Michigan State, the plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies' room.
First and foremost, UNC took care of business. Not only was this a game being played on an aircraft carrier, outside which created a completely different playing environment from what these players are accustomed. It was also the very first game of the season which is always fraught with lapses. That was the case here. UNC looked a little out of sorts at times but also looked very good when they needed to be. In the end they got the win, no one got injured and that is all you can ask.
UNC had two points in the game where they did not play well and struggled offensively. After taking a 6-0 lead, the Heels have up a 15-2 run to fall behind 15-8. During that stretch UNC was run off the defensive boards and settled for outside shots. Michigan St grabbed a ton of offensive rebounds in this game(16 total) and was outrebounded for the game 39-30. Much of that deficit came in the early part of the first half where MSU opened up a 16-4 rebounding edge. Once the Heels curtailed the rebounding advantage and turned up the defense, the game shifted with the Heels going on a 51-24 run over roughly the middle 20 minutes of the game. After that MSU rallied on a 10-0 but by then it was too late. UNC did enough to control the rest of the game despite a length scoring drought of over five minutes. That drought was broken by Harrison Barnes who nailed a three to make it 62-49 and the rest if history.
What was there to like? The play of John Henson who had 12 points, seven rebounds and an incredible eight blocks which was a career high. In fact I began to wonder if some of the rebounding issues were created by Henson going for the block and opening the door for Spartan offensive rebounds. Still, eight blocks is insane. Also impressive from Henson was two turnaround jumpers and nice pull up look away from the basket. If Henson can be that dynamic on offense, he will be scary. Dexter Strickland was quietly very good. Strickland ended up with 10 points, five assists and only one turnover. Barnes had a quiet 17 points on 5-12 shooting to round. Kendall Marshall had six points and five assists. Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston both came off the bench and hit a three. Tyler Zeller started out 0-4 but hit three of his next four shots and ended up with nine points and six rebounds.
Any complaints? The rebounding, especially on the defensive end. UNC got pushed around a bit and did not control the boards on the defensive end which resulted in easy putbacks for the Spartans and denied the Heels transition chances. It is not something that necessarily should concern anyone unless it happens consistently and against inferior teams. MSU under Tom Izzo is generally a strong team on the boards and it is possible UNC simply didn't give rebounding its due attention. I am not going to spend any time on the shooting from the floor or the free throw line. The conditions were so unusual they do not serve as a true measure. That being said, if we assume under normal conditions this team will shoot better then 48% from the floor, 30% from three and 65% from the FT line are good starting points provided they do indeed improve.
Now UNC flies back to Asheville, NC and gets ready to play a UNC Asheville team that played NC State to a single digit loss in Raleigh on Friday night. Get past this one with a win and there is a week to sort of reset before hitting the normal schedule routine.
Editor's Note: I will be out on vacation for the next week. Doc and C.Michael will be holding down the fort with the return of the Beyond the Box feature as well as regular coverage of basketball and football. See you next week,