Last night was the best sort of vindication for this year's Heels. They outplayed dook in the first meeting, but because of some freak plays and bad calls, dook was able to pull out the victory in Chapel Hill.
A dook win last night would have given the Devils a sweep in a year when they were clearly the inferior team, and that could have been devastating to this UNC team. Knowing the sort of advantage dook gets in Cameron - both from their fans and from the officiating - I was worried that even if they outplayed dook again, the Heels might still end up behind on the scoreboard.
Boy was I wrong. The Heels came out as the aggressors, and they imposed their will on the dookies from the start. You could tell from the beginning that this team meant business. Meanwhile, dook continued with their approach of jacking up the first quick 3 they could, which turned out to be disastrous.
The game was all but over by halftime, when the Heels had built up a 24-point advantage. I knew a dook run would come in the second half, and it did. They actually had a few runs, and believe it or not they enjoyed the most success on the offensive end by going inside to the Plumlees. I really don't think the Plumlees are as bad as they often seem to be, but they just don't get enough looks from their trigger-happy teammates. If it weren't for the Plumlees last night, dook might have lost by 40.
That said, the Plumlees and the rest of their teammates had nothing on Zeller, Henson, Barnes, Bullock, and Marshall, who I thought were the five best players on the court last night. Even McAdoo and Hairston had their moments, including a couple of thunderous follow-dunks. It seems that every Tar Heel knew their role and executed it to perfection. I just don't think this team was going to be beaten last night.
That said, the refs tried their hardest to keep dook in the game. We saw the patented three-point flop from Curry during a crucial moment in the second half, and the replay showed that Harrison Barnes was only guilty of putting a hand up to give a token defensive effort. If there was any contact at all on that play, it was with Curry's follow-through slightly brushing Barnes' hand. Then again, Curry certainly wasn't reacting to that "contact" as he crumpled to floor like he'd been shot in the knee. Of course, the officials fell for this ploy as they always do.
Austin Rivers was up to his usual antics. Someone posted a sobering video compilation of Rivers' travels in the game, and it really hit home how blatantly he uses a stutter-step to freeze the defender before he drives to the basket. Of course, the stutter-step (which is a travel by itself) is made even worse after adding in the 3-4 steps Rivers takes when catching the ball and squaring to the basket. Also, Rivers was able to draw his usual number of foul calls by driving directly into a defender and flailing his arms like he'd been stripped of the ball. This happened a couple of times where I watched the play over and over and couldn't tell what the defender had done wrong to constitute a foul. It only got called that way because it looked like a foul, which is due to Rivers' acting. As an aside, if Rivers doesn't go pro after this year, we'll be looking at these antics over and over again in the future, and Rivers will likely get lauded as a superstar by the media. It will be sickening.
I could go on and on about the refereeing, but there's no need for that since the Heels took care of business. They made it apparent that no amount of bad calls or flops or lucky shots were going to decide this game. And, for that, I couldn't be prouder.
ACC regular season champs. How sweet it is!