Twenty-four hours later and recapping Monday’s game still brings smiles: UNC 88 – Syracuse 79 in overtime! That was interesting and entertaining! Surviving the junk (zone) defense that Syracuse plays and 36 points from Cole Swider acting as a tournament bid dream killer was big for the Tarheels. Some might want to throw out the stats and move on but remember the 21 assists on 29 made baskets. Moving the ball works! Remember the 44 rebounds. Hustle made it happen! Brady Manek led UNC with 22 points on 9-18 shooting in 43 minutes of action. Caleb Love contributed 21 points on a night when his shooting was off until he lit up the scoreboard near the end of the regular period, then helped put the game away in overtime with two 3-pointers and an and-1. RJ Davis added 17 points, shooting 5-11 from three, while Amando Bacot gave his usual double-double with 17 points and 18 rebounds. Add Leaky Black’s 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists and Puff Johnson’s defense and energy over 15 minutes of play and you have a happy but tired team that’s ready for a day off!
This North Carolina team has accomplished a lot during what seems like an up and down season with inconsistent play. Pile on criticism by fans and media that questioned everything from who was hired as coach, to defensive effort and understanding what it means to wear Carolina Blue, and you have a team with a reputation that may not represent how well they have actually performed. True, we cannot ignore the losses. Every loss was bad! I watched all eight! Like many fans, I was also frustrated at some point during every win and just as annoyed by media coverage and the more than deserved airtime given to the likes of Jerry Palm and his attempts at humor in describing the ACC as “Duke and the 14 dwarfs.”
UNC has managed to win 22 games, scored 78.1 points per game, made 255 three-point baskets, averaged 76.6% while making more free throws than its opponents have attempted, outrebounded opponents by 8 per game, and had more assists, more steals, and more blocks than opponents. Plus, this team has never lost more than two games in a row and have had win streaks of 3-5-2-2-4-2 and 4 games. Yes, this team has some concerns, but maybe we gave up before giving them time to develop. Perhaps it’s time to be more patient. Trust the process and watch this team as they continue to exceed expectations.