UNC got a career day from P.J. Hairston with 24 points and some surprisingly solid minutes from Jackson Simmons to overcome six 2nd half three pointers from FSU and avoid an 0-3 start. It wasn't always pretty but it was tough, hard fought effort from the Heels who owned backboards to the tune of 41-19 and registered a ridiculous 59% offensive rebounding rate. Couple that with some clutch plays down the stretch and UNC wins on the floor they walked off of with a 33-point loss at the hands of the Seminoles a year ago.
For most of the game it felt like it was heading the same direction as the losses to Virginia and Miami. The Heels was getting one of its best offensive games against top 100 team finishing the game with an offensive efficiency of 125.4. However the defense continued to be suspect, especially on the perimeter. Granted that's nothing new but in the second half it was simply ridiculous with FSU hitting six of them and maintaining tenuous control of the game. Given how the past two games have gone, it was like waiting for that 3-4 possession stretch where FSU would hit their shots, UNC wouldn't and the game would be lost. Not this time as the offense and defense both were good enough to get over the top.
Part of that was Jackson Simmons who first made an appearance during a crucial portion of the game against Miami where he hit a free throw line jumper. Simmons came into the game in the first half of this contest and hit the exact same jumper. In the second half, with some foul trouble and because he was playing well Simmons saw significant minutes. On the day he ended up with 8 points, four rebounds and played sound defense in the post. No one knows for sure if Simmons can continue to be this productive but what we do know is he is a fundamentally sound player. He is smart and you see him making high IQ plays with how he positions himself. Again he probably lacks the physical tools to truly be effective but this team could use smart and Simmons gives them that.
On the day, James Michael McAdoo had 14 points and 8 rebounds. Reggie Bullock went for 12 points but is in the midst of a mini-slump. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson both had rough outings. Johnson had problems on the defensive end and Paige was hampered by turnovers(5) but scored 8 points, had 4 assists and hit the game clinching free throws at the end of the game. And Desmond Hubert appears to have reached a stage where he is good for a couple of plays like a block or in this case two big dunks.
UNC needed a win for a variety of reasons but they really need a win under survive and win conditions. To lose a game like this which unfolded the same way the previous two did plus falling to 0-3 in the ACC may have been a hold to big to climb out of as the season went on. Now the Heels have a road win under the belt and the confidence they can actually get it done late in the game as they did versus UNLV. Obviously there are no assurances the season heads off in the right direction from here but for now the bleeding has stopped.