep that little line on ESPN's Gametracker from going flat line too often. The capability is there but for whatever reason game long offensive production has not been in the cards.
Obviously the talk of the game(besides Bullock) will be Marshall starting over Drew and Drew's subsequent standout play in response to losing his starting job. Marshall was good but not great. Drew, who some thought might implode if benched did just the opposite. Drew came into the game playing aggressively on both ends of the floor. While it is easy to lean towards Marshall, it is important to note that this was a combined effort at the PG slot that got the job done though UNC could do without the five turnovers Drew/Marshall combined to commit. Also, Roy's experiment with Drew and Marshall on the court at the same time was interesting but less likely to be used once Leslie McDonald returns.
The big takeaway from this game is not so much an explosion by Bullock or one particular player stepping up their game. No, the fact the entire team came out with a high energy, business like approach to the game is the real story. This team has been lauded for their toughness in wins over the two Virginia based ACC schools. The play at Georgia Tech dampened those feelings. The question heading into this game concerned how well, if at all, would these players bounce back. Well now we know. Instead of allowing the season to go off the rails and one of the sacred cows of UNC basketball history to be killed, the Heels came out with the fire sorely missed in previous ACC contests. Yes it got dicey in the end. Whole game efforts on offense are the next step. For now we can take heart in the fact this team is actually capable of coming out of the gate with the necessary intensity. I know it sounds like one of those things they should be doing anyway but given how poorly this team has started games, staking an eight point halftime lead off enthused game play is progress. Regardless, I am all for seeing this team grow.
Oh, I guess we can also take heart that it turns out Roy Williams isn't as stupid as half the fan base thought he was.