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UNC 102, LIU 87: There's a Reason 2-Seeds Almost Never Lose

Not a lot to say about this one, because although the Heels could never really put Long Island away in the second half, it never really felt like a close, compelling game, either. UNC was just obviously better and had vastly superior (read: taller) athletes, which allowed them to sleepwalk through a good deal of the game behind 28 and 25 points from John Henson and Tyler Zeller, respectively. This could be seen as encouraging that Carolina whipped together several 15-point-or-so runs whenever they wanted to, but fans are still biting their collective lip a bit because we like to think that a true champion, as evidenced by Duke’s performance early in the day, crushes the inferior competition from the start and never lets up. UNC looked to start the game that way, only to have the Blackbirds put together a 12-0 spurt and tie the game at 33 midway through the first half.

From there Harrison Barnes put together a few quick scores and the Heels extended their lead to double-digits, where it never really wavered. Still, areas of concern include the high number of careless outlet passes LIU picked off (Carolina turned it over 18 times) and the lack of perimeter scoring (3-17 from 3 as a team, including Leslie McDonald going cold for the first time in a long time, shooting 0-5 from distance and 0-7 overall), but there were some definite bright spots like the team shooting 31-42 from the line, a FT percentage (74%) that I’d love to see from this team throughout the tournament. I don’t think the team defense was as bad as the score might indicate (as Ken Pomeroy noted on Twitter, that was LIU’s second-worst PPP performance of the season - understandable then how bullish the Pomeroy rankings were on the Blackbirds) but they definitely need to tighten the screws a bit going forward.

It was a convincing win - one that we’d be happy to have against an ACC opponent, but because of the perceived level of competition, the final margin seems disappointing. No matter; we’ve seen Carolina play up or down to their competition throughout much of the year. Hopefully that means we see the Heels come out firing on Sunday against Pac-10 champ Washington, because another inconsistent performance like that one against a better team could send UNC home.