The last week of Tar Heel hoops was quite the roller coaster. I went into each tip-off not knowing how we were going to play. Are the guys going to play with confidence? Is our defense going to step up, fight through screens and hold the opposition to a FG% less than 40%? Who is going to take lead on offense? Will someone come off the bench and provide a spark? Who is going to start at the five spot? Will we get the ball inside to them or settle for jump shots on the perimeter? Who is going to attack the basket and get to the line? Will we spend the majority of the game in secondary break or motion offense? Will we set solid screens that lead to “Good” shots? What will happen if we fall behind?

I feel like there are a lot more questions going into each game than most people are accustomed to…

The disappointing part about the Miami game is that we didn’t get many answers (at least not the answers we wanted). We came out of the gate strong, but there were a few stats that helped paint the picture of why we lost:

1. Our starters combined for only 36 points… of 59. Between Stickland and Hubert, only one point was scored. Brice Johnson came off the bench to add 10 points, but didn’t necessarily provide the spark we needed.
2. 5-8 from the free throw line for 62.5%. The concern here isn’t the percentage, it’s the number of attempts. Miami made 9 free throws vs. our 8 attempts. I’ve always been told “if you make more free throws than the other team attempts, you have a great chance of winning the game.”
3. We did shoot 40% from the floor, but Miami shot 47.2%
4. We were 40% from three, but Miami sank 9 threes against us (the majority of which were wide open shots!)

On a more positive note, we played much better against FSU (relatively speaking). Though FSU was 48% from the floor, and 50% from the 3PT line (again, with numerous wide open threes), we were able to maintain our poise and overcome a second half onslaught from the ‘Noles (4 threes in the first 3:45 can be demoralizing, even for the best team in the country). I believe the real reason we won this game is simple… P.J. Hairston! Though guys like McAdoo and Bullock have had good games this year, no one has stepped up to the plate like Hairston did in Tallahassee.

Not only was PJ on fire from the floor, he was able to bring back some of the swagger we have seen from previous Tar Heel teams. His aggressive play, including the two powerful dunks, helped ignite a spark in the Heels. We saw an air of confidence from our boys for the first time in an ACC game this year, and that was refreshing. As the game wound down we were able to hold the Noles scoreless for the last four minutes! Definitely a step in the right direction. This game helped me answer several questions about our confidence, our aggressiveness and our “spark,” but the lack of scoring in the final 4 minutes may have brought the most pressing question to the forefront….

“If we are down by one with 10 seconds left, who takes the final shot….?

image by Todd Melet