Well that was satisfying on a variety of levels.
I am not sure where to begin. I suppose the ridiculous stat line from Kendall Marshall would be as good a starting point as any.
36 mins, 9 points, 16 assists, 3 steals and 3 turnovers.
There are players who wilt under the spotlight or are simply adequate when called upon to assume a bigger role. Then there are players who put up nine points and 16 assists against the nation's #2 defense facilitating a 20 point win. Yeah, I know people believed Marshall would play well in this game but I don't think anyone had this kind of stat line in mind. It was absolutely a best case scenario. I am not sure you could have scripted it any better.
As good as Marshall was it is important to realize for his assist numbers to be high that means the Heels got plenty of offense from other players. FSU is as big, long and a tough matchup in terms of physicality. It was expected the Heels might struggle with those aspects of FSU's defensive makeup. That was not the case. UNC got 17 points from Harrison Barnes, 16 apiece from Tyler Zeller and John Henson with Dexter Strickland scoring 15. It was a perfectly balanced attack in which UNC shot 55% from the floor, 40% from three, limited the turnovers, controlled the boards and generally handled FSU at every turn. Even more encouraging was the number of times UNC dealt with physical contact and still managed to finish plays or draw a foul. It was UNC's offense doing what it does best under Roy Williams and that is pressuring the other team by scoring often. Couple that with a good defensive effort what you have is a Tar Heel team that is really coming together nicely.
The most important takeaway from this game is how the team rallied together to keep the ball that started rolling last week moving down the hill. We have talked about these Tar Heels in terms of in-game toughness born out of tremendous resiliency. That resiliency was on display again today as UNC put the Larry Drew mess behind them and took care of their ACC business at home. If anything, this team might be stronger now in terms of chemistry and morale than it was before. While we have scant details of how Drew behaved around the team I never thought he was causing issues in the chemistry. Drew's improvement after moving to the bench and other factors led me to believe his presence was necessary and team chemistry was fine. After this game it is difficult to accept either premise though caution should be exercised given this is only one game. UNC was just as good if not better putting all its weight on Marshall at the point. It took just one game to render Drew irrelevant in the minds of many people watching on Sunday. The question now is one of consistency. Can Marshall keep it up? Is UNC really back in the saddle offensively? Only time will answer those questions but for now it sure looks like the Heels have figured themselves out.
One final note on Larry Drew. For whatever reason he and his parents felt leaving UNC was the best option for him. Granted it makes zero sense to any of us but they felt it was the right move for Drew II. That being said, could their execution of the move have turned out any worse? Not only did Drew leave too late in the season to give him more eligibility at his next stop but the media reaction over the weekend was nothing short of a PR disaster. Everyone from print journalists to TV talking heads were awful busy telling the world how horrible Drew and his parents were for making this decision now. Unflattering does not begin to describe how Drew and his family have been cast. Now add to that the fact UNC took the court on Sunday, played as well as they did when Drew was still there making him seem irrelevant by comparison. If there is a worse scenario for Drew and his family on the PR side, I am hard pressed to think of it. This was as much as "screw you" game by Marshall and Strickland aimed at Drew as I have ever seen. Neither of them or any other Heel was approaching the game that way but in practice that is what it was.
There may come moments during the rest of this season where having Drew might be helpful but it wasn't today. Aside from injury or foul trouble I have my doubts those moments will actually come.