Brian Goodman is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Kansas City pod of the West Region.
Three Key Takeaways:
- UNC showed it’s an improved team, but still highly vulnerable. For most of the first half, North Carolina dissected the Wildcats in as precise a fashion as you could imagine. UNC quietly stuck to their game plan of keeping their offense perimeter-oriented, rarely foraging into the paint against Villanova’s interior defense (aside from transition opportunities), and converted jump shot after jump shot. The Tar Heels went on a stretch where they made nine out of ten attempts and tallied just one offensive rebound before halftime. P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo took smart, calculated shots within the offense, rarely driving out of control or into the teeth of Villanova’s defense. Things started to become unglued when the Tar Heels got too loose and some of the bad habits that got them into trouble early in the ACC schedule seeped back in, and Villanova erased a 20-point lead. At that point, though, North Carolina started hitting jump shots again and surged back ahead for good on a Bullock three.
- Villanova failed to capitalize on opportunities. It may sound off, given the fact that Villanova overcame a 20-point deficit, but missed layups, turnovers and a lack of bench contributions doomed the Wildcats in the second half. Despite manhandling North Carolina on the glass (37-28), Jay Wright’s team couldn’t keep up with the Tar Heels, as they traded twos for threes late in the second half. Given its limitations, Villanova played well on the whole and should be proud of its effort Friday night, but it might be hard for them to shake the idea that it could have been playing Sunday afternoon if not for a few breaks.
- UNC’s three-point shooting is good enough to send any team packing. Villanova’s perimeter defense has been suspect all season, a biproduct of the Wildcats’ lack of quickness, but it’s not all that hard to picture North Carolina keeping up their hot shooting. P.J. Hairston led all scorers with five made treys, but two other players hit half their attempts, and if that keeps up, it will be tough for its next opponent (probably Kansas) to key in on any one perimeter threat. The Tar Heels are prone to sloppy stretches, and that showed tonight, but they can hide many of those mistakes with some good old-fashioned bombing.
Star Of The Game. P.J. Hairston – 23 points, 7-of-11 FG, 5-of-8 3FG, three assists – Every time North Carolina needed a basket, Hairston was there to deliver it. Not only was he important to UNC’s hot start, but he helped steady the ship in the middle third of the game. The sophomore is now 25-of-54 from distance (46.2%) in his last seven games.