North Carolina needed that. And that. More on that in a sec. First, the obvious one.
Saturday’s 75-73 win against Kentucky qualifies as a much-needed W for Roy Williams’ team, which was a just 4-3 entering the game, including a pair of lackluster victories against UNC Asheville and College of Charleston.
It wasn’t pretty – neither team shot well and the freshmen played like freshmen – but that doesn’t matter right now in Chapel Hill. A win’s a win.
“You never can tell what 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds are going to take from something,” Williams said afterward. “But I know the scene in our locker room right after the game when I got in there was a fun time. Hopefully they’ll understand that and realize what they have to do to get back there.”
Back there means fine-tuning the offense in games against Evansville and Long Beach State before facing Texas on Dec. 18. It’ll be yet another test for the Tar Heels, but one they could meet because of that.
And that happens to be Tyler Zeller and John Henson.
Henson, the willowy 6-10 sophomore, played his best yet against a big-time foe, scoring 13 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking three shots. He did have a few gaffes – back-to-back airballs? Tsk – but his aggressiveness and defense on Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones (nine points before fouling out) is promsing.
But not nearly as promising as Zeller’s day. The 7-foot junior was the best player on the floor, scoring 27 points, snagging 11 boards, blocking five shots and generally dominating the paint. Kentucky’s not a huge team up front, but this is what the Heels need from Zeller, who figures to be their go-to player the rest of the season.
Besides, Zeller’s got the right attitude about the game. He’s not about to make plans for a trip to Houston.
“It’s not one of those games where we can be content that, ‘OK, we beat Kentucky,”‘ Zeller said. “That doesn’t make your season. That helps make your season.”
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