Carolina 89, State 80
On the one hand, we lost. To the Tar Heels. Again. That makes six in a row and 12 out of the last 13.
On the other hand, I thought we played really well for about 30 of the 40 minutes of the game. We shot over 54% from the field, and shot over 50% from three-point range. Our offensive efficiency was a very solid 115.9.
But even a shooting performance like that can’t stop a team as talented as the Tar Heels on their home floor. Perhaps in the RBC Center, but not in the Dean Dome. The Heels shot 55% from the floor, 89% from the free throw line and only turned the ball over nine times while snagging six more rebounds than the Pack. Add it all up, and the Heels cranked out a blistering 129.0 offensive rating, averaging 1.29 points per possession. Straight-up deadly.
Gameballs go to sophomores Javi Gonzalez and Tracy Smith. Gonzalez continued his Lazarus act by scoring 18 to lead all scorers after being left for dead on the Pack bench just a couple weeks ago, including 16 in the first half. Smith picked up where Gonzalez left off in the second half, finishing with 15 points and eight boards.
“Where the hell where yous” go out to the Big Three: Costner, Fells and McCauley. Costner was clearly frustrated the entire game and finished with five turnovers, Fells never got in gear until it was too late and McCauley ended with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting with six rebounds. In Fells and McCauley’s last trips to Chapel Hill (and possibly Costner’s, as well), they can’t be pleased with their level of play in this game, especially at the beginning of the second half when the game was still within reach.
But at the end of the night, I can sleep alright, I suppose. It sure beats the hell out of how the team performed a year ago. There’s plenty of fight left in this team, and they brought it tonight. It was enough to get Roy to drop an F-bomb in the postgame presser.
Hey, I’ll take it.
I think we saw that this eight-man rotation can put up some serious points when they play well. If Gonzalez continues to grow at the point, and the Pack works on their defensive intensity, I think 7-9, possibly 8-8, is still within reach for this team, which would be one hell of an accomplishment when it looked like two wins in the conference were about all we State fans could hope for.