I was at the Dean Dome screaming my lungs out (again) to “fufill my journalistic obligations” and cover the UNC-Virginia game. Here are my observations from the muy entertaining matchup:
Reasons UNC Won:
- Getting to the free throw line–a lot–can overcome a poor shooting day. And the Cavs were more than happy to oblige, committing 27 personal fouls (although 5-7 of them were garbage fouls) and sent the Tar Heels to the line 41 times (of which UNC made “only” 26). By comparison, Virginia only went to the line 11 times in the game. Take this advantage away and the Heels likely lose this game, as they shot 37.8% from the field.
- UNC played excellent defense in the second half. In the first half, the turnover battle was pretty even: UNC had 7 seven turnover while UVa had 6. In the second half our defense improved substantially, as UNC forced 11 turnovers in the second half while committing only 3. Of Virginia’s 17 turnovers, 12 were a result of steals by the UNC defense. In the 12 minute second half stretch that ultimately won the game, the Heels outscored the Cavs 25-9. It’s worth repeating: UNC allowed 9 points in twelve minutes. This means one of two things: either our defense is no longer a weakness or Hyde came to play in the second half. Virginia is a very good team, so I’m prepared to guess the former.
- UNC’s second team outplayed UVa’s first team. Believe it or not, the team of five that played the best in this game was not the starting lineup of Hansbrough, Wright, Terry, Ellington and Lawson, but a second team of Hansbrough, Deon Thompson, Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard and Quentin Thomas/Bobby Frasor. The second team seemed to be a more defensive minded lineup, and UNC began to pull away when this lineup (or one similar to it) was on the court. And speaking of backups…
- I was right about Quentin Thomas, wasn’t I? Hah? Hah? In the second half with 12 and a half minutes to go and UNC up 53-52, Roy puts Q in the game. In perhaps the game’s most critical juncture, Q has 2 points, two assists (including a third play in which he made a great pass to Danny Green who the passed it to Hansbrough, who dunked AND the foul) and three rebounds in six minutes, at which point UNC had a double digit lead from which UVa could not come back. Q was put in the game in crunch time, and he absolutely delivered.
Causes for Concern:
- UVa’s backcourt was superior. With the exception of Q and Ginyard, UNC’s backcourt was seriously outplayed by the trio of Mamadi Diane, JR Reynolds and Sean Singletary, in spite that they were outnumbered nearly 3 to 1. The three combined for 43 of UVa’s 69 points, over 60%. UNC’s 8 backcourt players (Ellington, Lawson, Terry, Frasor, Miller, Green, Thomas, Ginyard) combined for 37 points (about 45% of scoring), 14 of which were free throws. The backcourt starters, Terry, Ellington and Lawson, made only 4 combined field goals the entire game. UNC is very fortunate to be a deep team, but if the Heels want to meet their championship aspirations, the starting backcourt must step up, or be replaced by the aforementioned Green, Ginyard and Thomas. Give the Cavs credit where credit is due; along with the Heels, they may have the best backcourt in the ACC.
- Don’t let the 16 points and 9 rebounds fool you; Brendan Wright had a bad game. Wright was only 5-16 FG shooting from the field, including several easy shots he didn’t make. Shaq’s free throw shooting is better than Brendan’s was on Wednesday. He dind’t pass the ball to the outside when he should have, instead fighting the defense himself. Most alarmingly, he seemed to be overpowered by the inferior frontcourt of Jason Cain and Laurynas Mikalauskas; it looked like he wasn’t strong enough for them. He needs to fix his game, and fast.
- Another slow start. UNC again began the game a little sluggish, and midway through the first half they had to overcome a 9 point deficit. They cannot continue to put themselves in early holes and expect to win.
- Q is already a fan favorite; it may be only a matter of time before before the Tar Heel faithful wear “Quentin Thomas Has A Posse” T-Shirts like they did for another fan favorite, former defensive specialist Jackie Manuel.
- If you ever go to the Dean Dome and want a barbecue sandwich (and honestly, who doesn’t?) go to the Amis Baptist Church Concession Stand near section 120. They have the good sandwiches; lots of roughly chopped meat, no sauce, nicely smoked meat, just a good sandwich. Those guys do it right.
- The Blues Brothers are back! And by that I mean those guys who dress up in Blues Brothers outfits and dance in the middle of the court in the second half while the band plays the theme song. They were on hiatus for a moth or so (mainly because these are new guys and needed more practice). It’s these kinds of useless, ridiculous rituals that make UNC fans care about the games even more. Kinda like Ramses crowdsurfing. C’mon, get the dunk Elwood!