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UNC 82 Virginia Tech 68

A great win overshadowed by a potentially damaging personnel loss.

So the first half was not that great. I think some people expected more from this team out of the gate but I actually didn’t think it was a terrible effort on UNC’s part. Yes, they could have taken it up another level. We know that because they did in the second half. However, one of the biggest problems was the offense had major struggles in the first half. Anyone who has watched UNC basketball long enough knows Roy Williams’ teams often had flat first halves, especially on the defensive end. I have lost count of the number of times I have watched teams put on a show shooting the ball in the first half. The notable difference, in most cases, was UNC’s offense was good enough to match it. So Virginia Tech scoring 39 points was not an issue because UNC could simply score 44. Then the second half would come. The opposing team would cool off. UNC’s offense would really roll and the game was over.

In this case, UNC’s offense in the first half not very good. This wasn’t an effort issue it was a “can you please for the love of Lennie Rosenbluth make a shot! Any shot! I don’t care just make something!” kind of deal. Harrison Barnes missed two layups. There were three pointers that rolled around the inside of the rim and came out. UNC had an offensive efficiency of 98.6 in the first half and shot 40% from the floor. Not making shots does not fall into the effort/intensity area. You either make them or you don’t and UNC wasn’t with predictable results.

The defense likewise was not great but I don’t think it was necessarily the worst in the world. Virginia Tech was 8-16 from three in the first half. Yes, that’s 50%. Yes, that is problematic. I did take the liberty of charting the eight made VT threes to see how many of them were the results of truly bad defense or UNC helping too much.

1. Drive and kick, Marshall helped off his man who hit a three.
2. Pull up three by Green, Watts was playing the drive.
3. After two Henson blocks, Green throws it up with the shot clock running down and Marshall all over him. The shot banks in.
4. Drive and kick to Hudson. Bullock ran out with a hand up.
5. Drive and kick to Hudson. Bullock runs out with a hand up. Actually a decent close-out.
6. Three in transition by Hudson. Hairston did not pick him up despite being on that end of the floor.
7. Eddie pulls up on Henson and hits a three. Henson was playing the drive.
8. Three by Hudson in the corner on secondary break with Zeller getting a hand up.

What we have here is a mixed bag of the defense lapsing a bit and the Hokies getting away with crap like throwing it off the backboard with a man covering the shot. As noted above it wasn’t perfect but not all the made threes were the result of bad defense. If you really want a aspect of the defense to complain about, UNC’s transition defense certainly fits the bill. In fact Dexter Strickland’s third foul came from no one getting back and putting him in a spot he had to risk a foul to try and stop a layup. It didn’t work. So overall I think the offense had more to do with the first half woes than the defense though the defense could have been better.

In the second half it was, despite losing Strickland for the remainder of the game with a knee injury, the Heels dug deep and played probably their best basketball of the season. After VT’s Erick Green used a crossover to make a pull-up three and give the Hokies a 44-36 lead, UNC went on a 26-2 run to take control of the game. The run made it to 31-5 before Virginia Tech got any semblance of a consistent offense back. During that stretch, the Hokies missed 13 straight shots from the floor and managed to make a pair of free throws. Meanwhile Barnes was busy scoring 21 of his 27 points while John Henson and Tyler Zeller padded their rebound stats with 16 and 11 respectively. In the end the Big Three had another outstanding outing with 57 points, 33 rebounds, 9 blocks, 4 steals and only five turnovers. That is quality production. Kendall Marshall augmented the effort with 9 points, 8 assists and four steals. Marshall was a little turnover prone again with five. Reggie Bullock continues to try and emerge from his slump hitting two threes in the second half.

The takeaway from this game is when faced with a situation similar to Saturday this team took control of the game and beat Virginia Tech soundly in the second half. 33 point losses don’t get erased by one good win but the second half of this game included an appearance by the team many picked to win the title. The question now is one of continuation. The effort will be to build on this second half and sustain it. As a part of that, all eyes turn towards the knee of Dexter Strickland and the diagnosis of the UNC medical staff which will evaluate his knee on Friday.

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41 comments to UNC 82 Virginia Tech 68

  • TheIronFist

    Is it just me, or does Henson’s production get overlooked as being “expected” or the norm for him?

    Tonight, he had 16 (pts), 16 (reb), and 6 (blk). Those are monster numbers. When Anthony Davis puts up those stats, he gets slurped up by all the talking heads at ESPN/SC.

    My best guess is that it is because Henson is a junior - whereas Davis is just a freshman (so the “sky is the limit.”)

  • rathskellar68

    The second half was the most important half of basketball we have played this season.

    We saw in the UNLV and FSU games what produces losses: getting outmuscled. The second half tonight, we saw more vividly than ever what produces wins: aggressive, focused, smart, relentless defense.

    It didn’t hurt that Barnes and the rest of the front line played on offense as we thought they would this season.

    The Strickland injury looked awful, and might turn out to be awful. But reports within the last hour are somewhat more hopeful, although apparently no doctor has evaluated it yet. We can only hope for the best. Strickland looked recently like he was coming into his own. You really have to pull for the guy.

    Anyway, this win was essential, and, in the second half, they more than rose to the occasion. Way to go, guys.

  • Wilf

    Amazing game for the big three.

  • makeitWayne22

    Harrison got active in the second half and the team took off

  • 52bgJ

    from the N & O: “The game changed when North Carolina junior guard Dexter Strickland, the team’s best perimeter defender, left near the midway point of the first half after picking up his third foul. The teams were tied at 17 but after Strickland left the Hokies took advantage from the outside.”

    I truly hope Dexter is ok, but the main takeaway I have from this, is that regardless of his status, the rest of the guys HAVE to step it up on defense & the boards. Dexter rightly gets credit as our best defender, but frankly, from Barnes to Zeller to Henson to Bullock (even KM is serviceable)to yes, Watts, each of these guys is capable of lock-down D when they are focused & intense.

  • deepenwide

    Henson shut down his man to the point that he quit shooting. It’s extremely demoralizing to have your shot blocked 2-3 times on the same possesion.

  • UNC863

    praying strickland is going to be ok. overall i am very happy with the way we rebounded from Saturday.

  • I said last night at halftime that this second half would define this Carolina team. It might have been overstating it a bit, but it just felt that way. Great win for the Heels. This blog and the comments would have looked a lot different had it gone the way of the first half. I loved what we saw from the big three but especially Barnes. Once again we find ourselves saying “if he can play like that the rest of the season….”. I would love to see that kind of game from him every night. He has it within him.

    As you said, all eyes turn to Dex now. He was having such a nice season, we all just hope it looked worse than it was. Should he be lost for the season, how important was that late pickup of Stillman White? Like the rest of Tar Heel nation, I will be waiting and watching throughout the day.

  • caymanheel

    TIF, great point about Davis v Henson. I remember tracking one blog that puts out weekly POY analysis and came up with a formula for guys likes this (blocks, points, boards, altered shots). Henson had a slightly higher score and this formula was the only justification for both players but our guy was ranked 10 spots behind Davis.

    Absurd, but like you said as a Freshman their is an “upside” intrigue but also I would add that most fans/people have a tendency in general to falsely consider newer to be better. People just have obsession with the newer and shinier toy.

  • makeitWayne22

    MOST UNC fans dont respect Henson games, so dont expect much from the national media, and the end of the KY game didnt help Henson’s case.

    HOWEVER, john henson is a beast on the glass, the guy wakes up and has a double double. Just needs to work on shot selection , and playing tougher.

  • faustus1500

    As it sounds what I think hurts Henson most as far as defensive stats is the play of Zeller. Zeller has been stellar recently. That block he was amazing. I am pretty sure Cody can’t do that. ;)

  • makeitWayne22

    The block Zeller had in the first half prevented a huge run by VT. Plays like that change MOJO.

  • LarryS

    Beating a team like VPI is not really the kind of accomplishment that UNC wants to hang its hat on (they obviously have bigger fish to fry) but it was a very good start to build up some new momentum and regain some confidence.

    And I think it shows that when they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, and with a reasonable level of energy, they’re pretty darn good.

    I think I maybe have a little different attitude, than some do, about how I want to see the Heels play, game in and game out. It has more to do with solid efforts and playing ball the way it is supposed to be played, than with a lot of hyped-up aggression I’ve seen from other teams that doesn’t seem to accomplish much.

    High levels of emotion and energy are OK from time to time, but I’d rather have consistent solid play and save the pedal-to-the-metal games for when it really counts.

    At this point I don’t really want think about what losing Dexter would mean, which would be significant, but I think we could still be a pretty good defensive team if the worst happens. (Backup PG is another issue) Bulllock has gotten a lot better, defensively, and he is long, as is most of this team at pretty much every position. I think length is their biggest asset when they’re doing everything else the way it should be done.

    Anyway I’m keeping my fingers crossed.


    I wanted to add a small observation I had from last night that is fairly insignificant, in the greater outcome of the game, but when PJ Hairston went to the line for 3 shots, after being fouled on a 3PA, I remember thinking that, hey, this is as good as a made 3. I mean, the net maybe moved 1″ on all three shots.

    I am just really excited about watching him develop (as well as JMM, who made a nice little face-up 10 footer last night…..that is his shot), and I doubt we’ve seen his best even this year. The old saying that the best thing about freshmen is when they become sophomores is usually true, but sometimes freshmen really start getting it together in the last half of their freshmen year. We’re going to need both of them to make some plays before its over.

  • rushncap

    So, uhhhhh…. if it’s an ACL or some other injury which puts Strick out for a long time, who plays the 8 min of PG when KButter is on the bench? Please tell me Stillman isn’t about to be relied on to hold the fort against the other team’s starters.

  • TarHeelWu

    I don’t think it was a great win. Our defense really stepped up once Dexter went down and they deserve a lot of credit for their effort on that end. Our offense IMO amounts to a series of individual plays w/quick shots coming off of one or two passes. Little ball movement. Little player movement off the ball. We’re talented enough to beat most teams this way and crush teams if we’re knocking down shots. But we’re not going to beat the top teams in the nation w/o good ball & player movement. And if they don’t start establishing the good habits now against the weaker teams, we will be greatly disappointed against the top tier teams.

  • rushncap,

    Marshall will play 36-38 mpg now. The way Roy usually does it is he brings in a sub about a minute before a TV timeout is supposed to occur and leaves them in for a minute after the timeout which would give Marshall four mins of rest but only two of it off the court. He might do it again in the second half. Sometimes he will use a timeout near a TV timeout to get a player rest. White is not going to log big minutes and any minutes he does log will likely happen in the first half.

  • makeitWayne22

    Some Other Kid would sure be nice….. NAH cant write LOL

  • “Beating a team like VPI is not really the kind of accomplishment that UNC wants to hang its hat on”

    True, but at least UNC now has 1 more road win against a team ranked in KenPom’s T50 (at the time) than Duke does! ;)

  • “Some Other Kid would sure be nice….. NAH cant write LOL”

    Careful, that might be grounds for an immediate banning!! ;)

  • faustus1500

    If Strickland is out, do you bring back McDonald?

  • what time is the dexter MRI. i think we can mitigate the loss at the 2 spot but backup PG is another issue entirely. not just in a one -off big game where we can use a strategy mentioned above (balancing around TV timeouts, using a TO close to a tv timeout etc..), but how we like to be fresh in march. that’s tougher if kendall is logging 36 mpg all season.

    HB point forward lol?!

    this is a trap SEASON. if we win big, then we’re not getting the mental toughness test; if we win close, then we didn’t have the killer instinct; if we lose, the sky is falling; if FSU happens, our entire world is rocked.

    one half, one game at a time, this isn’t a team like 09 which was (for all intents and purposes) a final four caliber team for the third straight season. this vintage needs time still to grow, mature and learn to be great.

    i’m happy with our effort last night, yes there are still a ton of improvements, but i personally am working to reset my expectations to reality. it still includes a title run, but it builds in a bit of a buffer for the learning and growth process.

    it was hard to see on TV, but bilas mentioned our body language was different in the 2nd half. X’s and O’s aside, that’s good to know. let’s hope they focus and get mean and realize they can’t show up and win by 20.

  • makeitWayne22

    I think a lot of fans forget the regular season from 2005 and 2009.

  • LarryS

    “True, but at least UNC now has 1 more road win against a team ranked in KenPom’s T50 (at the time) than Duke does!”

    Definitely. And at the end of the season, if it comes down to an important seed between these two teams, this one may make a difference, or at least help offset somewhat, last week’s loss.

  • I know they forget 2007 for sure because there were more head scratching moments in that season than we’ve seen in this one. That team lost to VT twice, NCSU in a game where the Pack shot 78% in the second half and a week after they beat Arizona to death on the road and then at Georgia Tech in a game Ty Lawson was benched for the first eight minutes because he was thrown out of practice earlier in the week.

  • makeitWayne22

    2007 was when UNC almost came back from being down something like 20 at VT that year.

  • What is odd about the 2007 team is that statistically (based on efficiency margin), that was actually Roy’s 2nd best team at UNC, and yet they still lost 7 games. The 2005 team had an EM of 39.9 and the 2007 team had an EM of 38.3; none of his other teams were over 37.

  • skippy

    “Beating a team like VPI is not really the kind of accomplishment that UNC wants to hang its hat on”

    OK, but don’t undersell the magnitude of this game for Tech. They NEEDED this win. Because they lost, they probably have no shot at an NCAA at-large bid. There’s some talent on this team and no one was predicting them to start 0-4 in the conference. Their season might be done because they couldn’t hold the lead against us.

  • makeitWayne22

    B Wright was an amazing Freshman that year, that probably helped the efficiency rating bc i believe he lead the ACC in FG% (best ever by a freshman), won ACC FOY, ALL ACC 2nd team, on the regional team in the tourney, tied McCants by starting his career with 18 straight double digit games,and MVP of the ACC tourney, becoming the 5th freshmen ever to do that.

    That was a freshman year right there folks!

  • LarryS

    ^^^These types of comparisons can seem odd, even contradictory, when you look at losses versus how efficient certain teams were.

    The missing ingredients in this type of comparison, (just looking at EM and losses in the abstract) and the ones that are probably hardest to compile, are the quality of the opposition they lost to, how they matched up, personnel-wise, home games versus road games, and so forth in any given year.

  • ^You’re absolutely right, and the home-road question is probably the most important. Of the 7 losses, 4 were on the road 2 were on neutral courts (Gonzaga and G’Town). This makes a lot of sense when one considers that the 2007 team ranked 329th in the nation in “experience.” For reference, the 2008 team ranked 205th, the 2009 team ranked 60th, and this year’s team ranks 228th.

  • TarHeelWu

    This team doesn’t bear any resemblance to 2005 & 2009. 2009 was immensely skilled on the offensive end and coasted a bit throughout the season until they realized they had to get serious on defense for the ncaa tourny.

    2005 had a mental & physical toughness we’ve never seen from our current roster.

    This team thinks they are better than they truly are. They’re trying to coast to the final four after an amazing elite eight run last year. So they resort to lazy play far too often and get disoriented when they get punched in the mouth (UNLV, FSU, the last few seconds in Kentucky).

    They have yet to fully commit to executing sound offense consistently where they move the ball effectively, move w/o the ball and make the opposing defenses really work to stop them.

    I believe they can get to the final four if they commit to building good habits. But they act like they can turn the switch on when they play a top team like Kentucky. It’s not that easy.

  • rathskellar68

    With all respect to some very intelligent commenters, I don’t think comparisons to past teams tell us much of anything about this one. Each team has its own distinct blend of personalities, talents and weaknesses.

    In the days when I was a federal prosecutor, I never thought a given case should turn out one way or the other because it “reminded” me of a similar case in the past. The past was full of different actors and different subtexts, whose importance and effect were very difficult to quantify, but tended to be decisive at the margin — the only place it counts.

    I evaluate this team on the evidence in front of my face, nothing else. What I see is a team that loses when outmuscled and wins when playing focused, aggressive defense (it doesn’t hurt when Barnes is involved and on). As long as we avoid the former and perform the latter, we’ll be fine.

  • archaicusage

    I’ve noticed that Marshall’s attempts at million dollar passes have gone from occasional and forgivable to frequent and irritating.

  • makeitWayne22

    ^spot on and also seem to come at the worst possible time.

  • LarryS

    I’ll give Marshall some slack on this because he usually makes a high percentage of them, and a big part of this team’s explosive effect has to do with him continuing that….especially if it involves Zeller as the recipient. (He knows how to catch them)

    Marshall reminds me of a quarterback who will get intercepted sometimes, but is not afraid to make a tough play in tight coverage. No guts no glory.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised to see him a little gun shy for a while, until they get back to a more comfortable flow, but confidently making passes most PG’s won’t attempt is what makes him special.

  • AZACCFan

    Marshall has been playing with uncharacteristic nerves since the debacle in Tallahassee was in full swing. To his credit, he has continued to make lots of great plays and he scored against VT. His defense was good and he reacted well to Strickland being out.

    Give him time to get his confidence back. He has plenty riding on his shoulders.

    Some of the issues with Marshall’s passes lie with the receivers.

  • makeitWayne22

    I am impressed how Kendall has been hunting for his offense the last few games. When he drives to the basket it opens everything up, bc hes man has to respect his offensive game

  • 52bgJ

    meh-FSU played him a little differently, and to my recollection, it’s the first time he’s had real ball pressure put on him. He’ll adjust-he has to because he’ll see more of it. Part of that adjustment was on display last night with his drives to the basket.

  • ^i said kendall was like the evil clark kent…going for HIS. defensive ‘focus and effort’ has seemed lacking the past two games but looking for his shot has improved. hope he rectifies the former and continues to focus on the latter. if and when this team really gets it going, 10-12 pts from KM will be huge.

  • LarryS

    Just talked to a friend at UNC Sports Medicine to see if he had heard anything through the grapevine on Dexter’s diagnosis…….nada.

    Sports Information will surely provide results for news tonight, though it may surface on Twitter, or a blog, before that. If anyone hears something, fill us in.

  • rathskellar68

    With apologies to LarryS for my display of uncharacteristic cheerfulness, I agree with him about Marshall. I think the key thing for our team is to be aggressive and ambitious, on both offense and defense. This means we’re going to get some, shall we say, exotic passes, but it evinces the attitude we need in order to get to April.

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