Darian Durant Sighting

So it’s been a while since I had heard anything about Darian Durant, the former Tar Heel quarterback (just as it has been a while since I’ve posted…sorry, but I loves me some semester break).  So I was killing time by browsing youtube and stumbled onto the Sportscentre (Canada’s version) Top Ten plays of the year.  There, we find Mr. Durant, now a Saskatchewan Roughrider, shedding three tacklers and passing for a touchdown just before taking a hit from a fourth.

To jump straight to Durant’s incredible play, skip to 1:38.

University of National Champions

For the third time in the 2009 calendar year, a UNC team brings home an NCAA National Championship.  This time, it was the Women’s Soccer team following the lead of the men’s basketball and women’s field hockey teams, claiming a 1-0 victory over Stanford in the championship game Sunday at College Station, Texas.  The title is the second consecutive national championship for the women’s soccer team and the program’s 21st national championship.  In the 28 seasons the NCAA has held a women’s soccer championship, UNC has claimed the title 20 times.

Crash in Kentucky

Amazingly enough, I was not furious with UNC’s 68-66 loss to Kentucky Saturday at Rupp Arena.

Normally, Carolina losses fester inside of me for an hour or so.  During that hour, it’s best to just not talk to me.

This wasn’t the case Saturday.

There was plenty cause for frustration.  Since I have had the good fortune of missing some very ugly moments of Carolina Basketball in recent years (I am looking right at you, 2008 Kansas game), the 26-2 run that put the Wildcats ahead for good early in the first half was easily the worst stretch of play I have seen in the Roy Williams era.  The Tar Heel offense was characterized by panic, rushed shots, and silly turnovers that led to easy transition baskets for Kentucky.  North Carolina only made 38.8% of its field goal attempts and turned the ball over 16 times on only 11 assists.

Despite all of this, I’m incredibly optimistic (enjoy it while it lasts, it doesn’t come often with me).  After that spectacularly awful stretch of basketball, a very young team settled down and played darn good basketball in a hostile environment against a top-five team, only a Larry Drew II three-pointer away from tying the game with a minute or so remaining, in fact.

My roommate probably summed it up best:  When last year’s UNC team lost, something was terribly wrong.  That team, as everyone knows, was vastly superior than its competition in every sense of the word.    This year’s UNC team is young.  Good, but young.  Losses will happen, but lots will be gained from them.  This will be a very good team, and part of it will come from an effort like the one Saturday, erasing a massive deficit to scare the folks at Rupp.

Due credit to the Wildcats:  they jumped out on us early and cranked up the pressure defensively when we were rattled.  Patrick Patterson had a spectacular game, scoring 19 points on an 8-12 shooting performance while the media folks focused on uber-freshman John Wall, who also had a solid outing (16 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds).  It is better to play tough teams like Kentucky for the first time in December than in March.

It’s hard to imagine that there will be a full week before the next game, a home contest against Presbyterian Saturday evening at the Smith Center, but that is the case for the Heels.  Until then, we can be sure that this young team is learning from last Saturday’s game and will be much better for it.

Third Time’s A Charm?

Carolina’s best game of the season could not have come at a better time.

It was the first truly packed house of the season at the Smith Center.

It was a rematch of last year’s National Championship game, even if there was very little in common between the two games.  As ESPN’s Dana O’Neil put it, “North Carolina had little left over but its uniforms,” from that April 6 thrashing at Ford Field.

(She forgot about a Hall of Fame coach, but we’ll forgive her on this one occasion.)

It was a national television audience for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, complete with yours truly making a very brief appearance on ESPN from the student section.

The Tar Heels won 89-82 over the Michigan State Spartans in the first game this season where they’ve truly looked like a Carolina Basketball team that we’ve come to expect in the Roy Williams era, pushing the tempo, driving to the hoop, working the ball inside.

There’s still room to grow.  There were 17 turnovers, and a 50-34 halftime advantage slowly eroded to as little as six points at times late in the second half.

More importantly, though, there WAS growth.  Freshmen John Henson, Dexter Strickland, and Wear One and Wear Two (I’m still working on it) assembled an 11-2 run to put the Tar Heels ahead 30-21 in the first half.  The team as a whole, as I mentioned, was much faster, much more comfortable, and, quite simply, much better than any other game this season.

Ed Davis and Larry Drew both had career-high scoring efforts of 22 and 18 points, respectively.  Michigan State was held to 2-20 from beyond the arc, including an 0-7 performance from three-point territory in the first half.

Not that I ever doubted us…

Nonetheless, there is little time for celebration (although Wisconsin did manage to add to my jubilation last night).  Saturday, our annual meeting with #5/4 Kentucky comes with a little extra anticipation, as the new-look Wildcats, with John Calipari and John Wall and all the media attention that encompasses playing host to North Carolina.

Okay, maybe a little celebration won’t hurt anyone.

We Meet Again…

After a Thanksgiving Break hiatus here at Tobacco Road Thoughts, we (Who is we?  There’s only one of me…) return with stomachs full and anticipation very high for tonight’s contest against Michigan State.

Normally, here is where we’d throw in some cute stats from the last time these two teams met, but EVERYONE knows about the last TWO times these teams met.  UNC ran roughshod over the Spartans at Ford Field in both the ACC/Big Eleven Challenge and the National Championship game last season.

I (or we) don’t have to remind you that last year’s Tar Heel team is much different than this year’s squad, nor do I need to remind you that both teams have already taken a loss apiece this season against quality teams (UNC falling to Syracuse, Sparty to Florida).

Once again, UNC goes into a game much larger than it’s opponent (Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo referred to the Heels as a “forest of redwoods“), as no Spartan stands taller than 6-8.  However, they have the experienced Kalin Lucas at the helm of their offense, who remembers all too well how the Tar Heels dashed his title hopes last season…whether they’re willing to admit this is a “revenge” game or not.

Can Larry Drew (sporting a 10-1 assist-turnover ratio in UNC’s 80-73 win over Nevada) lead the Heels in yet another pressure-cooker game on this brutal stretch of demonic scheduling?  Carolina only turned over the ball eight times against the Wolf Pack, but Tom Izzo’s teams, known for their grit and toughness, will not back down from this fight.  Will yet another backcourt go wild against the UNC defense, arguably the best guards they’ve faced this season at that?

Only time will tell.  See you at the Dome in a few hours to find out.

The City So Nice We Played There Twice

It’s probably a sign that I am far too interested in the exploits of a college basketball team that, without seeing the UNC-Syracuse game or having any knowledge of its outcome (I was at work), I felt like I could write a fairly accurate description of the game’s proceedings.

  • UNC’s offense, which has struggled to protect the ball all season long, would turnover the ball twenty times against Syracuse’s patented zone defense.
  • Syracuse, which rolled through it’s Thursday game against California, would jump ahead early on the Heels, forcing the Heels to respond to adversity, as they did against Ohio State.
  • UNC would attempt at least fifteen three point field goals, and make less than a third of them.
  • Bottom line:  Syracuse would win.

I can only say I was wrong on this prediction on two accounts:  Syracuse jumped ahead by coming out of the locker room with a 22-1 run to start the second half, and UNC only turned the ball over nineteen times.

Outside of that, it would be unwise for me to say anything else about a game I didn’t see, so I turn the floor over to Adam Lucas.

In other Tar Heel news, the UNC Field Hockey team won its second national title in three seasons with a 3-2 victory over Maryland yesterday.

North Carolina vs. Ohio State Discussion

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