North Carolina mostly has been a good second half team this season, and the Tar Heels definitely needed both frames against Marshall on Tuesday night to reestablish themselves after their demoralizing defeat to Texas last weekend.
The Heels exhibited signs of aftershock in the first half, actually losing the lead to the Thundering Herd and playing poorly on both ends of the court. Roy Williams described his team’s performance as ‘tight” and cited Deon Thompson specifically, and the senior forward did struggle during the opening minutes of the game.
But Carolina exploded after the first couple minutes in the second half, pulling away for what on paper looks like a much more convincing victory than it actually was.
The most noteworthy takeaway from the contest was Roy Williams’ shifting of his personnel. Freshman David Wear started at wing forward to open the game, a promotion for him and a demotion for Will Graves (who did start the second half).
Additionally, freshman point guard Dexter Strickland now is regularly playing some minutes at shooting guard alongside Larry Drew, a move Williams was reluctant to make early this season.
Meanwhile, stringbean freshman big man John Henson actually played a couple minutes at power forward. The view here throughout was been that, at 6-10, and despite his sub-190 pound frame, Henson is better suited for the post than he is the wing. He hasn’t been an effective scorer at all on the perimeter this season, and he has difficulties defending opposing wings as well.
His minutes have gradually decreased over the season (though held steady the past couple weeks), and the Henson-at-the-three argument from the beginning was that Henson was too good not to play somewhere, and that the club’s frontcourt depth had forced him to the perimeter. But now that he is the third-string wing forward behind Wear and Graves, it appears he may have a better shot of earning playing time on the interior.
Moving on, sophomore Ed Davis quietly is establishing himself as one of the most dominant players in the ACC. He tossed in another 19 points and 10 rebounds against Marshall, adding three blocks as well.
Sophomore Tyler Zeller continues to emerge as an offensive weapon, going for 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Graves played with more urgency last night and amassed a double-double, with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
As a team, Carolina recovered from its embarrassing rebounding performance against Texas, beating Marshall to death on the glass and accumulating a 53-34 margin on the backboards.
The Heels’ continuation of non-conference games continues next Monday against Rutgers. To see the UNC/Marshall box score, click here.