Can UNC win amid adversity? Yes
Can the Heels win in an ugly game where the offense is not clicking? The answer after tonight is a resounding “Yes.”
UNC went to Columbus and had Ty Lawson as a spectator, struggled to find an offense but got a career night from Wayne Ellington and great second half play from Deon Thompson to overcome the lack of scoring. Tyler Hansbrough had a very bad game which has not been unusual for him when playing teams that can pack a zone and bring a taller player on him. The offense is
The story of this game is the UNC defense and rebounding. Roy Williams had been talking all week about one of his Kansas teams that shot 29% from the floor and still won because the other team shot 22%. That was the kind of game this was against OSU and this win is owed almost entirely to the things UNC did limiting the Buckeyes. Consider these highlights from the box score:
- OSU only shot 27% from the floor going 19-70. Ten of those 19 were three points, seven of them in the first half.
- The Buckeyes went 10 minutes without a FG and had UNC been executing on offense they would have taken a 20 point lead with ease.
- UNC out rebounded OSU 58-42 and 18-12 on the offensive end.
- The Buckeyes leading scorer, seven footer Kosta Koufos came in averaging 18.6 ppg but went 1-10 for only four points against the Heels.
- Alex Stepheson has three blocks and nine rebounds. Marcus Ginyard and Ellington had eight boards and Deon Thompson had seven. Hansbrough had 11 including five offensive boards.
The bottom line is in this game and the one versus BYU, when the defense needed to step up and compensate for the lack of an offense it has happened. UNC came to Columbus with Lawson on the bench and their offense altered by his absence. They face a OSU team using a zone to slow down the game and cover Hansbrough which in turn made finding open shots difficult. With so much inconsistency on the offensive end, the play of the defense gave UNC the edge they needed to win a very tough game in front of a hostile crowd. It seems like we have seen parts of this team play well in different games. If they can get everyone healthy and execute on both ends they will be what we expected them to be this season.
And let me say Wayne Ellington continues to impress. The 23 points included a dagger to the Buckeye chances with the shot clock dwindling. He also came back following a nasty fall which hobbled him for a bit but did not compromise that nice stroke. The offense also did a great job of solving the zone without the benefit of Lawson’s penetration. Credit to Roy for having the Heels work the ball patiently against the zone to look for openings and creating some by flashing someone into the middle of the paint to disrupt it. Thompson scored some points doing this as did Ginyard.
In one respect, there is an expectation that UNC should do what Duke did to Wisconsin and really thrash OSU but it should be noted UNC was playing without Lawson and that dramatically alters how well they do anything on offense. I think had Lawson played, UNC would have won by a greater margin. Irregardless of this factor, games like this are far more instructional than thrashing another team by 20. UNC will be a better team down the road having been in these early tests and getting the win makes it more fun.