Posted by KCarpenter on November 14th, 2011
Kimmel Arena opened up in style. The UNC Asheville Bulldogs hosted the North Carolina Tar Heels in a brand new building that was packed with loud and enthusiastic fans. Bruce Hornsby, whose son, Keith, plays for Asheville, kicked things off with a jazzy piano rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The second he stopped, the Bulldogs’ fans cheered as consistently loud and as hard as any crowd in college sports can in an effort to inspire the upset against the nation’s #1 team. As well as the defending Big South champions played, however, and as fantastic as the crowd was on this Sunday afternoon, Eddie Biedenbach‘s team was just overmatched.
Still, like North Carolina‘s win over Michigan State Friday night on the USS Carl Vinson, the victory over the Bulldogs was fine, but not good enough. When Roy Williams finally sat the starters with less than two minutes remaining, there wasn’t a lot of smiling on his bench. This is where the Tar Heels are: They won 91-75 (though the margin felt even bigger than it was), and the Asheville student section chanted “overrated.” It seems a silly thing to do when your team is losing by double figures, but the frowns on the faces of the North Carolina players confirmed the truth of the chant: UNC was not playing up to its lofty expectations.
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It’s an odd thing, and maybe it has more to do with the unrealistic expectations that have been placed upon this team by the greater college basketball world. Yet, when the first half was drawing to a close, I couldn’t help but feel that UNC just looked bad. Asheville was getting out on the break while the lagging Tar Heels weren’t even running the court. Tyler Zeller kept turning the ball over. John Henson looked winded, signaling to come out midway through the first half. Harrison Barnes just looked off, passive in his play and seemingly uninterested. North Carolina led by nine at the half, but the fierce play and tenacity of the Bulldogs to that point seemed like it gave UNCA a good chance of winning out over a tired, unfocused, and out-of-sorts North Carolina team.
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