All this character building is starting to wear me out.
What a bizarre game. Having watched more UNC games than I could reasonably count you get to a point where you start comparing certain games to others. This one actually reminded of two. With the way BC came out and Tyrese Rice just lit UNC up building a big lead I was reminded of the game against Georgia Tech in 2006 when Tyler Hansbrough scored 40 in rallying UNC from down 13 at half to win. Georgia Tech had similar 1st half stats as BC today shooting 61% from the floor and 9-10 from three to stake a 55-42 lead. In the second half it was all UNC outscoring GT 40-20 to win by seven. What I recall about that game was how matter of factly I watched it thinking “There is no way GT shoots like this in the 2nd half.” I was a little more apprehensive today since the stakes were higher but I sort of felt the same way, “There is no way Tyrese Rice can keep shooting like this in the 2nd half.”
Part of the feeling stemmed from the 2nd game this one reminded me of and that was the FSU game at Chapel Hill in 1993 when the Noles staked the big lead and on the way to the locker room you have Sam Cassell wagging his tongue at the cameras as he went down the tunnel. In much the same way you had Rice fanning himself after hitting threes and at the first half buzzer chest bumping with his teammates the same way you do when the game is over and you have won. I thought then that UNC might enjoy an edge in the second half since the Heels tend to be a team that shows up for the second half. Sure enough this proved to be the case with UNC more so in the offensive games brought by Danny Green and Wayne Ellington in the second stanza and the defense of Ty Lawson.
Beginning with Ty Lawson, it was obvious that he is not 100% but for all the noise we heard on message boards about his toughness, he clearly illustrated some in this game playing 21 minutes and locking down Tyrese Rice in the 2nd half. Rice was 10-14 from the field including 8-9 from three in the first half for 34 points. In the second half after scoring the first four points for BC with Quentin Thomas on him, Lawson came in and along with Marcus Ginayrd held Rice to 2-7 shooting(0-3 from three) and only eight points. Not bad for a one guy playing for the first time in six games while still not 100% on the ankle and the other with two bad wheels himself. It should be noted that UNC has apparently transitioned to this point where they can play a full second half of stellar defense if the game conditions warrant it. Then again I am not entirely convinced the 1st half was so horrible for UNC. The offense was bordering on dismal in the 1st half but the Heels still put up 40 points. The defense was not horrible in my opinion when it came to Rice, he was just flat out phenomenal. I have never seen anything like that in one half on the college level and for a while I thought he might actually break Danny Ferry’s ACC single game mark. Lawson did the job on him in the 2nd half and the team defense in general was good enough to force key turnovers and control the boards enough to get an 18-0 run to take the lead.
And while Hansbrough did not put together the best game he still managed a “mere” 25 points. He was basically all there was until Ellington and Green got heated up. In fact if you want to rally, Green is your guy to get it going with a couple of threes which happened when Roy decided to pull the five players on the floor and chat with them on the bench. This set off the run that gave UNC the lead(as it always seems to do) and from there is was UNC playing like the #2 team in the nation.
The one side story to this game is the play of Quentin Thomas. Roy said he was surprised at how “shook” QT looked and while we might could chalk this one up to the way Rice played, there is a fear that QT simply does not handle playing behind Lawson. One game is not enough to make a judgment on this issue and hopefully we will see better play from him against FSU and Duke as Lawson plays more minutes and gets back to form.