I missed all their earlier games because of various other commitments, but last night after our faculty meeting I made time to go hang out at the Nachoman's pad and watch the only truly important part of the ACC-Big 10 Challenge, namely the UNC-Michigan State game.

The Heels have played the Spartans several times before, including during Tyler Hansbrough's freshman year, but none of those past games prepared me for the butt-whipping I witnessed last night.  MSU was ranked #12, and even missing their starting center, I felt sure they'd give the Heels a good run.

Such was not the case.

After a handful of sloppy defensive plays in the first few minutes (Danny Green, I'm looking in your direction...), the Heels woke up and started to remember they're ranked #1.  The fast-break points started coming, and the defense started producing turnovers.  Hansbrough and Deon Thompson started hitting the boards, and a few jumpers began to fall.  The UNC lead started to grow, and by halftime it was 14 points.  I still wasn't comfortable, but I was happy.  Freshman Ed Davis looks like an extremely capable big man, and he got plenty of PT spelling Hansbrough and Thompson; better yet, he hit 75% of his free throws, which was actually the worst percentage of any UNC big man--Hans went 13 for 13 at the stripe, and Deon was 2 for 2.

Most of the attention naturally went to Psycho T, whose blazing eyes are a fixture on just about every sports magazine during his senior year, and yeah, the double-double and the perfect FT shooting and the "back from injury" storyline nearly made Dick Vitale run out of superlatives.  But the game that impressed me the most?

Ty Lawson's.

Running a high-speed offense like UNC's is a challenging task, and it requires the point guard to make decisions at an incredible rate.  Odds are good that some of those decisions will be made in haste, and executing those decisions WILL be done in haste.  Thus, it's pretty astonishing to see a line like this from a point guard:

FGM-A     3PM-A     FTM-A     REB     AST     STL     TO     PF     PTS
6-11         2-3         3-4         2       8        7        0       2       17

Seriously, look at that.  A 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is considered good for a PG, so with eight assists (a very good total on its own), Lawson might reasonably be expected to pick up at least two or three turnovers due to sloppy passes or bad bounces.  To go without a single one tells you a lot about how well he's controlling the ball, and thereby the game.

I saw one play where Lawson stole an inbounds pass in the corner and whirled around to look for a teammate cutting to the basket.  Danny Green was doing so, so Lawson prepared to pass and was actually beginning to flip the ball Green's way when Lawson realized that the MSU defender was going to be able to deflect the pass.  Without stopping, Lawson redirected the arm motion he was already making to that of a bounce pass.  Dunk, two points, assist.  It was just a small moment in a great game for UNC, but man, what a moment.

I don't know that the Heels will be back in Detroit in April for the Final Four, but based on what I saw last night, they should be.  Beating a top team is one thing.  Beating a good team from Michigan in Detroit is one thing.  Beating them by thirty-five points, though, tells me that this UNC squad is a team on a mission.



Man, I can't wait for the ACC season to begin.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on December 4, 2008 9:41 AM.

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