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UNC 82 Virginia Tech 68

A great win overshadowed by a potentially damaging personnel loss.

So the first half was not that great. I think some people expected more from this team out of the gate but I actually didn't think it was a terrible effort on UNC's part. Yes, they could have taken it up another level. We know that because they did in the second half. However, one of the biggest problems was the offense had major struggles in the first half. Anyone who has watched UNC basketball long enough knows Roy Williams' teams often had flat first halves, especially on the defensive end. I have lost count of the number of times I have watched teams put on a show shooting the ball in the first half. The notable difference, in most cases, was UNC's offense was good enough to match it. So Virginia Tech scoring 39 points was not an issue because UNC could simply score 44. Then the second half would come. The opposing team would cool off. UNC's offense would really roll and the game was over.

In this case, UNC's offense in the first half not very good. This wasn't an effort issue it was a "can you please for the love of Lennie Rosenbluth make a shot! Any shot! I don't care just make something!" kind of deal. Harrison Barnes missed two layups. There were three pointers that rolled around the inside of the rim and came out. UNC had an offensive efficiency of 98.6 in the first half and shot 40% from the floor. Not making shots does not fall into the effort/intensity area. You either make them or you don't and UNC wasn't with predictable results.

The defense likewise was not great but I don't think it was necessarily the worst in the world. Virginia Tech was 8-16 from three in the first half. Yes, that's 50%. Yes, that is problematic. I did take the liberty of charting the eight made VT threes to see how many of them were the results of truly bad defense or UNC helping too much.

1. Drive and kick, Marshall helped off his man who hit a three.
2. Pull up three by Green, Watts was playing the drive.
3. After two Henson blocks, Green throws it up with the shot clock running down and Marshall all over him. The shot banks in.
4. Drive and kick to Hudson. Bullock ran out with a hand up.
5. Drive and kick to Hudson. Bullock runs out with a hand up. Actually a decent close-out.
6. Three in transition by Hudson. Hairston did not pick him up despite being on that end of the floor.
7. Eddie pulls up on Henson and hits a three. Henson was playing the drive.
8. Three by Hudson in the corner on secondary break with Zeller getting a hand up.

What we have here is a mixed bag of the defense lapsing a bit and the Hokies getting away with crap like throwing it off the backboard with a man covering the shot. As noted above it wasn't perfect but not all the made threes were the result of bad defense. If you really want a aspect of the defense to complain about, UNC's transition defense certainly fits the bill. In fact Dexter Strickland's third foul came from no one getting back and putting him in a spot he had to risk a foul to try and stop a layup. It didn't work. So overall I think the offense had more to do with the first half woes than the defense though the defense could have been better.

In the second half it was, despite losing Strickland for the remainder of the game with a knee injury, the Heels dug deep and played probably their best basketball of the season. After VT's Erick Green used a crossover to make a pull-up three and give the Hokies a 44-36 lead, UNC went on a 26-2 run to take control of the game. The run made it to 31-5 before Virginia Tech got any semblance of a consistent offense back. During that stretch, the Hokies missed 13 straight shots from the floor and managed to make a pair of free throws. Meanwhile Barnes was busy scoring 21 of his 27 points while John Henson and Tyler Zeller padded their rebound stats with 16 and 11 respectively. In the end the Big Three had another outstanding outing with 57 points, 33 rebounds, 9 blocks, 4 steals and only five turnovers. That is quality production. Kendall Marshall augmented the effort with 9 points, 8 assists and four steals. Marshall was a little turnover prone again with five. Reggie Bullock continues to try and emerge from his slump hitting two threes in the second half.

The takeaway from this game is when faced with a situation similar to Saturday this team took control of the game and beat Virginia Tech soundly in the second half. 33 point losses don't get erased by one good win but the second half of this game included an appearance by the team many picked to win the title. The question now is one of continuation. The effort will be to build on this second half and sustain it. As a part of that, all eyes turn towards the knee of Dexter Strickland and the diagnosis of the UNC medical staff which will evaluate his knee on Friday.