If there is one thing that you can say about UNC Basketball when it comes to tournaments is that the program does enjoy going to the Maui Invitational. When #9 North Carolina (4-0) defeated Mississippi State (1-2) by the final of 95 to 49 it was the 14th win (out of 16 games) overall and the tenth straight game that the Tar Heels have won in this tournament, which they have won three times.
Before I talk about the game, which in many ways was over before the first television time out and without a doubt before the first half had hit the ten minute mark, let’s just say that the Bulldogs are not a good team. Their first year coach has assembled a team with some left over players from the former man at the helm, some JUCO talent and some first year recruits. But between injuries and disciplinary problems this team is going to see much more losses than wins in the 2012-13 campaign. On the other hand, this does not mean that what the Heels did in this game is something to just set aside because of the competition, cause it’s not.
This team, as I have said many times, is both young and talented and games like the one that North Carolina played yesterday is going to bring both confidence to each member of the squad, as well as gelling between each other. Even Desmond Hubert, who once again started, played well. Without a doubt this was the best performance of the young season, scoring six points to go with two rebounds and two blocks, but most of all the sophomore looked a lot more at ease when playing his 17 minutes on the night. The way he played in the first half was the reason why the sophomore started the second half for the first time this year. In all, the inside game was not as used as it has been in the first three match ups, with James McAdoo scoring 10 and grabbing four boards, and the pair of freshmen getting four points, 15 rebounds and four blocks combined.
But that was because in this game Carolina hit from the outside the arc like they were making lay ups. As a whole the squad shot 15 for 32 (46.9%), including 8 for 14 in the first half, from beyond the arc, with the trio of Reggie Bullock (4 for 5), Leslie McDonald (6 for 9), who scored a career high 21 points and a career best six treys, and P.J. Hairston (4 for 7), who scored a career high 18 points, being the main contributors. Dexter Strickland scored 10 points, but it was the other things on the court, the six steals and five assists, that made the senior stand out. On the offensive side if there was one thing that might have not been as good as head coach Roy Williams wanted was certain plays from J.P. Tokoto. On the other hand this is going to freshmen now and then, and I am sure that the young man is going to learn and bounce back from it.
The three sign was made plenty during the game against the Bulldogs
Overall I liked the way that the team did not become stagnant as the score gap widen. However, coach Williams did pull out the five players on the court to give them a small talk in the second half when the play got somewhat sloppy. Without a doubt this team needs remember that not all opponents are going to be like the Bulldogs and they need to always be focused when on the court. Another concern in this game was how many offensive boards this team gave up against a much inferior team. This needs to be addressed and fixed quickly if the Tar Heels want to win another tournament in the 50th state.
The team has less than a day to prepare for the next game as they will take on another squad nicknamed Bulldogs, this time being Butler, who won its game against Marquette with a three pointer buzzer beater. The two squads will tip off at 8:00 p.m. EST and will be televised on ESPN. Make sure to come back this afternoon to check out my preview about the game. And as usual for more information about North Carolina basketball and/or football, teams and players, present and past, make sure to check back often on isportsweb!