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UNC 90, Stanford 72: A tale of two halves

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The Heels turned in a dominating first half performance but struggled on both sides of the ball after halftime.

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

If you just watched the first half of tonight’s game, you saw a Tar Heel team that was absolutely dominant. UNC shot 60% from the field on their way to doubling up the Cardinal at the half. It looked every bit like UNC was poised to run away with things in the second half.

If you just watched the second half of tonight’s game, you saw a sloppy group of Tar Heels struggle to make baskets and effectively defend the basketball. Stanford out-scored Carolina 46-38 after halftime to make things much more uncomfortable than it looked like they would be early on.

The good news is that such a dominant first half allowed them the luxury of being off for pretty much the entire second half. Cameron Johnson led the team in scoring with 17 points, including three three-pointers, and pulled down seven rebounds. Luke Maye was right behind him with 16 points and eight rebounds. Garrison Brooks and Kenny Williams joined them in double figures.

Carolina was able to win the rebounding battle, 45-35, and also narrowly edged Stanford in turnovers, 12-15. UNC was able to convert 22 points off of those Stanford turnovers, which obviously proved to be huge in the end. They also kept the Cardinal scoreless for the last 2:15 of the game.

It was a good night for Kenny Williams, who had not been able to crack the scoresheet in UNC’s first two games of the season. Tonight was also an impressive showing for freshman Leaky Black, who got some time at the point guard position with Coby White and Seventh Woods each struggling for stretches of the game. Black went 4-4 with eight points, two rebounds, and an assist in his 15 minutes of play. However, he had one of those games where everything he did won’t necessarily show up in the scoresheet. He looked more than capable of running the point when asked to.

So, what to take away from this game? This is a deep Tar Heel team that can overcome when things aren’t going perfectly for long stretches of time. Unsurprisingly, Roy Williams said after the game he wasn’t happy. It’s hard to blame him after seeing the team’s performance in the second half. The first half was outstanding and that counts for something too. He also mentioned needed to improve defensively and now allow so many free throws (15) to their opponent in the second half.

Wins are wins and they all count the same. Hopefully this will be a bit of a wakeup call for the young Tar Heels who may still need a lesson in finding the urgency of a complete game. It’s still early and everyone is still finding their place, so some growing pains are to be expected, but there are obviously things that can be improved upon. They’ll have another chance to show that those lessons have been learned on Friday when they host Tennessee Tech at the Dean Dome.