Taking care of business and improving as they do it.
First of all, Tyler Hansbrough continues his beastlike march through the ACC and I really do not give a crap what Michael Beasley is posting at Kansas State, Hansbrough is playing on a top five team and since Lawson went down he has averaged six more points and four more rebounds per game to carry this team in what is arguably the toughest stretch of the season. Tonight was more of the same. 32 points, 13 rebounds and five steals. Counting the charge he drew in the first half, Hansbrough was responsible for six Wolfpack turnovers. What else can you say without repeating the same points over and over?
And how incredible has the transformation of Quentin Thomas been? As a Tar Heel fan you cannot help but feel a swell of pride to see this senior, who has paid dues for three years, become everything the Heels needed him to be at a crucial point in the season. Tonight was another great effort from QT who has become very good at picking the right moments to take shots and he is hitting them. In terms of running the offense he had seven assists and only two turnovers. It has been a remarkable transition for him and I could not be happier for him.
On the quiet side, Wayne Ellington and Marcus Ginyard just put in a workman like effort. Ellington had a hot hand with 21 points on 8-13 shooting. He also had eight boards which was necessitated by the fact Deon Thompson did not play much and Danny Green was largely invisible. Ginyard has really embraced the offensive side of his game and was extremely aggressive in driving the lane and looking for a shot or dunk since the Wolfpack were content to give that to him…twice.
Jay Bilas, who despite his alma mater, is probably the best basketball analyst ESPN has, made several good points during the game. One of which was the fact UNC will be a better team when Lawson returns. And as I argued this point earlier in the day in countering J.P. Giglio’s assessment I was focused on the improvement of QT as the main part of that equation. As Bilas pointed out in reference to Thompson specifically and this can be applied to Ginyard as well is everyone is playing better. When Lawson went out it became an all hands on deck situation where players had to step up or the team loses games. That is a testimony to the coaching and also an indicator of this team’s toughness and maturity. The bottom line is guys like QT, Ginyard, Thompson and even Stepheson and Graves all stepped in to fill the void and right the offensive ship in the absence of Lawson. The result of this will be Lawson returning to a team with players who have a better idea of how to contribute, especially on offense. And the defense is most definitely improving to the point I think we can slowly start moving that down on the list of concerns.
The road is still a long one but two weeks ago many UNC fans were fairly nervous about whether this team could get it together in time to make a run for the title. In my opinion that coming together is happening as we speak.