Tar Heels (finally) utilize impassioned defense to fend off Long Beach State | Sports

Tar Heels (finally) utilize impassioned defense to fend off Long Beach State

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For this guy, the outcome remained in doubt until the bitter end
  • For this guy, the outcome remained in doubt until the bitter end
DEAN SMITH CENTER/CHAPEL HILL — Fairly or unfairly, most people don’t associate Roy Williams basketball with stout defense. Tonight for the first 20 minutes of action, the Tar Heels themselves really didn’t associate with stout defense, either.

Long Beach State torched UNC en route to shooting above 51 percent from the field in the first half, a totally unacceptable number during any half, but especially in a contest at home against an unranked opponent.

Carolina did compete on defense during the second frame, however, and timely play from Reggie Bullock and John Henson spearheaded an 84-78 victory for the home team.

Bullock scored 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting and added four rebounds, two assists and three steals; many fans exited the arena with his name on their lips. Henson, meanwhile, nailed several jump shots and finished with 24 points on 12-for-17 shooting, along with 10 rebounds and four blocks.

Tyler Zeller scored a highly efficient 17 points on 7-for-9 field goals. He also played more strongly with the ball and became a more willing passer out of double-teams than he’d been previously, dishing out four assists and doing a great job facilitating ball movement.

Of course, point guard Kendall Marshall remains the primary facilitator. Though he struggled as a scorer, he handed out 16 assists — his numbers this year are approaching video game level. Carolina’s dependency upon his passing may loom as a concern, but assessed in isolation, his ability to distribute the ball is remarkable.

The rotation continues to take shape as well. Williams played Bullock for 24 minutes and Strickland just 20, a nod to the fact that the starting backcourt of Strickland and Marshall simply lacks scoring pop. In this game the starting guards combined for 2-for-10 shooting — and hobbled freshman P.J. Hairston missed all three of his attempts — making Bullock’s contribution off the bench that much more valuable.

Carolina will take a week off for exams and host Appalachian State next Saturday. Click here to view the UNC/LBSU box score.

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