Tonight, the North Caroliona Tar Heels began their 2010-11 campaign with a 80-66 win over the Lipscomb Bisons at the Dean Smith Center in front of a roaring crowd of 20,000.
The Tar Heels opened the season with hopes of returning to elite status, after a disappointing 20-17 season and a trip to the lowly NIT.
Coach Roy Williams returns to guide the Heels, now led by top recruit Harrison Barnes. North Carolina, although they struggled at times, finally won convincingly in the end. Let's take a look at what we saw tonight:
Barnes Impresses With a Little Bit of Everything
Harrison Barnes was the No. 1 recruit in the 2010 recruiting class. Despite much of the scoring wealth being spread fairly evenly among starters and bench players (five players managed to score in double digits), Barnes managed to score 14 points and grab six rebounds.
Stats aside, Barnes seemed to find his rhythm in the North Carolina offense, seemingly able to find ways to score.
Of course, it's far too early to make a judgement on young Harrison, but if opening night was any indication of Barnes's time in Chapel Hill—he may very well find his niche on this team.
Big Men Get Bigger
After last year's woefully poor production from Tyler Zeller, who often appeared timid and lacking effort at times, it seems that he has gained a whole lot of confidence in the low post. Zeller scored a team-leading 15 points against Lipscomb, and put his height to good use by grabbing 11 rebounds.
Fellow big man John Henson managed 14 points, and grabbed a whopping 20 rebounds. He also slammed down seven blocks, helping shut down the late push the Bisons tried to mount.
It appears that this dual threat in the low post will come in handy down the stretch, especially if the rebounds and blocks can lead to scoring at both ends.
Defense and Efficiency Spell the Final Difference
Despite some struggles at times, including a few minutes late in the second half when the Tar Heels' lead was cut to five, Carolina was a statistical team against Lipscomb.
The Heels shot 47 percent from the field, compared to 34 percent for the Bisons, and out-rebounded Lipscomb 45-37. Carolina also had a cleaner game, with fewer turnovers (17-14) and personal fouls (25-20).
Late in the game, key turnovers by Lipscomb resulted in more points for Carolina as they ended opening night with a 14-point victory.
Just judging from the eyeball test, North Carolina looked far more efficient tonight, with a well-rounded scoring effort and solid defense. I realize Lipscomb was a weak opponent, but they are a team full of juniors and seniors and presented a challenge to the young Tar Heel squad.
In the end, the raw talent of Carolina bested the experience of Lipscomb and gave us a look at what the Heels have this year. Hopefully the solid play can continue, and perhaps this beginning of another great season in Chapel Hill.
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