Matt Patton is an ACC microsite writer. He filed this report after Friday night’s game between UNC and Florida State in the ACC quarterfinals from Greensboro.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Seminole Interior Defense: The striking thing watching this game wasn’t that North Carolina was torching Florida State from three. That happens, and it happens to good defensive teams. What was surprising is how easily North Carolina got into and scored in the lane. When all was said and done the Tar Heels finished with 36 points in the paint and made 14 of their 22 attempts inside the arc (for the second half). Part of the problem was that Florida State started sleepwalking through the motions after getting down 20. But this team has given up a lot more layups than Leonard Hamilton-coached teams of yore. A youthful front line is probably the problem for two reasons: (1) the Florida State fives don’t know where they’re supposed to be; and (2) they let the game impact their defense. Both are reasons not to despair long-term about the Seminoles, as experience will help drastically.
- Snaer’s Last ACC Game: Michael Snaer owned the best stat line on the floor (8-of-12 shooting for 20 points to go with five assists, two blocks and a steal), but couldn’t plug the holes in his team’s defense. The line was a fitting way for him to go out, but the game couldn’t have been worse. Snaer is the most competitive player I’ve ever covered, but this game wasn’t competitive thanks to hot shooting and team youth. After the game, Roy Williams talked about his brief comment to Snaer in the handshake line: “I told him he was a heck of a player, I enjoyed watching him play, and I told him that maybe that doesn’t make him feel good right now but maybe he could appreciate it later because I’m a huge fan of his.” Coach K has given Snaer similar praise. Count me in as well.
- Paige’s Rebound: In his two games before this Marcus Paige had a combined 13 turnovers. Against Florida State, he had 10 assists and one turnover. It helped that his teammates were hitting shots when he found them, but Paige’s vision was tremendous. He played smart and within his limits — which may be the hardest part of being a point guard in Roy Williams’ system. If he plays to this level, North Carolina is an excellent team.
Star of the Game: PJ Hairston (honorable mention to Snaer) dominated the game from the moment he touched the ball. His stat line by the time he left with a little over four minutes left was 7-11 from the field, 21 points and a couple of steals. But his stat line doesn’t do his performance justice. He was making everything from beyond the arc: When Florida State had a hand in his face, it didn’t matter; when it was a step-back from 22 feet, it didn’t matter. He started the game with two threes after Florida State turnovers before two back-breaking threes down the stretch in the first half took the Tar Heel lead from two to 10. His threes fed his team energy and sucked the soul out of Florida State, who looked like dead men walking by the final buzzer.