Not exactly sure what secret sauce recipe you were searching for, but North Carolina isn't selling any; the team looks different because they're winning. And sure, there are more important qualities such as locking down on defense, rebounding, making shots from the three, but for this UNC team, they're simply happy to start piecing it all together and winning games.
Winning makes things fun; it releases the pressure of what-ifs and how-tos, it gives you the reassurance in what you have always believed about yourself, and it's happening for North Carolina. Multiple strategies are working for UNC, Caleb Love is finding his confidence, Kerwin Walton is shooting 45% from the three and four bigs are dominating the inside; it's a recipe for success.
Tuesday night, UNC (11-5, 6-3 ACC) defeated Pitt (8-4, 4-3 ACC) in their most aggressive and confident game yet, 75-65. Though the 80-point mark wasn't accomplished, the Heels packed other stats seamlessly; 48 points in the paint, shooting 60.7 percent from the floor in the second half, and 22 assists on 32 field goals. Good basketball.
Sophomore Armando Bacot powered the inside with his fourth double-double of the season, finishing the game with 21 points, ten rebounds, and three blocks. With the prior season in his rearview, Bacot stated that history wouldn't repeat itself and would do what's necessary to push the program forward.
Speaking with media immediately after the game, Bacot chatted about the difference of this team from just a month prior and the upward trend to mirroring their paper qualifications. Bacot's answer was easy, "We're winning,"
"Last year, it was more like we just outmatched; teams were actually better than us. But this year, I feel like from a talent standpoint, like I feel like we can compete with anybody. It's just putting it all together. We're doing better and finishing games."
Has UNC turned the corner? Short answer, no. Coach Roy Williams still sees the small details that need to be corrected before he's confident in seeing the upward trend. Williams stated that the moment he announces the corner has turned should be at a championship.
"There are a lot of things that pleased me, but there's no way in the world I'm going to say we've turned the corner. I mean, we are getting a little bit better. And the day we if we're lucky enough in this lifetime or my next one that we're playing for the National Championship, I'll tell somebody, "Yeah, we've turned a corner. We're pretty good.""
Discounting what this team has accomplished in January doesn't go unnoticed, but this team knows that it only scratches the surface.
The remaining season should be fun.