Heading into the season, UNC's success was thought to hinge very much on Marcus Paige, Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson, J.P Tokoto and one of the freshman playing at a high level. If all five did it at the same time, UNC could be really good. If those five did that and the Tar Heels played outstanding defense UNC could be dominant at times.
UNC's 74-50 win at Clemson is the manifestation of that and then some. Consider the numbers.
As the saying goes, that dog will hunt. UNC got a solid performance from the key facets of the offense and coupled that with a swarming defense to crush Clemson on the road.
In the earlier ACC games of the day, there had been some struggle with teams like Notre Dame and Virginia who both needed double overtime to pull out wins. Concern that UNC could have similar issues were certainly well founded. That was not the case. On the defensive end, UNC was outstanding holding Clemson to 17% shooting in the first half and swarming the ball at every opportunity.
The offense took a little longer to get going and 12 minutes into the first half, UNC had just a 16-9 lead. That's when Justin Jackson scored nine straight points to help push the lead from seven to 15 over a three minute span. At that point UNC was off and running eventually moving ahead by as much as 25 before settling on a 39-17 halftime lead.
While staking a big halftime lead isn't uncharted territory this season, what has been an issue is a second half letdown. That wasn't the case as both the offense and defense continued to perform at optimal levels. The lead ballooned to 30 until the starters came out with seven minutes left in the game. Nate Britt scored eight in the second half to lead the second unit which Clemson found an easier time scoring against. It was too little, too late as the Heels closed the books on a dominant first win in ACC play.
As far as an ACC opener on the road goes, UNC probably couldn't ask for a better effort. The first half was the best UNC has looked all season with the defense in full lock down mode and all facets of the offense working. The emergence of Justin Jackson as a legitimate offensive threat to go along with Marcus Paige playing up to last season's standards and the interior scoring is exactly the team people expected to see. This was very much a "taking care of business" moment and another indication of this team progressing in the right direction. If this sort of effort becomes the norm, the ceiling will be very high indeed
With a short turnaround to Monday's game at home versus Notre Dame, the question of UNC's consistency will be posed as will whether this level of play can happen against better competition.