Three Things: Carolina 79, Georgia Tech 63
Carolina improved to 13-5 and 3-2 in the ACC with a home win over Georgia Tech Wednesday night. Here now are three observations from that game to the tune of the catalog of Bruce Springsteen
Growin' Up (1973) - The Tar Heel freshmen are finding themselves on the court. J.P. Tokoto (eight points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal) finally looks comfortable on the college court. "I've seen a lot of it from J.P. tonight," Reggie Bullock said of Tokoto's continued maturation. "He made some good shots. He made some good plays, got a couple of steals and playing great defense."
Joel James saw meaningful time Wednesday. His line in the box score (four points, one rebound, an assist, two blocks and steal in 10 minutes) won't impress, but his presence is important. He's learning on the floor, and the steady improvement (along with a nice jumper) is noticeable. Brice Johnson hauled down five rebounds and notched four points and two assists in 13 minutes.
Born to Run (1975) - Roy Williams' teams are always going to look to push the tempo, but Wednesday, the Tar Heels seemed to play at a level so far unseen this season. Active hands on defense led to transition opportunities: Carolina had 15 points off of Georgia Tech turnovers and 14 fast break points.
"That's what Coach emphasized before the game, just run," P.J. Hairston said. The team was shown film of past Tar Heel teams. "Wayne (Ellington) and Danny (Green), they used to run out and get lay-ups and the ball wouldn't touch the floor. Ty (Lawson) would get the ball out, pitch it straight up the court and Wayne and Danny would take one or two dribbles and get to the rim and have an easy lay-up. That's what we emphasized today, and in the first half it worked out a lot. In the second half, it worked too."
"It's something that we've really been trying to work on in practice, just trying to get out and run," James Michael McAdoo said. "Coach showed us some clips yesterday in practice of Ty Lawson and his team, the '09 team, some footage of them, some footage of Ray Felton's team, and how they just got out in the wings and just ran and made things look so much easier." McAdoo said being active and alert defensively helped open things up offensively.
The Rising (2002) - The Tar Heels clawed about .500 in ACC play and currently sit at third in an ever-changing conference. They're still a young team, but Wednesday it was evident that they are figuring out how to play together. "I'm seeing our team jell together a lot better," Bullock said. "People knowing their roles, and what they're capable of doing. They're just going out there and playing the game and improving."
Bullock, Hairston and McAdoo combined for 46 of the Tar Heels' 79 points. When those players are comfortable carrying the load offensively, and their teammates are willing to contribute in other areas on the box score, the team has had success. Dexter Strickland went through a recent scoring slump, and he seems to have figured out how to be a positive influence on the court even if he's not getting baskets. "My shot's been off, so I try to just make the transition on defense. Try to get steals and fast break dunks and try to get my team the ball."
All is not perfect, however. Three times in the second half, the Tar Heels worked the shot clock and then did not hit the rim. The Tar Heels allowed the Yellow Jackets to get 17 offensive rebounds (and 10 second-chance points). Growing pains continue, but certainly strides are being made. And let's face it: Last night, Georgia Tech lost their fifth straight game. But you play who's on the schedule, and in three recent outings, the Tar Heels have seen consistent improvement.
A Bonus, Fourth Thing: