UNC got their first signature win of the season when they defeated 20th ranked UNLV at the Dean Dome on Saturday. Perhaps bigger than the win was the way the Tar Heels did it, with hustle and heart.
After being bounced from the national rankings after their third ugly loss of the season to unranked Texas, UNC faced a near must win against the Runnin’ Rebels and came up big. The Tar Heels talent has never been questioned but their lack of intensity especially on the defensive end of the court has been suspect all season long. Their ability to play a 40 minute game and finish off teams they are supposed to beat was also a huge weakness for the team this year.
For at least one game UNC put those concerns to bed with a great performance against a very good UNLV team. The Heels got off to a big lead and held on after several surges by the Rebels fueled by great effort and smart defensive play.
Will this be enough to get the Heels back in the Top 25? Unfortunately not as only one team ranked between 20th and 25th lost this week (UNLV to UNC) and no other team in the national rankings suffered a third loss.
Teams 20-25 performance this week:
#20 UNLV: Lost to UNC and fell to 11-2 on the season
#21 Notre Dame: Defeated Niagara and improved to 12-1 on the season
#22 Oklahoma State: Off since 12/22 record 10-1
#23 NC State: Defeated Western Michigan and improved to 10-2 on the season
#24 Pittsburgh: Defeated Kennesaw State and improved to 12-1 on the season
#25 Kansas State: Defeated UMKC and improved to 10-2 on the season
The good thing is that none of those victories by these teams were particularly impressive and with conference play around the corner these teams will be challenge by better competition starting next week.