And yes, I came within two points of getting the score exactly right. For some reason I am better at guessing basketball scores than football.
It dawned on me during the four hour drive from North Carolina to Maryland this evening that this game was really an example of poor scheduling. I think sticking this game in between the Sunday matchup and the trip to Las Vegas was not such a good idea since it might end up hurting you more than helping you in terms of fatigue. Then again four games in nine days is precisely what the NCAA demands in March so this might be a good exercise for the Heels to get acclimated to playing a handful of games in a short period. Roy is obviously cognizant of the fatigue factor since no one saw the court for more than 26 minutes tonight.[Quick Note: A reader emailed me the link to the Las Vegas Invitational which I had all sorts of trouble finding when I looked for it previously. SCAR St. is apparently part of the field for this “tournament” as was Iona. Very odd setup since the first three rounds of games were already scheduled.]
As for the game, I can only tell you what the box score tells me and that is Tyler Hansbrough is an unstoppable beast who thinks contact is just fine. Which reminds me, I saw a bit of UCLA trailing Michigan State in the 1st half and Kevin Love is getting banged around quite a bit by the Spartans much the same way they played UNC in the NCAA Tournament last season. Dick Vitale was whining that Love was getting manhandled too much. I seem to recall Brandan Wright being wholly ineffective against that kind of physicality but Hansbrough thrived, shunning the mask and dropping 32 on MSU to move the Heels to the Sweet Sixteen. Based on the box score, Hansbrough is performing at much the same level as he did in that game last March and doing so in only 20 minutes. It frightens me to think what he might put up if he gets 10-12 more minutes as he will come ACC play.
Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are becoming quite the offensive duo at the 2 and 3 spots. Ellington had another nice shooting night, nailed a trio of threes and had three steals on his way to 19 points. Green is definitely showing more offense than I thought he would which officially makes him the X factor on this team. Ty Lawson had eight assists but three turnovers which is a bit of a concern. Quentin Thomas had seven assists and shows he can step in when needed and run the offense. I can say I am a little shocked Deon Thompson has not done more to this point but the season is still early. Alex Stepheson on the other hand turned in a nice effort with 11 points and nine rebounds.
In terms of overall team issues, the Heels shot the ball well at 53% and hit nine threes for 40% which is probably good enough to achieve offensive balance and keep the opposing defenses from sagging back in a zone. Defensively speaking I have yet to see Roy’s quotes on that side of the court but based on stats it would appear they clamped down a little more in the second half forcing a lower shooting percentage from the Bulldogs and doing a better job of limiting the perimeter shots. In the first half SCAR St was 5-7 from three and only 2-4 in the second stanza.
All told it was a nice win to send the Heels off on their six game tour of America which begins at 11:55 PM(yes that says PM) EST on Friday night in Las Vegas versus Old Dominion. And for all you folks who can’t make it to 2 AM to watch that one finish up, I am planning to live blog it and hopefully also correctly predict the score.