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UNC 84, NC State 64: That Old Familiar Feeling

[Editor’s Note: You may have noticed that since Zeke now lives in a country that is, unfortunately, 5 time zones removed from Chapel Hill, the site has been falling down on the job a bit when it comes to Carolina-related recaps and commentary. Well, we’re hoping to change that: Please everyone welcome friend of the site and new contributor Rob Weldon, who will be giving us UNC news from the sunny confines of California. Take it away, Rob.]

Well, hot dog!  The Harrison-Barnes-Global-Domination-Train-Has-Arrived-Day has finally – you guessed it – arrived.  (We think…)  Carolina’s most impressive win of the season comes in the midst of some rather mediocre wins.  I realize no win should be considered mediocre, but we just witnessed a whole vat of them.  Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami… Exciting as they were, they gave little hope to the Tar Heel faithful that this team was rounding into something special. 

However, hope came on the back of a beautiful game-winner down in Miami and just in time for the slumping Wolfpack.  Barnes scored 25 points on 10-16 shooting with six rebounds and, importantly, only one turnover.  It was the first time he has broken the 20 point plane in college. But the really notable thing is that Barnes’ great all-around performance was the highlight to an even greater all-around game for the Heels that ended with the starters twirling towels: truly a familiar UNC moment that has been lacking the past season and a half.  Almost made you feel bad for Tracy Smith. (Ed note: almost.)

The word for the entire team’s performance would be ‘assertive.’  They all finally put together their immense talent for a comprehensive victory (although it should be noted that 37% shooting in the first half is made much more attractive when the opposition is shooting 19%).  From Zeller’s regular and dependable defense and double digit scoring to Justin Knox’s beautiful short jumpers to the gaudy number Henson put together (16-16-7), the game felt great.  There were some boneheaded plays (I’m looking at you, Dex), but then much more vindication.  Dex and Zeller’s fast break passing beauty was a particular revelation mainly because Strickland finally showed that he can give the ball to teammates when they are in good positions.

Overall, the surprisingly solid defense we’ve seen this season still remained, but there was a little strut on offense.  There was some appearance of confidence and mojo and and… Was that a smile?!  Tar Heel fans, we can only hope this continues to be developed and becomes a trend.

Today the AP voted us #23 in the polls.  Based on the entire season, I’d say they’re suckers. But more games like the State beat-down and who knows; a genuinely deserved top 25 ranking?