Final Score: Texas 85, North Carolina 67
Twitter recap: Texas hangs 46 on UNC by halftime, pulls away late in potential CBI preview. Holmes shines, TOs bite UNC again. Hairston bad, Heels D worse.
No “D” in “North Carolina”. There are two smoking guns that a team defense isn’t worth a lick: either it gives up 61 points in a half to a mediocre mid-major or it makes Texas appear the least bit competent offensively. North Carolina checked off both in the span of four days. The Tar Heels perimeter defense was M.I.A. on Wednesday, so much so that even Myck Kabongo—ineligible and all—seemed poised to put up double figures from his seat on the bench. Only the stellar ball-hawking of James Michael-McAdoo, who is oddly Carolina’s best perimeter defender, even allowed the Heels to save face. Bear in mind, this is the same Texas team that managed just 41 points for the game against Georgetown two weeks ago. The Longhorns scored a season-high 75 points against Texas State last Saturday, a figure they eclipsed by ten points against North Carolina’s matador defense–the same defense, mind you, that surrendered 61 second-half points to Conference-USA doormat East Carolina over the weekend.
McAdoo. James is not the second coming of Bob, like you might think drudging through Jimmy Dykes’ effusing flattery of the 19-year-old talent. In fact, despite his outstanding defensive instincts, the North Carolina sophomore has been little short of disappointing in what was supposed to be his renaissance season. McAdoo is turnover prone, crude offensively and has an awkwardly clumsy gait which makes you wonder exactly why NBA scouts are fawning over this guy. Whatever scouts thought they saw in McAdoo’s “potential,” reality has since stepped in and debunked.
Jonathan Holmes. Lost in the shuffle of Kabongo-gate, McClellan’s inconsistencies and the plodding development of Cameron Ridley is that the light may have just gone on for Jonathan Holmes. The sophomore forward, who was hotly recruited as a high school phenom, erupted for 15 points (6-9 FG), pulled down eight rebounds and offered the highlight of the night (well, maybe second to Reggie Bullock’s beautiful flop in the first half) with one minute to play: a thunderous dunk in transition over a helpless Carolina defender. Holmes had a coming out party over the weekend against Texas State and parlayed that momentum into a second consecutive strong performance, this time against a name-brand program. Could this be just what the doctor ordered to get the talented sophomore going? For a team overly reliant on McClellan and Julien Lewis to shoulder the offensive load, Texas will hope Holmes emerges as a reliable third scoring option. Without Kabongo, whom the NCAA declared eligible for the remainder of the season late Wednesday night, the Longhorns have nowhere else to turn.
NIT Preview? In all, North Carolina lacks a true point guard; consistent perimeter scorers; a reliable scoring threat inside (freshman Brice Johnson, not McAdoo, who gets most of his points in transition or on easy put-backs, is the closest the Heels have to one); a coach capable of melding fledgling talent into a cohesive unit; and, a cast of players remotely interested in playing defense. Ole Roy’s “Run! Run! Run!” style hasn’t worked with this younger group quite as it had with each of his last two veteran-laden squads. This year’s team is far less composed, lacking the commitment to defense, balance in the half court and requisite floor leadership to feign the appearance of a quality basketball team. As long as the Tar Heels are relying on McAdoo’s overplay perimeter defense to manufacture points and spur runs, and as long as coach Williams is sticking to a run-n-gun philosophy that has his kids playing way too fast and out of control, they’ll find themselves firmly entrenched in bubble talk from now through March. Barring a radical change in philosophy, an overhaul on defense and major improvements from McAdoo, Bullock and Hairston, UNC seems destined to follow the same fate as the 2009-10 bunch—capped off by an unwelcome trip to the NIT. If that’s the postseason tournament that draws their name, the Heels could very well bump into [likely] NIT-bound Texas again.