When the starters sit before the third TV timeout of the second half, you know its been a good day.
The standard disclaimers apply obviously given the weakness of the opponent but I will say UNC looked far less rusty than I thought they would be coming into this game. The shooting was a little off, especially early in the first half. The Heels shook that off and rolled out to a 53-19 halftime lead which included a 23-0 run to open the game up. UNC's defense in this game was top notch. I know the opponent matters but the Heels played with intensity and did a great job getting out on three point shooters. Elon was 2-15 from three in the first half, 20% overall from the floor and had a offensive efficiency of 40.0. That is simply putrid in every sense of the word. Yes, they are an inferior team going against UNC but with UNC playing great defense, Elon looks even worse. The Heels were 17-25(68%) from the free throw line but that stat was skewed a tad lower by Blue Steel. Prior to the final three minutes UNC was at 15-21(71%) with the starters going 12-14(85%).
Among the individual highlights, all five starters played extremely well. Harrison Barnes, who was sick last night, showed no ill effect nor any intention of backing off what he showed versus Texas. Barnes had 18 points, five assists and five rebounds. The assist total is a career high and that is an aspect of his game that might prove huge in conference play. Barnes being assertive is a good thing both for his own scoring but also for opening up other players on the court. On one play, Barnes drove to the basket, went into the air with control and then dropped off to Henson for the dunk and a foul. Barnes also scored in a variety of ways from drives to jumpshots. Overall Barnes has clearly taken his game up a level on both ends.
John Henson and Tyler Zeller continue to be the twin towers of doom. Zeller led the team with 19 points and 13 rebounds, nine of those offensive. Henson had a regular dunk fest on his way to 16 points and 11 rebounds. The backcourt also played well. Dexter Strickland had 10 points and Kendall Marshall dropped eight points(including two made threes), eight assists, three steals and only one turnover. In addition to nice stat lines, the starters played 25 minutes or less. Lower minutes in these games will only benefit the team in March.
While the starters were very good, the bench was less productive outside of Reggie Bullock who had a couple of nice plays. P.J. Hairston committed two offensive fouls and was 2-11 from the floor. James Michael McAdoo continues to miss shots near the rim I and most likely everyone watching thinks he should make. It appears he still needs to settle down a bit since he often times looks like he is rushing his shot and therefore misses ones he should probably make most of the time. UNC needs both Hairston and McAdoo to contribute. Hairston has shown he can but with McAdoo the jury is still out.
Next up for UNC is a New Year's Day game versus a Monmouth team coached by former Heel King Rice of the early 1990s era of UNC basketball. After that ACC play starts and things get real.