UNC-Rutgers: The Good & Bad

The North Carolina Tar Heels made it two-for-two on Wednesday night with a defeat of Rutgers, and in the process continued what will be a season full of educational nights, some more so than others.

Game No. 2 was certainly a bit more rigorous than the opening waltz by Penn State. But for the youngest team in college basketball, that's a good thing.

Here is a look at the good and the bad of UNC's second win in as many games.

GOOD

Sean May – May had another great all around game, finishing with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and a pair of blocked shots and steals. He's a real space eater but has exceptional quickness, refined skills, and makes high IQ decisions. He combines power with a sweet, soft fluid finesse that is worthy of a nickname like "Big Poetry." He's big and strong but is like poetry in motion.

Jawad Williams – Williams was a beast on the glass again and contributed more offensively, finishing with 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, with six coming on the offensive end. Williams played a major role in Carolina's comeback, scoring 10 points in the final 7:18. He was more aggressive with the ball and attacked the basket, which he must do regularly.

Jackie Manuel – Manuel isn't refined yet, but he sure does play hard. He's much improved, mainly because of clearer focus and better ideas with the ball. His turnovers remain, but he did dish out three assists to go with five rebounds and 11 points on an economical 5-7 from the floor.

Rashad McCants – McCants may have the quickest first step ever for a Tar Heel, and despite dribbling issues, blows by opponents because nobody has proven they can hang with his quickness yet. He's had success along the baseline, as an example his perfectly using the basket as a shield on a reverse layup in the second half. McCants also handled his benching in the first half with maturity. For the game, he scored 18 points, hauled down six rebounds, had two blocked shots and three steals.

Raymond Felton – In time Felton will run the offense with more efficiency, but his skills remain obvious as he is so good at finding open mates. He tallied just five points, but handed out nine assists. Yes, he had seven turnovers, but a few of those were passes that should have been caught, and he only had two turnovers in the second half. He was excellent during the run save for one poor shot.

Comeback – The Tar Heels proved to be resilient, at least on Wednesday, as they overcame an 11-point deficit with 7:18 left in the game, outscoring the Scarlet Knights 23-8 to close out the contest. They stepped up defensive pressure, trapping, defended off the ball better, and limited Rutgers' passing lanes. It looked old hat to the youngsters, as if they had done this many times before. They looked like, Carolina.

May had 18 of his points prior to the run and although McCants had eight of the final 23 points, Williams and Manuel combined for 14, with Williams netting 10. The team will be better off in the long run if the sophomores play key roles in many victories. As they grow into more leadership roles, which will come with individual success, the team will have a better emotional balance. Plus, having been through last year, Williams, Manuel, and Scott they give the team maturity despite being second-year players.

Matt Doherty – The Heels aren't just rolling the ball out there and going at it with little direction. They are well drilled and execute pretty well on both ends of the floor, especially considering the team's youth. And Doherty handled McCants well when by sitting him for around six minutes in the first half because he took an ill-advised shot too early in a possession les than a minute after missing a boxout. It showed Doherty has control of the team and commands the players' respect. Also note that McCants didn't sulk and learned from the lesson.

Rebounding – The Tar Heels outrebounded Rutgers 44-31, and had 14 offensive boards. Although UNC lacks size and bulk down low, it attacks the glass with a ferocity not seen since perhaps 1998. This club plays with tremendous desire.

Late defense – The Tar Heels really picked up their defense late when down by 11, and it worked. In fact, if one were to watch the comeback while squinting, it well could have been Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse, George Lynch, Kenny Smith, Sam Perkins, Dudley Bradley, Walter Davis, or Charlie Scott designing another amazing Carolina comeback. And it all began with defense. UNC was much more active and forced Rutgers into the mental tailspin that aided the run.

Traps – The Heels have seemingly trapped more in two games than Doherty's fist team did because this one has the personnel. The Heels are quick and show flashes of the trap every so often, and have had success with it as well. Expect them to trap more and more, and generate some easy baskets off turnovers. For those who were concerned that Doherty didn't use enough Deanisms, please take a good look at this team. And in time, you will see more.

Unselfishness – Of UNC's 27 field goals, 19 came with an assist. The Heels have proven to be very unselfish thus far. Plus their excellent floor vision, solid movement without the ball, and willingness to pass has contributed to the team's unselfishness.

BAD

Turnovers – Carolina committed an ugly 20 turnovers. Many were because of their aggressiveness on offense, and quite a few others came during some ugly stretches in which the Heels were out of sync.

3-point defense – Rutgers connected on 9 of 22 (40.9 percent) 3s, of which many were open looks – too open. The Heels did a better job of defending perimeter shots on Monday night, but against a better team like the Scarlet Knights, the Heels were screened a little more and got lost at times in their man-to-man defense.

Bench minutes – Melvin Scott led the non-starters with 11 minutes. David Noel had 10 minutes, Will Johnson six, Byron Sanders five, and Jonathan Holmes four. The quintet totaled just 40 minutes, which must increase come ACC time. The starters are talented, but they need a dependable bench with experience in their 2002-03 roles. Michigan's Fab Five, of which this bunch is unfairly compared to, had a veteran bunch of former starters capable of logging significant minutes. Although Johnson and Scott have played a lot, most of the minutes have been in terrible situations, and for Scott, in a completely different role.

Perimeter shooting – The numbers aren't terrible, but UNC was 5-14 (35.7 %) from 3-point range on Wednesday, and the Heels are 10-29 (33.2 %) after two games. With little inside game other than May (Williams still has a ways to go to be consistent), Carolina must have some big perimeter shooting games, especially against the better and bigger teams they will face, like Kansas.

Inside help – The Heels didn't look comfortable when May was on the bench. Williams isn't a post player and Sanders isn't ready. This problem will last until another big man arrives in Chapel Hill or when Sanders and Damion Grant develop. The best way to offset this weakness is with excellent ball movement, perimeter shooting, and taking advantage of quickness advantages.

Crowd – Just 14,656 fans showed up, which is nearly 2,000 fewer than on Monday night. This is rather puzzling considering the excitement surrounding the freshmen and the "new era" of UNC hoops. A lot of Carolina fans like to use Kenan Stadium crowds at 85 percent capacity as an example that UNC isn't a football school. Does this mean that it isn't a basketball school either? Seriously. Nearing the end of one of the worst football seasons in school history and coming off a dreadful basketball season never thought possible should be enough reason for fans to fill up the Dean Dome for Carolina games. Add the freshman class to the mix and Monday's entertaining win and nothing short of a full house was acceptable on Wednesday night. It certainly would have been a reality at places like Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, and Louisville. Think about it. Those that did show up, however, were excellent.

Student seating – The Dean Dome missed not having the student section behind the basket on the side of the floor near UNC's bench. The auxiliary stands made it easier to cramp in more students and gave the arena a better atmosphere. It was back to the way it was during the pre-Doherty days.

UP NEXT

Before heading to New York, the Tar Heels travel to Norfolk, Va., to take on Old Dominion on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on FOX SportsSouth, Comcast, and the Sunshine Network.


Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.

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