Give the Heels credit: up just a point at halftime, UNC turned up their D in the second half (finishing with 11 steals and 7 blocks overall), expanding the margin into a double-digit lead they would comfortably hold for the rest of the game. However, what necessitated stepping up on defense was how putrid their shooting was in the first half, scoring just 33 points on 41 field goal attempts. As we expected for their first handful of games, Carolina looked a little lost on the offensive end of the floor for long stretches. The ball movement wasn't great, a handful of made 3-pointers early led to the whole team jacking up treys (at one point missing 13 in a row!) and they struggled to get the ball to James Michael McAdoo in places where he could actually do something with it, fighting all night against a steady stream of double-teams.
Fortunately, the renewed defensive effort in the second half led to a much more effective offense as well, with UNC actually moving the ball and getting open shots as they went one stretch hitting 6 of 7 threes, with the lone miss a heat-check shot by P.J. Hairston (who else?) who did manage to finish with 14 points... on 4-12 shooting. As Long Beach State got a little more tired and was forced to close out on wide-open shooters, McAdoo found room to work inside and finished with 18 and 8, including a few highlight-reel dunks where made it look unfair for a guy of his size to have such a quick first step. Marcus Paige seems to be settling in more and more with every game, as he had his first real standout offensive performance with 15 points on 6-10 shooting and 4 assists... albeit with 5 turnovers.
With a Long Beach State team that didn't feature anyone over 6'9", it's hard to figure out whether the Heels were playing great defense or just going up against a mediocre offensive team, but either way LBSU's final marks of 36% shooting overall and 21% from 3 were good numbers to see. The Heels also made LBSU settle for tough long-range shots in general, as their weakside rotation was solid all night and they had a number of big blocks that seemed to discourage the 49er guards in their efforts to feed the post.
On offense, Carolina finished with 78 points on 75 FG attempts, which really looks doubly horrific when you compare it to something like NC State's box score from the evening, where the Pack racked up 94 points on 62 FGAs (against UMass, but still). The fact that I had to couch a lot of the good things I wrote above with some slightly worrying notes illustrates that this team is pretty much what we thought they would be at the beginning of the year: really fun to watch most of the time, highly effective in stretches, but maddeningly inconsistent right now because they are so young and inexperienced. The only thing we can do is trust that will improve as the season goes along and Roy Williams starts firming up his rotation patterns slightly, which you even saw some signs of tonight as guys like Desmond Hubert, J.P. Tokoto and Luke Davis didn't see the floor much. Hopefully the young Heels take some positives away from the evening and Carolina can put two really good halves of basketball together at some point in Maui, which they will need as the level of competition gets taken up several notches.
Hawai'i, here we come!