Well that was exciting.
UNC faced a tough Long Beach St. team and at halftime the Heels found themselves down five points. UNC would rally, take control of the game in the second half and come out with a win. Against almost any other non-conference foe there might be some concern but given the 49ers beat Pitt and played Kansas and Louisville tough, all on the road, it is less vexing a performance than it might be otherwise.
The Heels got a huge night from the frontline. The combination of Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes scored 61 of UNC's 84 points. Henson had a huge night scoring 24 points on 12-17 shooting and collected 10 rebounds. Zeller shot the ball well on the way to 17 points and Barnes scored 20 points on the strength of 3-3 from beyond the arc but 5-13 from two which could use some work. Kendal Marshall had 16 assists but only scored two points.
Of course the player getting the attention in this one is Reggie Bullock who scored 15 off the bench and scored several key baskets. With Dexter Strickland struggling from the floor, there will be renewed calls for Bullock to replace Strickland in the starting lineup. Let me say again, it won't happen and also it doesn't matter. In this game Bullock actually played more than Strickland by four minutes. When this game and the Kentucky game went down to the wire, Roy leaned on a lineup that had Bullock on the floor and not Strickland. The point is Roy will use the players he thinks best suits the need of the team given the situation. For the start of games, Roy wants a defensive stopper on the floor alongside Kendall Marshall. As the game moves on, Roy uses Bullock in situations where more offense is needed.
Obviously the defense needs to step it up a little more and in the second half it did. LBSU shot 51% from the floor and 7-13 from three in the first half. In the second it was 41% and 0-8. Some of that was the expected cooling off that happens to teams. The defense also has something to do with that as well. LBSU guard Casper Ware had 21 in the first half but only eight in the second. He also committed five turnovers. The defense wasn't great but in light of the offense being really good, it was something they got by with it. Not to mention the Heels were outrebounded again which continues to be a mystery to me.
Overall, the win is the important takeway and toughness shown in the face of circumstances similar to what the Heels faced vs UNLV. In fact I think UNC needs to stop playing games on Saturday night. It looks like Saturday night is the new 3:30 on Saturday i.e. a game time this team doesn't see to play particularly well.