Author’s Note: Before we begin, I ask everyone to read this tribute to Woody Durham by our own Evan Daniels. Everyone has their story — mine is listening to him with my father when we visited my grandmother during Christmas because she did not have cable — but in reading yesterday’s memorials, this was one of the best I read. I don’t know why. You may disagree. I don’t care. Read it.
Ok. Now we may begin.
It’s official. In two seasons, Jim Boeheim has only mustered one ACC Tournament victory, despite it being held in Syracuse’s proverbial back yard of New York City. UNC took care of business last night in a 78-59 victory, earning their nation leading 12th “quadrant 1” victory. It put an end to a brief two game losing streak, and was their 7th consecutive win over the ‘Cuse. They will take on Miami in tonight’s quarterfinals.
What else did we learn?
Midway through the first half, Tar Heel Blog contributor Jay Exum asked a very important question regarding UNC’s play.
Is this . . . Defense?— JayTHB (@Burymeinkenan) March 8, 2018
Except for a few weird minutes in the second half, UNC provided a defensive effort that’s been lacking the entire season. They held Syracuse to only 31.7% on 20-63 shooting. That is the lowest shooting percentage of any opponent that the Heels have faced this season. That success also extended to three-point defense, where Syracuse’s 34.8% success rate was only 8th best by a Tar Heel opponent this year.
Fatigue may have helped contribute to those numbers, but the Heels’ efforts should not be diminished. Holding any team to 59 points is more than just being “tired”.
You get to play! And you get to play!
Once again, Roy Williams almost emptied his bench in the first half. Eleven scholarship players saw playing time at critical moments in the first half. After Sterling Manley subbed in for Theo Pinson at the 16:13 mark, the starting five were not on the court together as a single unit until the second half started. The Heels entered halftime with a 10 point lead.
Most importantly, they continued their success that was seen in the Duke game. Consider:
- Manley had 6 points and 3 rebounds in seven first half minutes.
- Garrison Brooks corralled 3 rebounds.
- Andrew Platek scored, rebounded, stole the ball, and fed Maye for an eventual bucket.
- Seventh Woods led the Heels to a 6-2 advantage in his first half appearance.
Some fans probably wished the same trend could have played out for the entire game, but for various reasons Coach Williams stuck to his starting five for the majority of the second half. Nonetheless, every minute of rest will matter this week. (But seriously, when up by 21, maybe keep spreading the minutes around? Please?)
For a brief six minute stretch, it appeared a repeat of the almost-collapse in Syracuse was about to take place. After leading by as many as 21 points, the Heels let the ‘Cuse cut the lead to nine. Most of us probably sat back, shrugged, and were preparing to follow the late, great Woody Durham’s orders to go where we go and do what we do.
This time, however, instead of forgetting how to play competitive and organized basketball, North Carolina responded. Four (!) Kenny Williams lay-ups and two Theo Pinson free-throws pushed the lead back to 17.
That kind of strong finish had been missing for much of the year.
But, as we all know, March is a brand new season .