A spectacular first half, a gutty second half, and a complete victory on both the team and individual levels.
The Texas Longhorns came out on fire, and built a first half lead that stretched to 19. In the first half, the North Carolina Tar Heels played undisciplined basketball, couldn't hit their shots, and felt particularly generous in handing the basketball to their opponent. Yes, it was nice to see the shoe on the other foot.
Not to take anything away from Texas. The Longhorns were extremely active on the defensive end, playing smothering on-ball defense and accruing multiple deflections. On offense, it's amazing how easy things feel when it's "shoot ball, swish ball."
UNC mounted a solid second half comeback by going almost exclusively to a small lineup. They put James Michael McAdoo at the 5, fed him the rock, and surrounded him with shooter/slashers. McAdoo was a stud, also causing havoc defensively, and nearly brought the Tar Heels back. But in gut-check time, the Longhorns dug deep and didn't let a UCLA nightmare happen again.
Ignore the record for a minute. This is a really fun team to watch. They work hard, play hard, and are chock to the brim with potential.
Sheldon McClellan has an innate knack for racking up points. He struggled from the field, hitting just 4 of 17. Upon viewing, I thought he had a pretty awful game. Yet his box score shows 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. His gradual development into a complete player, a la Jordan Hamilton, bodes very well for his future.
I thought both Julien Lewis and Jonathan Holmes played their best game of the season. Normally, both players rack up the hustle points that don't show up in the box score. But last night, Lewis notched 16 and Holmes 15 and 8. It was great to see good guys get theirs. Not gonna lie: I did a fist pump at the Holmes slam on the Papi inbounds pass.
Cameron Ridley continues to grow as a player. In the first half, he showed a nice post fadeaway that looked like a very rudimentary Dream Shake. Love his mitts, too. When he doesn't bring the ball to his hips, he can easily leverage his size to get what he wants inside. His backup, Prince Ibeh, still can't get minutes but looks the part patrolling the paint.
Connor Lammert has an amazingly high basketball IQ. The physical development and skills progression will come. Ioannis Papapetrou reminds me of Chandler Parsons. Do everything guy. When his confidence grows, look out. He posted a very quiet 10 and 10 for the first double-double of his career.
Due to circumstance, DeMarcus Holland will be asked to step up in a big way. He's not a natural point but can slash and defend. MAJOR kudos to Javan Felix. He was thrust into an impossible situation and has acquitted himself very well. He outclassed more heralded freshman Marcus Paige. Even more impressive, Felix exhibited heady ballhandling and leadership even with the defensively stout Dexter Strickland hounding him most of the game. Felix's fadeaway rainbow after getting hacked by McAdoo was b-e-a-utiful.
Finally, a shoutout to Myck Kabongo, who looked the happiest I've seen him on the bench all year. I ignored the lede used by the mass media, because we're celebrating the win here. Besides, Tjarks more than amply covered it already.
Sure, I saw some things to work on, particularly now that Kabongo won't suit up for the Longhorns this season. But right now, I'm just savoring the victory. Hook 'em.