On the one hand, going into the game, many predicted a blow-out. Dook was favored by 7.5 points and seemed to be hitting its stride while the Tar Heels were in the midst of a major funk. So just the fact that Carolina played so well has to be a nice surprise. But on the other hand, it’s not good that this team has two epic collapses in the last three weeks.
Tokoto was just awesome in most every facet of the game, from scoring to rebounding to defense. And his reverse dunk was huge. Many players would have just laid the ball up. By adding a little more oomph to it, he energized the team and quieted the crowd. That’s huge. At times this season, it feels like Carolina has really been missing someone like that — someone who’s cold-hearted and just puts a dagger into the opposing team. This team needs to get a bit nastier.
Kennedy Meeks was also big. At times, he had trouble guarding Okafor one-on-one, but who wouldn’t? He didn’t back down on the offensive end though, banging straight into the chest of whomever happened to be guarding him. Loved his effort, his rebounding and his hands.
Brice Johnson also had a strong game. You had to figure going into this one that he would be the one UNC player Dook might not have an answer for. Sure enough, he seemed to be able to score almost at will around the bucket. Which made the team’s decision to start shooting jump shots at the end all the more puzzling.
I get that Paige was being smothered by the defense and didn’t have much of an opportunity to score, but still, you’d expect a bit more from someone who’s a pre-season All American. As the game went on, it became pretty clear that it wasn’t going to be Paige’s night. That’s fine. It happens. So WHY at the end of regulation was the play drawn up for Paige? Why is he always the default last-shot-taker? Throw it to Meeks or Johnson instead. See what’s working on a particular night. Don’t always just default to the “star.”
Carolina doesn’t close out games well. That’s become pretty clear. And against Dook, you could see when it all started to fall apart. There was a point with about two minutes left when the team stopped playing and started thinking. They stopped attacking and just looked scared and unsure of themselves. Not good. I understand the need to burn the clock, but is burning 20 seconds worth taking the team out of the offensive flow? Watching the guard hold the ball until 10 seconds left on the shot clock just so someone can heave up a desperate shot is so frustrating. What happened to just continuing to play? Isn’t two points more valuable than 20 seconds?
The cries of “this team is soft” are gonna get louder now. Maybe the team is soft. Carolina definitely lacks a Psycho T type who plays physical and can be counted on to give maximum effort. Were Hansbrough to have gotten the ball nine feet from the basket, with UNC down and 7 seconds left, like Hicks did, Psycho T would have thrown his body towards the rim and tried to dunk it. Hicks just looked panicked. No one on Carolina looked like they were wanting to take that last shot. The roster is loaded with talent but if there’s one element that’s really missing (besides outside shooting), it’s the lack of an enforcer type who won’t back down from opponents or big moments.
The refs missed some huge calls, including the hold on Tokoto by Winslow, and blew some other ones. Johnson got called for at least one phantom foul, and his fouling out of the game sealed UNC’s fate. Watch below as Jefferson shoves Johnson into the defender, who then flops. And the stoppages at the end of the game to fix the clock certainly helped Dook. But the loss is not on the refs. This one’s on Carolina. Make foul shots, get a simple rebound and the game would have been over.