C.Michael noted on Twitter that this was like a cat playing with a mouse. He has no interest in killing the rodent but has no intention of allowing him to get away either. So while this may not have been the sharpest game the Heels have played nor as dominant as it could have been but the result is still an 87-62 win.
UNC got off to a solid start defensively forcing South Carolina into a prolific number of turnovers which feed the transition game and a 19-4 run to open the game. After that things got a little ragged. Part of that was Roy Williams started in with some substitutions and the Gamecocks, to their credit, settled down some. Add in SCAR winning the rebounding battle in the first half and the Heels missing some good shots what you get is the Gamecocks hanging around in the 11-13 point deficit range. UNC was not really blowing their doors off but at the same time never out of control. Ultimately the defense gave away too much in the shooting and rebounding department however not enough to truly be concerned from where I sit.
Kendall Marshall had yet another ridiculous assist total, producing 13 dimes versus one turnover. Some of the assists were passes were mindblowing in both vision and execution. Benefiting the most from Marshall's third double digit assist game of the season was Harrison Barnes who had 21 points, John Henson with 18 and P.J. Hairston who finished with 19 on 5-8 shooting from three. It is Hairston's play which is the most encouraging. Four days after Reggie Bullock turned in a similar shooting performance from the perimeter, Hairston must have assumed it was his turn. Having both of these guys show up like this over the past two games is huge as it pertains to the development of the Heels' perimeter offense. UNC was 8-15 from three adding the necessary dimension to a team with a strong interior game.
On the negative side of the ledger, shooting 58% from the free throw line continues to feed concerns about that area of the game. Tyler Zeller struggled to a 4-12 night and 12 points. Zeller got the ball in excellent position at times but could not convert those opportunities into points. UNC was also rebounded which probably shouldn't happen but speaks to players either being out of position or simply not focused.
As much as we would have loved to seen the Heels keep rolling along after a hot start sometimes it doesn't work out that way. When you are talking about early season games played on neutral court, it might be a tad difficult to keep the accelerator down. In fact go back and look at games played by the 2009 team after they throttled Michigan St. and UNC Asheville. The Heels played quite a few games where they played well for a stretch then mailed it in the rest of the game. It was not always a crisp effort and at times those Heels like these looked as though they might be bored. When it came time to step up their game and win big games, the 2009 team did. Can the 2012 team do the same? That is the real question and the answer cannot be extrapolated from games like these. It can be answered in the next three games versus three good teams. I think this group is very much the kind that will play up to the level of their competition and simply do enough to control the game when it is a team the caliber of SCAR. The latter can be a tad dangerous but overall when the chips are down on the table(Vegas reference!) UNC will respond up to their potential.