UNC's John Henson (left) reaches to block a shot from a Nicholls State player on December 19.
It might not have been a great game for the Tar Heels on offense, but North Carolina cleaned up on the boards to cruise to a 99-49 win over the Nicholls State Colonels. It was a balanced performance from the Tar Heels, who scored 90 points for the sixth time this season. Seven Tar Heels players scored at least seven points, and the team was led by Dexter Strickland and freshman forward James Michael McAdoo, who each scored 14 points for North Carolina.
The big difference for North Carolina came on the defensive side of the ball; North Carolina out-rebounded Nicholls State 69-33, and grabbed 30 offensive rebounds—compared to just nine for Nicholls State. The Tar Heels managed 11 rebounds each from forwards Tyler Zeller and John Henson, and sophomore guard Reggie Bullock pulled down 10 rebounds to go with his 10 points.
The Tar Heels have been criticized for not playing to their full potential. They lost to UNLV on November 26, and fell to then-No. 1 Kentucky by one point on December 3. But the Tar Heels have even struggled with non-conference opponents in what should have been "easy victories." UNC needed a second-half rally to defeat Long Beach State and Appalachian State pestered the Tar Heels for the full 40 minutes of the game.
For a team ranked as the preseason favorites to win the NCAA championship, the Tar Heels have failed to live up to their potential.
Now the Tar Heels face another tough test when they host the Texas Longhorns at the Dean Smith Center on Wednesday, December 21st. North Carolina hosts Elon and Monmouth to close out their non-conference schedule in early January.
The Texas game should prove whether the Tar Heels are ready to compete with the best teams in the country, or whether North Carolina's critics are right about doubting the Tar Heels. For coach Roy Williams and the Tar Heels, it is a great opportunity to prove that his team is ready to play, and that North Carolina is indeed one of the elite teams in the country this season.