Rushed Reactions, Maui Style: Butler 82, #11 UNC 71Posted by rtmsf on November 20th, 2012
Some quick thoughts from today’s first Maui Invitational semifinal game between North Carolina and Butler…
Three Key Takeaways.
- Butler Lives For These Games. And it was apparent in the warmups. Whereas the Carolina guys had a very relaxed — almost too relaxed — attitude in the layup lines (Maui living!), Butler was all business. And from the opening tap, it was clear that if UNC was going to walk out of the Lahaina Civic Center today with a victory, it was going to have to cost the Tar Heels considerable blood, sweat, and tears. This was not going to be another Mississippi State laydown event. Brad Stevens knows that his program, even despite back-to-back national championship game appearances in 2010 and 2011, is still not respected in the same way that, say, even Wisconsin is. As an example, the Bulldogs were not ranked in the Top 25 this preseason. After wins over Marquette and North Carolina this week, they will be now.
- Remember Those 15 Threes? Yeah, We Don’t Either. At the 11:30 minute mark of the second half, the UNC guard quartet whom we lauded yesterday had put up a huge stinker. And that’s a problem, because they along with James Michael McAdoo are going to have to carry most of the Tar Heel offense. At that point, they had combined for a measly 13 points and had shot somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-20 from the field (they finished 17-46 with . And the credit goes 100% to the Butler defense, which Brad Stevens had clearly designed to bump, pressure, and challenge the Tar Heel guards. They didn’t like it. Generally, they settled for jumpers in the thinking that since they fell yesterday, so why not tonight? The difference, of course, was that Butler was defending them. By the time Carolina figured out how to speed up the game by returning the favor with full-court pressure on the Butler guards, the game was too far out of hand to matter.
- The Comeback. With nearly three-quarters of the game gone, UNC finally got a couple of outside shots to fall and started pressuring the Bulldogs fullcourt. From that point forward, the Heels went on a 37-15 run that included seven Butler turnovers (keep in mind that the Bulldogs committed zero second half turnovers yesterday). Down 28 to begin with, though, and playing a team that typically doesn’t rattle and makes the right play with the ball, it was highly unlikely that Butler was going to completely cave — still, UNC deserves credit for getting back into the game. As Roy Williams said afterward, he’s never had a “team quit” on him, so this will certainly be a teaching point about bringing that same toughness out of the gate.
Star of the Game. Kellen Dunham, Butler. Butler’s attack tonight was rather balanced, but it was Dunham’s five treys (on nine attempts) that really helped Butler build an insurmountable lead tonight. He also provided the assist on one of the Bulldogs’ late threes that stemmed the onrushing UNC tide, while adding five rebounds and a couple of assists in the game. Of course, we all know that the true star here was Brad Stevens’ game plan, but we’ll save that one for later depending on how tomorrow goes.
- “I love giant killers.” Butler head coach Brad Stevens in reference to a question about Chaminade beating Texas and possibly playing his Bulldogs if they get past Illinois.
- “I’ve never had a team quit… one possible exception could have been Florida State [last year].” UNC head coach Roy Williams, paging Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, possibly.
Sights and Sounds.
What’s Next. Butler will move on to the championship game of the Maui Invitational Wednesday evening, awaiting the winner of Illinois and Chaminade. North Carolina will play the loser of that game in the third-place game immediately preceding it.