UNC warms up after sluggish start
What we learned, mainly, is that North Carolina, when all things are clicking – and a lot of them were here on Friday night – can be “scary” good. That, according to Theo Pinson after the 91-67 season-opening victory against Temple in the Veterans Classic.
That was the focus of my story tonight. Some more things we learned:
--We learned more about Kennedy Meeks' potential. Twenty-five (points) and 11 (rebounds) and, yes, Roy Williams was quick to point out that Temple didn't really have any kind of great way to guard against Meeks. Still: 25 and 11 is difficult to do regardless of the competition. He's not going to play like this every game but when Meeks is good – and he was really good on Friday night – things just go a lot more smoothly for the Tar Heels (analysis). Here’s the thing, though: consistency has been an issue for Meeks. He faded considerably late last season amid a mystery illness. After a rough ending to last season, he needed a game like this to start this season. And he delivered.
--Maybe the most impressive part of scoring 91 points and beating a team by 24 in the season-opener? UNC did it without Marcus Paige, but also without much out of Justin Jackson, who finished with four points. And without much in the first half out of Brice Johnson, who by halftime had yet to make his first shot from the field. Which means that …
--The other point guards showed what they're capable of, too. We'll get to Joel Berry in a moment. You couldn't have asked for much more out of him in his first college start. But how about Nate Britt? Comes off the bench to make three 3-pointers, finishes with 15 points. Just one assist but, he provided some valuable scoring. And back to Berry: 14 points, six rebounds and four assists. Pretty solid line, and he gave the impression that he could be much better than he even was on Friday night.
--UNC could have exceptional balance. The Tar Heels outscored Temple 42-14 in the paint and also went 7-for-12 from behind the 3-point line. Williams' best teams at UNC have been the ones with the best balance (not surprising). The 2005 team had a dominant post presence and good shooters. Same with the 2009 team. This team has done it for one game. The question: will that kind of balance continue now that UNC has shown it's capable of producing it?
One down, maybe about 40 to go.