Monday, March 26, 2007

THE FULL BLOWN WHEELECTOMY

North Carolina’s strategy worked perfectly for 30 minutes. Then the wheels came off. The dreaded wheelectomy. Not a lug nut, a couple of lug nuts, not a wheel, but the full blown wheelectomy. All four came off, and it got ugly.

UNC went as cold as any good team has ever gone. Going from 9:32 to 2:21 without scoring a basket and shooting 1-10 from 9:32 until the end of the game. Make just one of those, win the game. Ty Lawson was 2 for 9, Ellington 2-11, Green 0-6 and Terry 4-13. Some of that is good defense, some of that is just what makes college hoops exciting and unpredictable. Some of it is just plain weird. Carolina missed 21 of their final 23 shots. That's hard to do.

To their credit, Georgetown shot 63% in the first half and 58% for the day. They stuck to their plan and as the Heels devolved, it worked. Their first half shooting performance was the only reason it wasn’t a UNC blowout. The Hoyas shot 37% from behind the three point line. UNC’s numbers were (not surprisingly) 35% and 25%. UNC had more rebounds (45), twice as many offensive rebounds (20) and fewer turnovers. But…in the end the Heels looked weary and the Hoyas seemed to have plenty of bounce left.

Three interesting things happened. First off, Roy Williams let the Tar Heels play just like he has done all year, and just like he did Friday night when they roared back to beat USC. Unfortunately, the first thing led to the second – the kids abandoned their reliable inside game and the strategy that was working and started taking jump shots which didn’t fall. It was almost as if, suddenly, everybody wanted to reprise Michael Jordan's famous shot. This was considerably exasperating as UNC had already proven that a) they could penetrate the zone and score and b) Georgetown was vulnerable inside demonstrated by the simple fact that little used freshmen Deon Thompson scored 14 in the paint.

In addition, the Heels have not been in many close games, and their very young team doesn't have much experience in those situations. It showed.

Finally, little things can change a close game. At the end of the first half Hibbert had three fouls and should have been on the bench to keep him from getting a fourth. UNC knew that, and Ty Lawson drove the lane. Hibbert took the bait and challenged Lawson blocking his shot. He also body slammed him off the court. No whistle. It should have been Hibbert’s fourth and everybody would be calling JT3 a knucklehead for having him in the game. Did the Georgetown crowd booing the officials for an entire time out earlier play role? Who knows, but at some point the official decided to let them play and Hibbert enjoyed a Sheldon Williamsesque 20 foul afternoon.

Pounding the ball inside and getting to the free throw line was a good strategy that was working, but by the time UNC went back to it (twice) late in the game, the officials had swallowed their whistles. Ironic, as we had been complaining about so many other games being settled by late game foul calls.

Florida is good. Better than Oregon. Tajuan Porter who had 33 for the Ducks went ice cold and that was all the opening that the Gators needed.

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