These past two days have played out like a Thanksgiving dinner, if you will.
It was like all of the Carolina players’ grandmas collectively yelled at once, “Dinner’s ready!” when things got started. They came out of the gates with a - stovetop - fire under them, Coby hitting shots, Luke hitting a three, Kenny knocking one down too.
The Tar Heels jumped out to a 17-4 lead, throwing every turkey leg, piece of ham and spoonful of rice that they could find into their mouths. Hunger-driven. The kind of start that can make any nervous fan just bust out into laughter.
And then, you suddenly realize that you might’ve overdone yourself. Roy called it “fools gold,” I call it overeating. They got a little cocky, especially the seniors, and continued to jack shots up from outside, or eat everything in front of them, on a whim.
When things started to turn south and the shots stopped falling, their stomachs got that uneasy feeling, Texas takes a halftime lead on the backs of 14 Tar Heel turnovers.
And like any famished college student who’s eaten Wendy’s cheeseburgers and Chick-fil-A sandwiches every day for the past 3 months, Carolina saw no option but to keep doing what they were doing. Even if the defense is atrocious, at least we’re scoring.
Our seniors looked especially pitiful at times on Thanksgiving day.
Although it may be hard to swallow, we’re just going to have to accept that Luke Maye and Kenny Williams are not your average UNC seniors. They’re quieter. They make their headway with simple shots off of screens, not flashy moves. And it just simply wasn’t working, for some reason.
Cam Johnson tried to pick up the pace, and he did for a bit in the second half against Texas, but ultimately made some poor passes and a weak, albeit fair, decision to move out of the way of a posterizing Kerwin Roach slam.
As always, it seems that Carolina has a knack for letting one guy have his best game ever. In this case, Roach found himself with a 30-point effort and the Longhorns were scoring 1.5 points per possession in the second half in what was ultimately a 92-89 loss for the Tar Heels.
This slump continued through Friday.
UCLA came out with that same fire, making 9 of their first 11 shots. And we did not. Despite Coby White pouring on points early again, Luke Maye and Cam Johnson came together to make one shot out of their first 10.
But something was a little bit different. Kenny Williams was scoring.
When all else but Coby was failing, Kenny got a couple shots to drop that kept us within 10 for a little while.
And then, Cam Johnson made a three to end the half. It was a lucky play admittedly, but the second stagnant play in a row ended with a stepback three from the top of the key with less than two seconds on the clock.
You know that feeling of “I know I feel full, but I think it’s just gas” and then you get that nirvana moment when the stars align and you finally get that burp that fills the heavens and makes everything alright again?
Coming out of the halftime break, Cam Johnson turned on the burners and scored seven more points to pull the game back into a comfortable place. You could feel it building up, things were getting back into order.
Next, Luke hits a couple of beautiful shots to get things going for himself. The basket was getting bigger.
Carolina down 62-61, playing better but not yet finding the resolve to really take things over.
And then Nassir Little burped, or dunked, I should say.
He rose up like a turkey getting back to its roost in the trees and ended that poor boy’s life with a resounding slam that looked like Vince Carter was back in Carolina blue. What a daggum dunk.
With that excess air thrown out of the way, the Tar Heels looked like the Tar Heels again. They guarded high ball screens by switching, they made crisp passes and most of all, they made the shots that they were supposed to.
Even though the game wasn’t out of reach for the Bruins yet, the game had a completely different feel when Coby White hit an open three to put the team up by seven and then smiled the whole time he played defense coming down the court.
“Y’all ready for dessert?”
Well how about KJ Smith putting on a show to finish things off? Sweet as a slice of pumpkin pie.
Carolina fans have a lot to be thankful for. We’ve got a couple of freshmen that simply want it more than everybody else, we’ve got a trio of seniors that looked like they’re figuring things out and we’ve got a coach who knows to hug them when they’ve put it all out there him.
They’ve got a long way to go, but I think we’ve got some hungry hearts in Carolina blue jerseys that not even a Thanksgiving dinner can satisfy.