This was a great win for the simple fact that despite a truckload of adversity UNC still found a way to beat a very good BYU team that gave the Heels a lot of matchup problems, especially on the interior.
First order of business, Ty Lawson spent most of the game watching after rolling his ankle two minutes in. Based on the replay it did not seem to be bad and since UNC trainer Marc Davis opted to ice and then tape it I can only surmise they want to rest it and see how it is tomorrow and Monday ahead of the trip to Columbus. Lawson’s absence from the lineup meant the offense was erratic at best with Bobby Frasor and Quentin Thomas sharing the PG duties. Now, both Frasor and Thomas should be commended for coming in and running the team with a great deal of competence. However, the offense is designed to have Lawson do certain things, particularly penetration and pushing the ball. Thomas/Frasor do not do this as well and the half court offense was abysmal at times since it appeared UNC could not get enough penetration to create other opportunities. It also seemed like there was great uncertainty on offense without Lawson on the floor. His importance cannot be overlooked and neither can the educational value of this win for the team to understand they are still capable of winning without Lawson playing.
The adversity for UNC did not stop there with the whole team having an off night shooting the ball. Wayne Ellington ended up 15 but struggled at points to hit some shots until he drilled a three to salt the game away. Aside from the classic effort from Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green once again was the man at the right time to keep it all together. And it is not like Green is an offensive weapon per se as he is a player that can be depended upon to go out and do his thing which will almost always result in points, rebounds and other key plays. With Green it is not the “what” or “how much” but the “when” as he appears to have a great sense for the crucial moment when a shot or steal or key rebound is needed to keep the train rolling.
Overall the defense was much better but the offense struggled probably due to the absence of Lawson. In that respect the game has to be viewed through the prism of Lawson’s absence in terms of how well the Heels might have played offensively had he been in the game. This is in no way to disparage the way BYU played. The Cougars were a lot of the reason the Tar Heel offense struggled but the things Lawson does would have negated some of BYU’s defensive effectiveness. With the offense somewhat spotty the Heels’ defense made the difference in the first half and late in the game when stops were needed to maintain control of the game. And yes, this was another close game inside of four minutes where UNC found the path to victory despite bad breaks and an opponent unwilling to back down.
One more issue. These Heels still show a propensity to drop first half leads by coming out for the second half flat. I am not sure if this is a concern or what might be causing it but it seems like the opposing team comes out hot while Tar Heel players are a bit flat footed. If there is a concern it is how it affect momentum and in a game versus a team who might be one shot of confidence away from seizing control of the game, these post halftime lapses could be that shot. Obviously something to watch for as the season progresses.