Saturday, March 20, 2010

Game Recap: UNC vs. Mississippi State

Is Larry Drew a clutch player? Would you have truthfully answered yes before today? I don't think I would have. This is a guy who Roy had to take out of a close game trying to protect a lead after Drew missed free throw after free throw. Larry Drew, however, is now, officially, clutch.

Do you realize what he did? With limited time on the clock, Larry Drew drove right on the best shot blocker in the history of college basketball, a man who obliterated Shaq's old SEC single season shot blocking record. He took it right into the teeth of a guy who had nastily and, with extreme prejudice, blocked four shots already. He did this, knowing that Jarvis Varnado usually averages FIVE blocked shots a game and was patiently preparing to leap into the air and knock that ball into the upper deck and the game into overtime. Larry Drew, a man who barely ever finishes at the rim, who almost always prefers the pass to the shot, who prefers the long shot to the acrobatic drive and finish, who gets nerves so bad that he can't seem to hit free throws when the game is on the line, was going right at Varnado.

The arc of the layup was so high. A left-hander. Off the glass, and, miraculously, in.

Now, is Drew anymore clutch after the shot than he was before it? After Dean Smith won his first National Championship, he famously turned to Roy and said, "I'm not that much better a coach now than I was two and a half hours ago." Larry Drew remains Larry Drew, but let's appreciate the sheer audacity of his play, the ballsy moxie that won us a game that we could have very well lost.

This was a tough game.

In terms of offensive efficiency, this game was almost the converse of how we played against William and Mary: No one was all that efficient except for Will Graves. Will was sensational, and really, everyone else played pretty well enough. As a team, UNC shot 48.5% from the field, which is, all things considered, fairly blistering. Unfortunately, we only made one three pointer outside of Graves, and shot a measly ten free throws (Mississippi State kept with its rare fouling policy, as opposed to William and Mary who abruptly abandoned it). The point being that, while we didn't play great, we played well-enough. Hopefully we'll make that leap from well-enough to great pretty soon, but for now, well-enough is all I ask.

John Henson was dominant in the first half with ten points, seven rebounds, two blocks, and two steals including some nasty throw-downs and clever post moves. Trying to play him on the perimeter was a clever idea, born of our abundance of post players and the belief that Henson was too skinny to be effective. It was a nice experiment, but let's be honest: It failed and based on a shaky premise. Right now, having seen how Henson plays down low, it feels like a sin that we haven't been playing him down low all year. How many extra games do we win if we had let him play at his natural power forward position all along? It seems like at least one or two. I feel pretty good watching him get better and better every game.

Oh, Dexter Strickland played really well too. His hyperspace drives give me Ty Lawson flashbacks in the absolute best way.

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