Tylers, Tylers everywhere.
One Tyler (Hansbrough) wasn't able to go. Another Tyler (Zeller) played admirably in his place on the North Carolina starting roster. Still a third Tyler (Bernardini) turned in the best performance for the losing Quakers as UNC cruised to a 86-71 victory that was not as close as the score might indicate.
Playing without three-time All-American Tyler Hansbrough and defensive specialist Marcus Ginyard, UNC easily handled a Pennsylvania squad that attempted to thwart them with the Quakers' traditional zone defense. Although UNC shot a decent 47 decent against the zone, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington were not responsible for the impressive statistics.
The Tar Heels were led by Hansbrough's replacement, freshman Tyler Zeller, scoring 18 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field, and also hitting 8-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Fellow freshman Ed Davis posted a double-double and Deon Thompson was impressive on both ends of the court, contributing 17 points of his own. Danny Green was 5-of-7 and added 12 points for the Tar Heels.
This wasn't perfection. Davis was just .500 from the free throw line (4-for-8) and turned the ball over four times. Zeller only grabbed two rebounds.
Still, on a night when SG Wayne Ellington, PG Ty Lawson and backup PG Bobby Frasor were a combined 8-of-26 (.308) from the field, the freshmen who will likely play crucial reserve roles during the majority of the regular season, performed at least to expectations in an opening game against a significantly weaker opponent.
The Penn Quakers had an impressive Tyler of their own. Tyler Bernardini, returning from an injury-plagued freshman season, scored 26 points and grabbed 5 boards.
It is definitely an auspicious start for a team with great expectations and provided, for now, the first (albeit early and incomplete) answers to those that question UNC's depth.
UNC hosts an embarrassed Kentucky squad at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill, NC on Tuesday, November 18th. Kentucky is coming off a stunning loss to the Virginia Military Institute (111-103) that has taken some of the luster off of the meeting between the nation's two winningest college basketball programs.
Will Kentucky turn their humiliation into motivation against North Carolina, or will their morale and game still be suffering? While Ginyard is expected to miss the game, it is unknown whether Hansbrough will be ready to return. He is healing from a stress reaction in his shin.