Last night’s game between Hofstra and UNC saw a return to glory for the Tarheels amassing a 107-63 victory. After a disappointing 2009 season the expectations are high in Chapel Hill, NC this year and were on display in the rout of the Hoftstra Pride in Puerto Rico. The Tarheels jumped out to an early lead and never looked back last night playing solid ball on both ends of the court. The key to last night’s win was the team getting open looks beyond the perimeter landing 70% on a 12-17 basis. The question remains can this team continue to shoot at a high clip in the heat of formidable competition.
The first half was dominated by Harrison “Hollywood” Barnes who contributed 19 first half points shooting 4-4 from the 3-point line. Barnes was impressive using his length to grab 7 rebounds with 3 coming on the offensive end. His play is pivotal to the success of UNC this year due to the team’s lack of presence in the frontcourt. The surprising loss of the Ware brothers to UCLA, Ed Davis early departure to the NBA, coupled with the suspension of Will Graves leaves this Tarheels squad thin up front. Tyler Zeller and John Henson are the only two returning front court players for this team, but both are passive and could make the “NCAA All Charmin Team” for softness. While Henson has size and has the potential to rebound he has yet to show heart making Barnes’ presence on the glass essential to this team. Harrison Barnes was the number one recruit in the entire country and is a multi tooled player having range, size, grit, and the ability to slash and get to the cup. I know it’s early, but he could be the best SF the Tarheels have had since Jerry Stackhouse and Vince Carter.
UNC was able to reverse two major flaws from last year’s team, which lacked both heart and solid point guard play. Last night’s game featured scrappy play by Justin Knox, who was able to grab 8 rebounds in limited minutes (17). It was evident in 2009 that the team chemistry wasn’t there, but last night there was unselfish play and hustle on display. Erick Strickland’s play diving for a loose ball in the second half, with the game out of reach, showed the hustle that this team has lacked for over a year.
The point-guard situation was also a major question mark entering this season. Kendall Marshall and Larry Drew III contributed combining for 12 assists and 1 turnover last night. While these guards aren’t the flashy guards of Carolina past they proved last night that they play fundamentally solid and protect the ball. It is exciting for UNC to see the chemistry forming early evidenced in 29 assists on 40 FG attempts. The unselfish nature of this team was on display last night as it was great to see everyone get involved by making the extra pass creating open looks on the perimeter.
Carolina fans will learn more in the coming games about their team against the likes of Minnesota, Illinois and Kentucky in the next two weeks. While the team looked very impressive last evening there are still concerns over this team’s perimeter defense which was late to rotate over numerous times allowing Hofstra to shoot almost 40% from beyond the 3 point line. This team will need to find ways to get to the lane with their guards when they get into the heart of the ACC schedule.
All in all, it was great to see this team rebound from a lackluster opening game against Lipscomb. More to come tonight at 8:30 PM against Minnesota who presents challenges inside for UNC.
About the Author
Written by Brian Wubbe