Saturday, December 4, 2010

Defense, determination stand out as UNC knocks off Kentucky

North Carolina looked like a different team against Kentucky, and you can't help but be impressed by the Tar Heels' effort and determination in Saturday's 75-73 win at the Smith Center.

First of all, Carolina's defense was much improved over previous games. The Wildcats couldn't get good shots off in the final four minutes, and that allowed the Heels to grasp control. Justin Watts, as previously mentioned, is emerging as one of the Heels' best defensive players, and astute fans noticed he was on the floor often in the closing minutes.

It helps UNC that Reggie Bullock is now healthy and in the rotation. Coach Roy Williams subs him in for Harrison Barnes and also used a lineup that had Barnes at power forward (for John Henson) and Bullock at small forward.

Henson had a tremendous first half, but the star of this game was Tyler Zeller. Zeller is playing like an elite ACC player and scored against Kentucky's burly inside players. It was obvious Carolina fed him the ball on sets in the closing minutes. Zeller isn't Tyler Hansbrough - yet - but he produced like him on Saturday. His 27 points was impressive enough, but the calm he showed at the foul line, hitting all of his six free throws in the final 90 seconds, was extraordinary.

You can look at the minutes and tell where Roy Williams is going with this team (starters in bold):


That second five provides decent depth with players who will be used in certain situations, but there's little offense coming from the bench - that group was just 3 of 12 from the field against Kentucky.

Overall, Carolina still can't shoot from the outside - just 1 of 11 on 3-pointers Saturday - and that's going to be an issue for this team. The Tar Heels must make up for it with rugged defense and a running game, and that was the formula Saturday for an impressive win over Kentucky.

No comments:

Post a Comment