|Dexter Strickland scored 14 Tuesday. Robert Willett photo.|
If the Tar Heels go on to accomplish great things later this season – a run to the Final Four, perhaps, or maybe more – the game last night might fade into memory. But maybe it shouldn’t. On a night when Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller shot a combined 13-for-36 from the field, UNC still won with ease because it found offense in unfamiliar places.
Dexter Strickland and Kendall Marshall aren’t relied upon for their ability to score. They’re both known for different things. But they combined to score 26 points last night, and what they accomplished in the first half helped UNC build a 15-point halftime lead. Yes, Zeller (16 points and 10 rebounds) and Henson (11 and 14) both had double-doubles.
But still, the Big Three struggled offensively on Tuesday night like they hadn’t all season. But for the most part, UNC still made it look easy, thanks to the help of Strickland and Marshall.
That Marshall and Strickland turned into scorers for one night wasn’t the only role reversal for the Tar Heels. UNC’s perimeter defense had been exposed at times this season – both in its ability to defend outside shots and to stop dribble penetration.
But the Heels’ perimeter defense on Tuesday night has rarely looked better. Miami, which entered with the third-best 3-point shooting percentage in the ACC, made just 3 of its 16 3-pointers. The three made 3’s represented a season low for the Hurricanes.
As good as Marshall played offensively, he turned in one of his better defensive performances, too. He wasn’t beaten off the dribble and he was one of three UNC players with two steals. Afterward, Marshall said the Heels’ perimeter defense was the key to the game.
UNC didn’t allow Miami many open looks from the outside. And the Hurricanes had difficulty penetrating, too.
Barnes had one of those nights, which would have been frustrating at any time. It had to be especially so because of how well Barnes had been playing before scoring a season-low 6 points on Tuesday night.
In UNC’s four games before Tuesday, Barnes had scored 25, 20, 18 and 26 points. He was playing his best basketball of the season. Then, against the Hurricanes, he made 2 of his 12 attempts from the field.
The weird thing is, Barnes scored UNC’s first four points of the game, and then didn’t score again in the first half. Near the start of the second half, he broke away for a lay-up and it looked like the kind of play that could maybe ignite his offensive game. But it didn’t.
Barnes was 2-for-2 on the first shots he attempted in each half. And 0-for-10 otherwise. Just one of those nights. UNC’s offense is never going to look all that great when its best player goes 2-for-12. Still, maybe it was for the best for this team. UNC still won easily while Marshall and Strickland built some confidence in their scoring ability.
-- Andrew Carter
|Harrison Barnes stubbled on offense against Miami, finishing with six points. Gerry Broome/AP photo|