Simply put, it was not a perfect game but it was plenty good. There were some finer points to be addressed such as free throw shooting and focus but overall, this team looks like it is right on schedule to enter ACC play hitting most if not all cylinders.
John Henson and Harrison Barnes both had outstanding games. The Texas game has served as this season's version of the NC State game in Chapel Hill last year for Barnes where he really locked in. Barnes had back-to-back nine point games prior to the Texas game sparking all sorts of questions about his game. Since then Barnes is 24-41 from the floor, 3-6 from three and 13-14 from the line. He has also done so scoring in a variety of ways, most of it heading towards the basket. The 3-6 from three is telling not for the 50% shooting but the limited number of attempts meaning Barnes is not settling for jumpers as much as he is looking for offense in a more aggressive fashion. Barnes ended up with 20 in this one. It was 18 but the official box score was changed postgame to credit Barnes with a putback that was given to James Michael McAdoo.
Henson led the team with 21 points, 8 rebounds and three blocks. Kendall Marshall posted another double figure assist game with 11 versus 3 turnovers. Zeller only had eight but collected 11 rebounds. It was nice to see P.J. Hairston get back into a scoring groove with 16 points following a recent stretch of 3-20 from three. Hairston went 4-9 from three plus a couple of highlight dunks, good for 16 points.
There was only one major complaint I saw in this one. The iffy free throw shooting rear its ugly head again. UNC went 20-33 from the line for 60%. The two culprits for that in this game are Zeller and Henson. In the case of the latter, Henson was 3-6 which is actually a good day for him in relative terms. Zeller's 0-4 has to be some kind of aberration. Since the two games in Las Vegas where Zeller went a combined 7-11 from the line, the senior hit 36 of his next 39 free throws before a goose egg in four attempts today. On the flip side, James Michael McAdoo was 4-4 on free throws which is a move in the right direction for him. In short, Zeller has proven he can hit free throws at an acceptable rate and had he done so today, the free throw shooting looks like less of an issue than it is. Still, this is something that will continue to be on the radar. Outside of that, I suppose the 11-27 Monmouth hit from three might unsettle some folks but given the Hawks were 14-40 on two point shots it is a tradeoff you can live with. Plus, UNC has been really good in recent games closing out on three point shooters. UNC has some lapses in focus(such as Reggie Bullock stepping on the sideline on two straight possessions) which is not unusual given the game was never in doubt.
This was UNC's 26th win in a row at home which is a new school record. It is hard to believe, given UNC's level of success, that the record for a home win streak would be much higher. Looking at the ACC this season, there is a good chance UNC can make it 34 by the end of the season.
Thus concludes the non-conference slate for this season. UNC heads into ACC play 13-2 which is was about where you figured this team might be at this point in the season. The two losses were not "bad losses" meaning they came against very good teams in UNLV and Kentucky, both on the road. Considering Ohio St. had lost two as well to opponents of similar caliber, UNC is pretty much right there is the other Final Four contenders. In fact, only the second half versus UNLV serves as the only truly bad half of basketball by this team in 15 games. UNC appears to be right where they should be both in terms of record and on the path to peaking for March. Entering ACC play versus an obviously weakened league, finishing the regular season at 27-4 is a real possibility. UNC would be in perfect position for a #1 seed and a run to New Orleans.