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UNC at #20 Illinois

What: ACC-Big Ten Challenge
Where: Assembly Hall, Champaign, IL
When: Tuesday, November 30th, 9:30 PM
Records: UNC 4-2; Illinois 6-1

Even before the season started, this was expected to be a tough game and the most probable game for UNC to collect a loss. Of course there was also the belief  the Heels would show up in Champagne 6-0 and playing much better than they have to this point. Thus far that has not been the case. As much as the whole Larry Drew/Kendall Marshall horse has been flogged to a point of decomposition greater than that of Barbaro, the point guard issue only represents one issue for this young team. Some astute observations from the comments sections have pointed to defensive rebounding and poor shooting as bigger culprits than the play at the point. As C.Michael has noted, Marshall gives you more on offense but creates a weakness on defense. The opposite is true with Drew which should lead Roy Williams to try some different backcourt combinations to draw on Reggie Bullock’s offense alongside Drew or Dexter Strickland’s defense alongside Marshall.

Unfortunately that still does not resolve all of UNC’s pressing issues. The defense has been good in my opinion but against College of Charleston the defensive rebounding did not finish the job. That will be a concern vs Illinois since the Illini boast some quality big men. Mike Tisdale is listed at 7-1 and is accompanied in the front court by 6-9 Mike Davis. If UNC had trouble handling a much smaller Charleston team on the defensive glass, wrapping yourself up in the fetal position clutching a photo of Tyler Hansbrough would not be wholly inappropriate when considering what might happen when UNC faces a team with comparable size. Also of concern for UNC is the following three numbers: 48%, 46%, 42%. Those are the three-point shooting percentages for Illinois top three scorers.  In other words, Illinois possess the kind of offensive balance that quite frankly could eat the Heels alive if their aren’t careful. Not to mention a solid point guard in Demetri McCamey who is averaging 7.7 assists vs 2.0 turnovers per contest. To say UNC’s defense will be tested is putting it mildly.

For past UNC teams a solid test to the defense could be overcome by greater offensive efficiency. Unfortunately this team has not shown any but also suffers from the fact there are not 2-3 solid offensive options. Tyler Zeller has been the best player so far in terms of stats and his poor showing vs Charleston may have just been a fluke. After Zeller it has been a mixed bag of offensive performances. John Henson was great vs Charleston but not so much prior to that. Leslie McDonald has had good shooting nights vs Hofstra and Charleston but nothing much to show beyond that. Harrison Barnes, who many thought would be the team’s leading scorer, is averaging 11.8 ppg and has basically one good half of basketball to show, that coming vs Hofstra. Marshall and Bullock show promise but do not play enough. Strickland is shooting over 50% but appears to be hesitant to take the bull by the horns on the offensive end. All that being said, I think UNC has options if those different parts can all begin performing consistently. In reality you need three solid offensive performers who are bringing good production night in and night out. Add to them spot contributions from multiple role players and you usually can score on a consistent basis. For UNC Zeller, Barnes and either Strickland, Bullock or Henson really need to step up into that Big Three or perhaps even Big Four model. The Heels also need to get some perimeter shooting from Barnes, Strickland, McDonald and either of the PGs. If that happens, UNC can find some offensive balance. If they improve the defensive rebounding and create some turnovers, the transition game will be there as well.

The question is whether tonight is the night some of this clicks in. The Charleston game was a good experience for the team. They had their faults but the Heels also fought through to win a game that could have very well gotten away from them, all while Zeller struggled and Barnes continued to be underwhelming. If you get good nights from Zeller and Barnes, another solid performance from Henson and something tangible from the Marshall/Drew/Strickland trio, UNC might find enough offense to win this game. If not, then it will be more haphazard play on the offensive end with a mixed bag of inconsistency which will have UNC teetering just behind Illinois but never quite able to get over the hump.

Which will it be? I have no idea but having seen too much of one and not enough of the other, I tend to think it will be the frustrating version until it is proven otherwise.

Illinois 76 UNC 68

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26 comments to UNC at #20 Illinois

  • bg2321

    I go to Illinois, been waiting for this game for a year. Wearing my UNC gear all week, going to the game tonight. If you see blue and white in the sea of orange, it’ll probably be me. That being said, this game scares me…hoping for some big shots and a big game from Barnes. GO HEELS!!!

  • 850inExile aka UNC RAJ

    If you were to provide me the description of the Illinois team that you did above, but not tell me the name of the team you were describing, I would have guessed you were describing one of the two teams that Roy won National Championships with.

    Therefore, I fear that we will be vastly overmatched tonight.

  • Heel in Purple

    I love the reverse jinx possibility your pick has created. We’ll show up. I know that much. We may not win, but we’re going to scare the living sh*t outta Bruce Webber.

    Larry, I beg you, do something besides stand around, and if you can’t do that, then make it your mission in life to make McCamey look like a 6’4 version of you.

  • faustus1500


    I will be in the crowd wearing my carolina blue as well.


    Ironically, 76-68 is the ESPN simulator score for the game tonight.

    I would like to point out a couple things. This may be one game where John Henson may be able to push a frontcourt around. Tisdale and Davis are notoriously soft and the Illini really rely on their jumpers to fall. Another thing I need to point out that McCamey doesn’t need help in looking like Larry Drew. He has been great so far this season, but he has a tendancy to do strange things. If Roy starts Marshall and Bruce starts Richmond, UNC and Illinois will almost look like mirror images. I will say it once and I will say it again. What will be interesting is if Weber starts Paul or Cole against UNC. If Paul starts, Barnes better be prepared to take advantage of his height. He will also better be prepared to be in Paul’s face. He is of to a great start to this season.

    If Drew plays more than 20 minutes, UNC will lose.

  • BoyWilliams

    Sayeth the Dark Lord: “Verily I sayeth: Pity on thee who seeketh to limit my minutes or deny me copious dribbling above the circle. If thou seeth me pass unto the knees of a running big man, shalt thou avert thine eyes and no hiss shall pass from thine lips. Though mine assists and points be few and my minutes many, thou shalt not calleth upon the Young Usurper Infidel to replace me. For verily, if Roy betrayeth Me, shalt he reap the bitter fruits of my everlasting college carreer.”

  • Dirty T

    My hope for this game: a Harrison Barnes & Reggie Bullock offensive explosion, renewing confidence in the team and the outlook of the season.

  • Heel in Purple

    I just want to Roy to realize who his crunchtime 5 or 6 is (6 being offense for defense: Larry/Kendall or Henson/Knox), and play them in crunch time.

    I really don’t care if we lose. Just look competitive, and do it while playing with the best guys you have. If we lose b/c we couldn’t score in the last 5 min and Drew was in the last five minutes, I will not need stairs to get to the bottom of my dorm.

  • OldSchool

    I don’t see a defensive weakness in Marshall at all. What am I missing? Sure, he’s probably out of position more than Drew, but that is merely because he’s still learning the position in Roy’s system. I watched the game again on video, and now I really look forward to watching Marshall, Henson, Barnes, and Bullock grow together. That will be a tough unit for anyone to stop once they really start melding together, which will come in time. All four have shown flashes of brilliance.

  • 52bgJ

    “I don’t see a defensive weakness in Marshall at all. What am I missing?”

    that’s my take too. hoping for balance tonight-plenty of contributions all around as opposed to just 2 or 3. defensive rebounding is a correctable problem-this should not be an on-going issue.

  • Andy In Omaha

    If there are any weaknesses Marshall has on defense, it is due to lack of playing time. Period.
    Barnes is suffering as a result of poor offensive production from the starting backcourt. I mean, wouldn’t you play a zone or pack it in on defense if Larry Drew couldn’t hit a shot to save his life and Dexter Strickland just refused to unless it was in transition? Barnes is the only “legitimate” three point threat when the starting five is on the floor, and I think that’s why we’re seeing the lack of offensive production.
    We can wish all we want that Roy starts Marshall and Bullock, or at least gives them more than 15 minutes apiece, but the fact is that this is the same stubborn Roy Williams that will keep doing what he’s doing in the name of coaching Roy Williams basketball. Drew will get the vast majority of minutes at the PG position, have 2/3/4 assists and have 3/4/5 turnovers and maybe only score two points. Strickland will maybe take 3/4/5 FG attempts.
    If Roy can’t see that what he’s doing with his “system” is hampering Barnes and putting UNC in a position where they can’t score points, then I’m almost ready to delcare him as to catching Butch Davis Syndrome. THF, I think your prediction is way too optimistic.

    Illinois 82, UNC 60

  • faustus1500

    This is what I posted in my group.
    North Carolina at Illinois Preview

    Projected Starting Lineups:

    North Carolina
    C- Tyler Zeller: 7’0” 250 lbs 15.5 ppg 7.8 rpg 0.7 apg
    PF- John Henson: 6’10” 195 lbs 10.3 ppg 11.0 rpg 0.5 apg
    SF- Harrison Barnes: 6’7” 210 lbs 11.8 ppg 6.3 rpg 2.2 apg
    SG- Dexter Strickland: 6’3” 180 lbs 7.7 ppg 2.7 rpg 2.2 apg
    PG-Larry Drew II : 6’2” 180 lbs 3.8 ppg 3.0 rpg 2.8 apg

    SG- Reggie Bullock: 6’7” 190 lbs 9.2 ppg 1.8 rpg 0.6 apg
    SG- Leslie McDonald 6’4” 215 lbs 6.8 ppg 0.8 rpg 0.2 apg
    PF- Justin Knox 6’9” 240 lbs 6.7 ppg 4.8 rpg 1.0 apg
    PG- Kendall Marshall 6’3” 180 lbs 4.5 ppg 1.5 rpg 4.3 apg

    C- Mike Tisdale 7’1” 235 lbs 10.1 ppg 7.6 rpg 1.3 apg
    PF- Mike Davis 6’9” 220 lbs 10.6 ppg 6.6 rpg 1.3 apg
    SF- Bill Cole 6’9” 215 lbs 3.6 ppg 2.0 rpg 1.1 apg
    SG- DJ Richardson 6’3” 185 lbs 10.7 ppg 1.7 rpg 1.9 apg
    PG-Demitri McCamey 6’3” 220 lbs 15.0 ppg 3.7 rpg 7.7 apg

    SG- Brandon Paul: 6’4” 195 lbs 11.4 ppg 3.4 rpg 2.6 apg
    SF- Jereme Richmond 6’8” 195 lbs 8.6 ppg 4.3 rpg 1.1 apg
    PF- Tyler Griffey 6’9” 225 lbs 3.7 ppg 1.9 rpg 0.1 apg
    C- Meyers Leonard 7’0” 215 lbs 4.0 ppg 2.6 rpg 0.1 apg


    Illinois fans relish every opportunity they receive playing North Carolina. They all remember 2005 vividly. Every time the Illini get a chance to beat Illini it is small measure of revenge against the Tar Heels. Going into the season, both teams were considered possible Final Four contenders. Illinois had one slip up against ranked Texas, while UNC has struggled find any rhythm offensively. Currently, the Tar Heels are looking from outside into the Top 25 in. They struggled against UNC-Asheville and College of Charleston. Surprisingly, the defense hasn’t been the issue. It has been the offense. Larry Drew II has been terrible running the offense so far, and freshman Kendall Marshall has looked brilliant offensively when given the chance, but the newly defensive minded Roy Williams has stuck with Larry Drew II. Drew II did a great job defending Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock who almost singlehandedly torched UNC last season. Still, he only scored 1 point and had 1 assist the entire game. Your point guard simply can not be such a non factor on offense. Will Marshall start eating into Drew’s playing time? Most Carolina fans would prefer it that way. Drew isn’t the only player who is struggling. Super freshman Harrison Barnes has been in a major slump lately. He is shooting under 36% from field. He is still finding his role on the team. He is unable to operate in the paint as much as fans would like due to Zeller and Henson. Barnes has been settling for jumpers and fadeaways. Another freshman might take some minutes from him. Reggie Bullock is the Tar Heels third leading scorer while only playing 15 minutes a game. Bullock by far is the Tar Heels most dangerous three point shooter.

    On the other side of the court, Demitri McCamey has caused Illinois fans to awe as much as groan; it seems that he is ready to be a leader. His turnovers have been reduced significantly this season so far. Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson are dangerous sophomores. DJ Richardson is the better defender of the two, while Paul is the better shooter of the two. That doesn’t mean they both can’t shoot. Both are shooting above 40% from outside.

    This brings us to the most intriguing match ups of the game: Mike Tisdale vs. Tyler Zeller and Mike Davis vs. John Henson. Mike Tisdale is a center who reminds one of a Bill Cartwright….in a good way. He has great range for a seven footer. He faces Zeller who spent significant portions of the last two seasons injured. This season he is the leading scorer for the Tar Heels. He has good range and he has good post moves to match. Mike Davis and John “Go Go Gadget Arms” Henson are similar players. Mike Davis however has better range and Henson has better ball handling ability, but both have the ability to snatch 15 boards in a game and block five shots.

    3 POINTERS of the Game:

    *Get the post game on track
    *Prevent Illinois from getting a rhythm from outside the arc.
    *Play Kendall Marshall more than Larry Drew II

    *Give Tisdale touches inside. Take advantage of UNC’s lack of frontcourt depth
    *Play under control
    *Control the glass

    Given this information, my prediction is Iowa will beat Wake Forest.

  • BoyWilliams

    Infidels!! For thine blasphemy, shalt the miscues floweth from mine hands as wine from a bottle; shalt mine minutes number as grains of sand in the desert; and shalt I labor to make many a college career relevant tonight! Forsooth!

  • carolinablue74

    Are you serious THF??? You are actually saying that our defensive effort against CoC is something we should aspire to? Here’s a thought, CoC has one reliable perimeter shooter and he went off for 28 points against us. Illinois has three of those, let me repeat, three perimeter scorers. So this win by a miserable 5 points, at home, against a mediocre mid-major team, does not bode well for this team especially against quality teams from major conferences.

    Defense has never been a strong suit of any of Roy’s teams, and they all relied heavily on scoring, rather outscoring the opponent either on secondary breaks or by ball movement. This team cannot do that. The perimeter shooting has been pathetic and the inside scoring has been shoddy against major conference teams, and much of that can be traced to a pathetic PG and SG play. Please let’s not make this win against CoC more that what it is, a 5 point win against a mediocre team.

  • Mo

    Following the wins over Asheville and CoC, most of what is being said and written continually compares this team to last year. The general consensus is the fear that this year will not be different than last. There is compelling evidence to suggest and support just such a theory. Our inconsistent play over the first six games does little to convince us that we are headed in a different direction; even less convincing when Roy says that this season “doesn’t feel anything like last year”. Not very believable when his remarks and behavior seem to mirror the same frustration that surfaced shortly after last year’s loss to CoC. I would like to believe that the players were wanting to avenge that loss as much as I was. With that loss avenged I think we can move forward a little less impeded.
    Sunday’s win gives us a chance to finally bury what may have triggered the downward spiral from which we needed to recover. A win over CoC goes a long ways to remove the taste of humuliation that had undoubtedly become stuck in the craw of the returning players that had to endure the critcism afterwards. It’s why they didn’t wet themselves when we went down by 5 in the second half. It’s possible, maybe even probable, that beating CoC is the catalyst the team needs to strip away the “business as usual” label and replace it with a new identity. That question could be answered tonight against the Illini.
    We needed that win against Booby Cremins & company to rid ourselves of the pea under last year’s metaphorical mattress that has bruised our ego every time we turnover.
    Now that we have swept out the pea, let’s kick some butt!

  • cb74,

    You do know to get those 28 points Goudelock was 11-27 which last I checked was 40% FG shooting. Do you also realize that he was hitting shots with guys draped all over him, pulling up and hitting ridiculous threes from well outside the arc and was so gassed by the end of the game he was worthless all because of UNC’s hounding of him. Defense is rated by more than just how many points one guy puts up. CofC shot under 40% for the game. The Goudelock kid earned every point the hard way and got some shots to fall that had no business going down. It is possible to play great defense and still have a hot shooter it anyway. That happened for a stretch in the 2nd half and that was it.

    And again, looking at the defensive efficiency ratings for all the seasons Roy’s been at UNC prior to last year nullifies the “defense is not his strong suit” argument. Roy, has in fact, had some very good defensive teams in his tenure. All the fans remember is this player going off or that team sinking a bunch of threes but the numbers, not to mention the winning percentage do not support the argument UNC has not done well defensively. Having a great offense is not enough, you have to bring it on defense to some degree too.

  • uncgirl50

    I hope we can scrape out a win tonight, but I’m not very optimistic. I’m not completely sure I want to watch the game. I have an early class tomorrow morning anyway. God made the sky Carolina blue, hopefully he’ll smile on the Heels tonight as well. As the point guard situation goes, I think Kendall should start, but an inspired Larry would be an asset coming off the bench. Go Heels!

  • carolinablue74

    But you still did not address my point. Yes we had one guy draped all over him and still he scored 28, and that drained him. But in Illinois we will have three such guards who are shooting over 40% from the perimeter. How do you guard them? We had a difficult time to guard one guy, the centerpiece of a mid-major team, and now we will face three such guys. CoC game only proves that we are just good enough to win against a mid-major, and unless they can win in Champaign and I don’t believe this team can, I don’t believe the team is any better. What’s worst we cannot even get it going on the offense with any certainty.

  • Not sure what you want here. Aside from UNC’s defensive rebounding, the defensive effort vs CofC was good. You said it was horrible based on one guy getting 28 without addressing the manner in which he got there. What will happen with three good shooters? I don’t know. Hopefully UNC can bring the same kind of intensity they brought vs CofC, force some bad shots and control the boards. Quite frankly I am more concerned about that than I am about the shooters going off simply because Illinois has legitimate size on the interior.

  • carolinablue74

    I am saying the team performance was horrible based on a 5 point win against a mid-major at the Dean dome. Or have we been reduced to celebrating 5 point victories against mid-majors like we do against Duke??


    ^^I agree. I don’t feel like our perimeter defense against CofC was that bad. Unfortunately, all that sticks in our heads is Goudelock hitting some ridiculous shots back to back. However, this was CofC so you have to take it with a grain of salt, but if we can limit Illinois to the same shotting percentage and GRAB SOME REBOUNDS we might be alright. That might be a struggle though considering Zeller at 7’0″ can’t grab a rebound over guys 6’6″.


    Love the analysis, but Wake 52 Iowa 47. 10 minutes left!

  • Heel in Purple

    Watching the halftime report from OSU-FSU. If Hubert Davis and Jay Bilas (Bilas is one of the smarter, more unbiased analysts there is) are calling for Kendall Marshall to play more and start, and for Larry Drew to not have the ball in his hands as much, then I’m pretty sure Roy needs to make a change.

    All us idiots don’t know anything about basketball, fine. But if former players from elite programs (including OUR program) are calling for change for the sake of better play, I think he should listen. Maybe he has. We shall learn a lot by 12ish.

  • Who is celebrating a five point win over CofC as though it was Duke? I wrote what I saw. The defense was good. Would you rather the defense be bad? Would you rather they had given up 20 threes? You have to start somewhere. Sometimes it starts with a good games vs a weak team and down the line it happens vs good teams. At any rate, I tried to find some good in the win because I really don’t see a point in the constant weeping and gnashing of teeth that seems to be going on with some of you.

  • partsman5521

    I’m wondering right now if the kids think they have a shot at winning tonight. If they already believe they are going to lose then they are going to get blown out. If they can somehow come out with some fire then they might have a chance. It’s time to start playing for the name on the front of their jerseys. Play for Jordan,May, Hansbrough, Play for one of the top uni’s in the country.Play with all the will power you can stand. Hell play hard for me. It’s time to put it together. We can’t go the whole year playing the same way.
    Wouldn’t it be amazing if drew came out and scored 15 pts, had 10 assists, maybe 2 turnovers and we won the game?
    Then we wouldn’t have anything to talk about on THF…..

  • TarHeel8486

    Isn’t this the type of game that the #1 recruit in the country should take over and will his lesser team to victory?

  • partsman5521

    I like it….so far….

  • pbmsmith

    This is my worst fears confirmed. The talent level is lacking at guard and the inability to score from the outside is going to make this a long season and wish we were back to last year. I said last year because at least we won 21 games. I would be amazed with the lacke of outside effort and scoring that we will win more than 12 and only a handfull in the conference. Those guys have been playing us for years and know how to defend and when you don’t have to defend on the perimeter…well that means you have 5 on 2.Next year does not promise to be better as where is the shooting going to come from. I feel sorry for our point guards as they are so over matched wherever we play. Oh well…..