Remember when the Tar Heels looked lost and confused on the court? Remember when they looked timid when they played on the road? It does seem like that was a long while ago, but we are most certainly in the same season. UNC crashed Maryland’s party tonight behind the hot shooting of PJ Hairston and Reggie Bullock and clinched themselves a first round bye in next week’s ACC tournament. Even with all the height that the Terps had over Carolina, the small lineup from Roy Williams continued to prove resilient and paid dividends for a 6th straight game.
This game would show that the Tar Heels never really lost control of the game fully after a Hairston three put the Heels up 29-27 in the first half, but the game certainly was tight throughout. Maryland battled on the defensive end and shot over 50% from inside the arc. Unfortunately for them, the Tar Heel offense did too good of a job spreading the floor and hit too many key threes for Maryland to recover. The loss seemingly puts Maryland in a must win situation this weekend against Virginia.
For Carolina, they defended the big seven footer Alex Len extremely well for the second time this season. Len, who is averaging 12 ppg and 8 rpg was held to a mere 8 and 7 and didn’t get a single block against the smaller James Michael McAdoo. Taking the probable top ten pick out of the game on his home floor the way the Heels did just proves that they can take on any big man in the country with this smaller set.
If Hairston and Reggie can continue this consistency of hot shooting from behind the arc, the Heels may be unbeatable. Both players went a combined 6-13 from deep and were the main reason that their lead never fully diminished. Both players just make each other so much better because they know where each other is within the offensive sets and they open the floor for each other so well. Once one player starts hitting, the other one is soon to follow and pretty soon, defenses like Maryland neglect other scorers like McAdoo or even Marcus Paige and that’s when Carolina truly pounces. As good as Maryland’s defense played at times, the almost were too aggressive getting back and I think that hurt them. When your two forwards can light it up from three, they take advantage as trailers and find themselves wide open because their defenders are already in position close to the basket. If the shooters continue to remain consistent, UNC will be tough to beat no matter what venue they play in.
I don’t think there is any question now about the Heels making the NCAA Tournament after tonight’s win especially with it being on the road. Now the Tar Heels are free to look towards Duke in their season finale and finish the season on a huge confidence high. Roy Williams continued to keep the rotation short tonight, but JP Tokoto did return to action after missing last game with a hand injury. It’ll be interesting to see if Roy continues to keep the bench short as his team advances. Big win tonight and Go Heels!