USA TODAY Sports
Aside from some nice McAdoo dunks, Paige approaching double-digits in assists, a 60% effort beyond the arc, and "Team Points" being our seventh-leading scorer thanks to a Joel James-Boris Bojanovsky freak play, Sunday's 79-58 win over Florida State was about as ho-hum as a 20-point beating gets.
Which is perfectly fine by me.
When you can find cause to be frustrated about 9-point road wins at Clemson, and no cause to jump out of your seat at 20-point home wins against FSU, things are headed in the right direction.
If you're finding fault with anything in the Heels' last two outings, it's probably the fact that we let a 14-point second-half lead fall to 7 in the closing minutes at Clemson, and watched a 20-point second-half lead dwindle to 12 with about ten minutes to play Sunday.
Critics will point to an inability to put teams away, to knock them out when they're on the ropes. More objective viewers will note that the criticism is premised on the fact that we have a 14- or 20-point lead to begin with, which isn't a bad place to start, and probably denotes some pretty high-level play on both ends of the floor. This is particularly true on the defensive end.
It was good to see P. J. get back on track from three yesterday, but more impressive than the offense he brings to the small lineup is the job he's done defensively on opposing 4-men. Hairston held the long and athletic Okaro White to 0 points, 0 rebounds, and one FG attempt in the first half Sunday, and 6 and 4 in 33 minutes for the game.
This comes after holding Milton Jennings to 5 first-half points and 3 first-half rebounds, as the Heels jumped out to a 14-point halftime lead at Clemson, and impressive work done on C. J. Leslie and the mass of Robert Carter Jr. in the two preceding outings.
Hairston will face a tough test against Maryland's Charles Mitchell, James Padgett, and Shaquille Cleare this Wednesday, and all eyes will be on the not-so-power forward match-up Saturday with Duke's newest nominee for Player of the Year, Ryan Kelly.
The FSU win, coupled with Virginia's loss to Boston College, also puts the Heels in sole possession of third place in the ACC and in the enviable position of controlling their own fate regarding a Thursday bye in the tournament.
If we win out, third is ours. If we lose to Maryland and beat Duke, we'd win the tie-breaker for fourth against State and lose the tie-breaker for third to Virginia (should both of those teams win out). Beat Maryland and lose to Duke, and we'd need State or Virginia to drop one of their last two games. Lose both and it's "Hello, Erick Green" at noon on Thursday.
Our ability to take it one game at a time, has led to five straight wins and an 11-5 conference record that's about as good as anyone could have hoped for this past fall.
Here's to hoping we have one more unremarkable win in us come Wednesday.