UNC Basketball Game Review: Tar Heels vs Maryland



The top seeded North Carolina Tar Heels took on the Maryland Terrapins who defeated the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest in round one in an impressive 22 point blowout.  The Terps come into this game desperately needing to pull off the upset against a Carolina team that is rolling into the ACC tournament.  The nations fourth ranked Heels need the win almost as bad as MD does, desperately clinging onto that #1 seed in the big dance.  The critics have been tough on UNC all year long and a loss to the Terps would be devastating to their chances of securing the coveted top ranking.  This opening round contest provided the Heels with another chance to either silence the critics and prove yet again how much they have improved since some early season stumbles.  The game also threatened to add more fuel to the fire for those who have been so critical of the team this season.  The goal is to not only beat MD, but blow them out and not expend too much energy in doing so.  Last season the Heels first two ACC Tourney games went down the wire and they were worn out by the time the title game with Duke rolled around.

How it went down: Carolina got out to a nice early lead as the team controlled the boards and executed in transition nicely.  Kendall Marshall established himself offensively early with five quick assists to set the ACC record.  He also confidently nailed a three pointer when MD left him all alone.  Marshall accounted for the first six baskets of the game assisting on five and scoring on the other.  John Henson gave us a scare early in the first half when he took a hard fall to the floor while attacking the basket.   Roy Williams had to call a timeout on the ensuing possession to get Henson out of the game who headed straight for the locker room with an injured wrist.  The spotlight on freshman James Michael McAdoo instantly shines brighter and Tar Heel Nation collectively holds their breath as the ACC Defensive Player of the Year got checked out by UNC doctors.  I’m not sure about all of you, but I could actually hear the sigh of relief that everyone let out when Henson re-entered the game around the eight minute mark in the first half.  After a brief return, Henson returned to the bench after catching a pass and experiencing obvious pain as a result.  Collectively (if your anything like me at least) collectively panics inside once again.

The defense against Maryland looked good early, the baskets the Terps did get were tough, contested shots.  Still, MD hung in there through the first eight minutes of the game keeping the lead under double digits.  The Terps cut the lead down to as low as three points during Henson’s stint in the locker room.  The lead went right back to nine at the seven minute mark.  All of MDs first 18 points came from their perimeter, zero points by anyone working inside against Tyler Zeller and John Henson.  Terrell Stoglin, the conferences leading scorer started off hot connecting on his first five FG attempts.  MD did a nice job of slowing down the pace of the game and not allowing UNC to run wild after the first five or six minutes of the game.  He then missed his last five shots of the first half.

In the last six minutes of the first half, MD continued to hang around and keep the lead at a manageable level.  The lineup Roy Williams trotted out at around the four minute mark was a real head scratch-er.  Roy inserted Desmond Hubert to play with McAdoo, PJ Hairston, Reggie Bullock and Marshall.  I guess Roy never looks at his teams season statistics, if he did he would know how bad the numbers are when Henson, Zeller and Harrison Barnes all sit at once.  With Henson injured, the rotation needs to adjust to something other than just the next man up in my opinion.  Inserting a freshman like Hubert makes no sense in this situation.  Play senior Justin Watts if Zeller needs a break and give McAdoo an extended run.  When Z takes a break, Barnes needs to be on the floor.  When all three of the teams top scorers are on the bench the offense is severely limited in the half court.  Then the lineup became even more puzzling when Roy chose to rest Marshall and insert freshman Stillman White into the game with 2:45 to go in the half.  Watching it gave me the feeling the coaching staff was satisfied with a small lead at half time and would worry about making adjustments to take control of this game at the break.  With Barnes and Zeller back in the lineup the Heels quickly extended the lead to ten points at the break.

The score at the half UNC 36 MD 26

The first possession of the second half was my favorite type of first possession of any game or half.  A Tar Heel three pointer, Reggie Bullock stepped up and nailed the shot from the elbow in the first seconds of the half on a Marshall assist.  The Tar Heels have not been a good three point shooting team this season, but with players like Bullock, Hairston and Barnes (and now Marshall I guess?) they have the potential to light it up and it’s something I’ve been waiting anxiously for all season long.  Marshall notched his ninth assist of the game just two minutes into the second half.  I feel like I could write a 5000 word column on how good of a PG this kid is and still not even begin to do him justice.

John Henson remained in the locker room at the start of the second half, early reports were that the X-Rays taken at half time were negative showing no breaks.  About two minutes in Henson made his way back to the bench.  Right as he did, his replacement in the lineup, freshman James Michael McAdoo took the ball baseline and finished with a aggressive, pretty two handed dunk.  I continue to see flashes that this kid can be special and I will contend that his breakout game is coming until he proves me right.  Trust me everyone, we’re not just looking at a future starter/good player here, this is a future first team All-American type of talent just waiting to blossom.

Carolina started having their way in the second half playing more aggressive defense, continuing their dominance on the boards and regaining control of the tempo.  MD found a way to go on a mini run each time the Heels threatened to extend the lead beyond 13.  A run of MD threes and a few Tar Heel turnovers between the 14 and 12 minute marks cut the lead back down to seven.  Barnes put the lead right back to double digits with a coast to coast pretty finish after a transition steal, drawing the foul and the three point play.  The lead quickly stabilized above double digits by the 11 minute mark.  The Tar Heels were suddenly executing in the half court, and controlling the tempo. Meanwhile MD finally stopped hitting those highly contested shots they had been knocking down all game long.

Tyler Zeller picked up his fourth foul with 9:57 left in the game.  With Henson sitting on the bench, the Heels depth would be tested as Desmond Hubert re-entered the game.  McAdoo looked good offensively and he was strong on the boards.  He’s still a little lost on the defensive end of the floor though.  He plays with a lot of energy and is trying hard out on the court but remains very raw as a defender.

Roy had to be proud watching the team execute with Henson hurt and Zeller in foul trouble.  They played hard defense, everyone hit the boards, especially the perimeter players during this stretch.  And maybe even more importantly, they played smart, effective, patient basketball on offense in the half court.  Carolina is better than any other team in the nation at transition offense.  But you cannot always rely on that, especially against elite teams, especially during March Madness.  Over the last five games the Heels have looked much better in this aspect, especially in their last three contests.  Gone is the stagnant, stand still, wait for Marshall to find someone wide open or Barnes to create.  Gone is the terrible habit of everyone shooting whenever they had an inch of room to get off a shot.  The team has engineered a patient, inside out offense.  And when they play like that in the half court, no team can stop them.  Everybody knows this team can and will run on you for portions of the game.  But when the game slows, it’s nice to see UNC answer that bell and play solid, team basketball.  With the talent on this team, when the execution is their they are as dangerous as any team in basketball.

The team that came out in the second half of this game is a national championship caliber team.  It’s hard to nitpick a 16 point victory, and a lot of the time, doing exactly that is what I scream at my TV about when others do it.  To anyone watching today’s opening game in the ACC Tournament for the Tar Heels it’s obvious that even a 16pt win over MD isn’t near their potential.  The way freshman PJ Hairston and James Michael McAdoo played today, with Henson back in the lineup, this team really has the look of one peaking at exactly the perfect time.

Key Takeaways: Kendall Marshall truly is a special player.  In less than five minutes of action he had already collected five assists capturing the all time ACC record.  I still cannot shake the thought of how the eff this guy was left off the All-ACC first team when he is so obviously the best point guard in the country.  The injury to John Henson is huge, even if he is able to play for the rest of the season, if he is anything less than 100% healthy it’s big trouble for Carolina.  It could also turn out to be a good thing for the Heels.  If Henson comes back in the next round without any ill pain in his wrist and is able to play at 100%.  Then all this turns out to be is a nice rest of Henson and some extended playing time for a talented freshman that needs experience in James Michael McAdooPJ Hairston took the ball strong to the basket early in the first half and had a nice finish, I’ve been waiting all year for PJ to improve his shot selection.  A great athlete, the freshman has limited his game to nothing more than a jump shooter despite struggling so bad with his shot that his FG% has dropped to under 30% for the year.  He played pretty well in the second half also finishing strong and actually moving around without the ball in the half court instead of just standing around the three point line.

Player of the game: The POG in this one goes to, Kendall Marshall.  Setting the all time ACC single season record for assists, collecting five in the first few minutes of the game.  Knocking down three shots from beyond the arc and scoring in double digits yet again.  Marshall is on a tear after scoring more than 20 points in two of his last four game, including lighting up Duke for the ACC regular season title.  Kendall notches another double-double with 13 points on 5-9 shooting including 3-4 3PFG.  Honorable mention goes to Reggie Bullock who really did a nice job buckling down defensively on Stoglin after he got off to a hot start.  Bullock also tied Barnes for the Heels top scorer with 15pts on 6-10 shooting including 3-53PFG.  Freshman James Michael McAdoo had his best overall game of his career today.  It wasn’t quite the breakout game I’ve been calling, but he had an excellent overall day.  In 29 big minutes off the bench in relief of the injured John Henson and foul ridden Tyler Zeller, McAdoo was huge.  The frosh scored 14pts on 5-8 shooting, he knocked down 4-6 from the line and grabbed eight big rebounds.  Just as important for the young player, McAdoo had zero turnovers and zero personal fouls.  He looked good moving around the court tonight and confident with the ball in his hands and with his shot.  This is a great sign for North Carolina heading into the tournament.  If McAdoo can step forward and become the Marvin Williams, Ed Davis type of big man off the bench down the stretch, it gives UNC another weapon they haven’t had all season long.

Up Next: The Terps wait and hope they get into the NIT.  I don’t think they get into the NCAA by any means but I’ve been wrong before.  The Tar Heels move onto the next round of the tournament, closer to the championship and a #1 seed in the big dance.

Box Score:

Maryland Terrapins
James Padgett, F180-30-00-211000200
Alex Len, C160-40-00-003102020
Sean Mosley, G342-110-56-8262101210
Terrell Stoglin, G3411-215-113-3112200230
Nick Faust, G324-131-52-4141113311
Ashton Pankey, F303-30-01-128101147
Mychal Parker, G243-51-21-114311428
Berend Weijs, C60-00-00-000001120
Jon Dillard, G10-10-00-000000000
John Auslander, F20-00-00-002000000
Jonathan Thomas, G31-11-10-200000113
North Carolina Tar Heels
Tyler Zeller, F294-80-06-7372012414
John Henson, F71-20-01-204001003
Harrison Barnes, F326-130-23-6072310015
Reggie Bullock, G316-103-50-0013000115
Kendall Marshall, G325-93-40-00312206213
Justin Watts, G70-20-00-001001010
Stewart Cooper, F10-00-00-000000000
David Dupont, F10-00-00-000000000
Patrick Crouch, G10-00-00-000000000
Stilman White, G81-20-10-000010122
Desmond Hubert, F60-00-00-211010040
P.J. Hairston, G153-61-32-312100109
Jackson Simmons, F10-10-00-001000000
James Michael McAdoo, F295-80-04-6381100014

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