Survive and advance. With UNC in the final stretch of the regular season and winning out being the first, best option for finishing first winning is more about survival than it is an exercise in aesthetics. This game was certainly not pretty but as far as games on the road against a good team capable of giving UNC fits, this is a big win. The three way tie for first in the ACC with Duke and FSU means losing a game is not an option. The Heels had their backs against the wall in this one but fought back answering a five point halftime deficit with a 43-29 second stanza to seal the deal.
Harrison Barnes was huge in this game as he put together the kind of performance most expected him to have. Barnes had 23 points and six rebounds. At times it was clear Barnes was in game takeover mode which did produce an ill advised shot or two but mostly Barnes got what he wanted. The zero turnovers is probably the most important stat for Barnes outside of the scoring especially when he is being proactive in attempting to create his own shot he did quite a bit in this one.
John Henson posted his eighth double-double of the ACC season with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Tyler Zeller just missed on double figures with nine points and eight rebounds. Zeller had his first real poor shooting night in ACC play but with Mike Scott going for 13 points and eight rebounds in a loss to Clemson, the ACC POY race really didn’t move one direction or the other. The UNC backcourt had issues scoring early but Reggie Bullock finally got on the board from beyond the arc hitting two threes in the second half including a late dagger to nearly salt the game away. Kendall Marshall had scoring issues and was pressed on the defensive end against the quicker Hurricanes. However he did have nine assists versus two turnovers.
For the second game in a row, UNC got some big contributions from the bench. James Michael McAdoo continues to surge with signs he is getting it. McAdoo has a small stat line but was aggressive and solid on the defensive end. Likewise P.J. Hairston, coming off a foot injury, is still struggling with his shot but not for lack of effort on his part. It is clear Hairston is out there trying to do as much as he can in other areas in hopes his shot will eventually start falling. He did have two really good looks but still cannot buy one. Still you applaud the effort if nothing else. The same goes for Justin Watts who is out there doing little things and playing within his role. Watts had a tip-in and got on the floor after a loose ball to cancel out a turnover he created. In short, the bench is helping far more than it is hurting which is a winning equation for UNC.
UNC moves to 9-2 in the ACC and waits to see if FSU and Duke can keep pace. Virginia Tech is at FSU in what could be an interesting game and NC State visits Duke which will definitely be worth watching.
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