UNC vs. Eastern Kentucky Live Blog: 2007 NCAA Tournament

Tonight the Tar Heels begin their run toward the Final Four in their first round game against Ohio Valley Conference champion Eastern Kentucky. For a preview of UNC, read my article on what UNC must do to win the title. The only way the Colonels can keep it close is if their guards, Mike Rose and Adam Leonard, hit the three early and often. Then again, perimeter defense has been one of our weaknesses all season. God help me if this is the first 1-16 upset. But I doubt it.

10:07 pm: We in Tar Heel country should dedicate this year’s run to Roy Williams’ sister, who died last night.

Hansbrough has a different mask today, and it seems to be working, as his baseline shot draws first blood. 2-0, UNC.

10:09 pm: 7-0, UNC. Lawson hits a three, and Ellington scores on a putback. They might be running away with this game already.

10:10 pm: 13-3, UNC. Mike Rose finally gives the Colonels their first score, but Hansbrough gets another basket inside, and Lawson gets a four-point play (score, foul, miss, rebound, score again).

10:11 pm: 15-3, UNC. Ellington gets another easy layup. This is getting really ugly, really fast.

10:19 pm: 19-3, UNC. The Heels are playing so well, the game looks like practice so far. Frasor travels, our first mistake of the game.

10:22 pm: 24-6, UNC. Rayshawn Terry, Winston-Salem Native, gets the night;s loudest cheer after hitting a three.

Hansbrough looks so much more comfortable with his new, sleeker mask.

10:24 pm: 26-8, UNC. Mike Rose has all 8 of E. Kentucky’s points in the first 8 minutes.

2nd TV timeout.

10:28 pm: 26-10, UNC. Julian Mascoll finally puts someone other than Mike Rose on the board for the Colonels.

10:30 pm: 34-12, UNC. WAYNE’S WORLD! WAYNE’S WORLD! PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT! WHOOOOOOOO! (riff) He;s having a big game so far tonight. Brandan Wright scores to give the Heels triple the Colonels’ score, 36-12.

10:33 pm: 39-14, UNC. There’s just something creepy about Dick Enberg using the phrase “attracting young players”.

10:41 pm: 41-20, UNC. Break up the Colonels! They scored a whopping sic unanswered points on the Tar Heels! AHHHH!!!

Brandan Wright returns us to sanity.

10:44 pm: 41-26, UNC. Adam Leonard hits an unbelievable shot, and before the first half’s final TV timeout, the Colonels have reduced the lead to 15. Eastern Kentucky is on a 12-2 run.

This is one of UNC’s big remaining problems. They get too comfortable with a lead before it it truly becomes out of reach.

10:48 pm: We now have a reason to want to absolutely obliterate Eastern Kentucky. Apparently their coach, Ken Neubauer, proposed to his wif at midcourt of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Booo…

10:50 pm: 45-33, UNC. The Tar Heels are really not in this game mentally. They’re doing exactly what they shouldn’t do, and the Colonels have cut the lead in half because of it.

10:53 pm: At halftime, UNC leads 47-35. UNC has a double-digit lead at halftime of an NCAA Tournament game. And yet I’m really really mad at how the Tar Heels played. They really mentally left the building after gaining a quick 25 point lead. And as you can plainly see, when we mentally check out, almost any team can compete with us. This game should already be over, but we have allowed the Colonels to hang around. UNC needs to make some serious adjustments in the second half.

11:12 pm: The second half begins.

11:15 pm: 47-39, UNC. No! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! UNC turns the ball over again, Eastern Kentucky slams is home, and the Colonels are within 8.

11:16 pm: 47-42, UNC. Adam Leonard hits another three, and Eastern Kentucky is within five. They’ve outscored us 30-8 in their run.

11:19 pm: 48-44, UNC. Who are you, and what have you done with the real Tar Heels? Did Coach K set you up to this? What kind of sick act has a Tar Heel committed t=for this team to have that kind of karma?

First TV timeout of the second half.

11:23 pm: AAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! MY EYYYESS!!! Brandan Wright is shooting free throws!

11:24 pm: 51-44, UNC. UNC finally gets a basket, off a big block on defense by Wright. The Heels were finally able to run their transition offense.

11:26 pm: 53-44, UNC. The Heels force another turnover, and it leads to another basket, this time by Hansbrough.

The crowd is really into the game now.

11:27 pm: 55-46, UNC. Hansbrough hits another shot to bring the lead back to double digits, but the Colonels immediately respond.

11:31 pm: 57-46, UNC. Lawson delivers a great pass inside to Ginyard, who gets an easy layup and bring the Tar Heel lead back to double digits.

11:36 pm: 60-48, UNC. Hansbrough gets the basket and the foul inside. Darnell Dials was simply overmatched.

11:39 pm: UPDATE: Xavier wins an unbelievable game against BYU, 79-77.

11:40 pm: 67-52, UNC. Terry has suddenly come up big to extend the lead back to 17 before the Colonels stop the run. Terry always seems to be quiet for the first half, but come up big when the Heels need him most.

11:44 pm: 71-52, UNC. Terry scores again, a layup that he made look easy, and UNC has a 19 point lead with 8 minutes left.

I don’t care how much Axe product you use. If you’re ugly, girls will not be attracted to you.

11:48 pm: 75-54, UNC. Brandan Wright hits a noce shot inside to extend the lead to 21. With 5 and a half minutes left, the Colonels are pretty much done at this point.

11:49 pm: 77-56, UNC. I can’t recall the last time UNC fans have had to scream “TAR! HEELS! TAR HEELS!” in a stadium this late at night.

11:51 pm: 81-58, UNC, 3:00 left. Wright puts the exclamation point on this game with a huge dunk to put the Heels up 23.

11:55 pm: Bring in the benchwarmers! We should not have three of our starters still in the game.

11:58 pm: The game ends, as UNC wins 86-65. Overall, UNC played 20 good minutes, 10 great minutes and 10 horrendous minutes of basketball. The Colonels can hold their heads high knowing that they outplayed one of the best teams in college basketball for 10 to 15 minutes, outscoring them 32-9 for a stretch of time.

Meanwhile, I can take solace that I’m the last undefeated player in Just Call Me Juice‘s Bracket Challenge. I was the only player who was 12 for 12, and so far I’m 15 for 15. Pitt is going to beat Wright State, which will give me my first loss. but still. I can say that I was the last undefeated player. Kind of like Clemson. And knowing my history in bracket predictions, my fall may be just as meteoric. But let me cherish this moment. Please.   

Chris Duhon Has Really Hit The Skids

I’ve heard a lot of people say that’s difficult to adjust to life in the NBA. I have taken that statement for granted, but I never believed that the adjustment would be this difficult. There are a lot of seedy characters you meet, and they can end up taking advantage of you just because you’re famous. But I had never seen such a clear example until now. Here we see Chris Duhon, accomplished Duke Player and and Chicago Bulls backup point guard, spending his free time working as a male stripper as a favor to his marijuana dealer, for whom he owes hundreds of dollars.

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Who’s that guy handing out more cash? Pacman Jones?

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I was shocked! That’s more of Chris than I needed to see. Didn’t Coach K teach him to stay away from such people? He’s from Chicago, he needs to tell Chris rule #1: Don’t let the customer touch you!

(photo gallery found via Deadspin)

What North Carolina Must Do to Win The 2007 NCAA Championship

Tonight UNC begins its march to the Final Four at 9:40 pm against Eastern Kentucky. This year’s team is so unpredictable, I’m not quite sure I won’t be blogging the first 1-16 upset in history. But here are a few things that the Tar Heels can do for the next few weeks to ease my worries and possibly bring a 6th National Title.

  1. Maintain focus. The biggest issue for the Tar Heels is that their focus has been lax at junctures of the game that allow opponents to stay in the game. I have seen numerous times that UNC has the ability to put an opponent away in very little time. The most striking example was in Tuscon, when the Tar heels went from down one with 9 minutes to go in the first half to up 18 at halftime. UNC ultimately beat Arizona by 28, and Brandan Wright and Marcus Ginyard, two of our best players, were out of the game. This proves one of two things: either that UNC has the quick strike ability but allows their collective mind to wander off before they finish the job, or UNC works more efficiently with a smaller rotation. Which brings me to my next point:
  2. Don’t listen to the critics, Roy. Have at least 10 guys get significant minutes. We have perhaps the deepest team in the tournament field. If we’re going to survive the likes of Texas and Georgetown before heading to the Final Four, we’ll need to get at least 8-10 minutes out of 10 players.  Doing this conserves our energy and saps our opponents’. If we can dictate the pace of the game, only the very elite opposition can keep up.
  3. Put in Quentin Thomas instead of Bobby Frasor. I have made no secret that I think Quentin Thomas is a better point guard right now for our style of play than Bobby Frasor, at least this year. Frasor has missed a lot of time with a foot injury, and he seems to be a step slower than his freshman year. The minutes that Ty Lawson is on the bench will be valuable, and point guard such as Marquette’s Dominic James, Michigan State’s Drew Neitzel and Texas’ D.J. Augustin would tear Frasor apart. If Wes Miller guards them, maybe it can work, but that creates a new set of problems. Yes, Q can get out of control sometimes, but he’s better suited to keep teams like Texas on their heels.
  4. Hope that we face USC in the Sweet 16. Because I have no idea how we’re supposed to stop Kevin Durant.
  5.  Feed the paint. Brandan Wright and Tyler Hansbrough remain the two best players on this team, and therefore they need to get the ball as much as possible. Wright was a scoring machine in the ACC Tournament, and did very good job of picking up Hansbrough’s offensive slack. Still, I would like to see him rebound better. As for Hansbrough, he’ll need to regain his pre-Gerald Henderson form. Rebounding is also key to giving the Heels more opportunities and taking opportunities away from the opposition.
  6. Wayne Ellington. For most of the season, Ellington seemed to be the big weakness in our starting lineup. In the ACC Tournament he shined not only as a shooter but as a defender. For UNC to get to the Final Four they’ll need that kind of play out of him.

At least four of these six things need to happen for the Tar Heels to make it to Atlanta. There’s very little room for error in the East bracket.