With their senior leaders paving the mental way, UNC defeated Georgia Tech 83-77 before a crowd of 17,492 at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
Here is a look at the good and the bad from UNC's first victory of the season:
Jason Capel – Capel willed his team to victory. He still isn't shooting the ball well but his floor game is a thing of beauty. There were three turnovers that, other than a travel near the top of the key, were a result of trying to make things happen which is acceptable. However, in the last five minutes he was awesome. His leadership by example rubbed off on his mates and is why they won. Without stepping it up, the Heels would be 0-4. Capel finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Kris Lang – Few players are tougher than Lang. He is a ferocious fighter in the paint and went after the ball on the glass extremely hard. He grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds and was incredibly active around the lane, knocking balls loose, altering shots and not allowing many easy opportunities. He also had three steals and hit the floor a few times going after loose balls.
Brian Morrison – Morrison said after the game he played as he had in previous games but the only difference was that his shots were falling. Perhaps, but starting with the Indiana game he has played more under control. The Washington native was 6-8 from 3-point range and finished with 21 points and kept the Heels in the game throughout. His two-handed slam late in the first half may have been the most exciting play by a Heel since Julius Peppers' one-handed alley-oop jam against Wake Forest last January. He also had three assists and a steal. Morrison might be this team's go-to guy by March.
Melvin Scott – Scott did a solid job communicating the offense and improved on the night. He didn't register an assist and had three turnovers, but considering he was up against Tech veteran Tony Akins, he did all right. Scott nailed two 3s and finished with 10 points. His defense on the ball was solid as well.
Jackie Manuel – Manuel will one day be a great defensive player. He is a cross between Brian Reese, Dudley Bradley and possibly one day Hubert Davis. However, he needs to work on his shot, especially his release, and ball handling. Manuel is super quick and has a knack for the ball, both on the glass (six rebounds) and on defense (three steals).
Jawad Williams – Williams, who had appeared as if he didn't want the ball last week and early in this game, loosened up and had his best game. He had five assists, including a beautiful high dump-down to a cutting Brian Bersticker for a layup in the first half, which appeared to boost Williams' confidence. His seven-point burst in the second half was one of the most encouraging individual stretches of the season for the Heels. In all he scored nine points, grabbed two rebounds, had a steal and of course the assists.
Intensity – Not often do teams play at the level of intensity this team has the last two games and on Sunday, Carolina elevated it a notch in the last five minutes. It was UNC's sheer desire and guts that earned this victory.
Assists – UNC assisted on 25 of its 27 field goals, getting at least four dishes from four different players. The Tar Heels were more aware with the ball and saw the floor more clearly. Increased movement without the ball also improved dishing opportunities.
Front line defense – Tech's starting center and two forwards scored just two points in 60 minutes of action.
Matt Doherty – Doherty didn't let the losing get him down. He knows this team better than anyone and wouldn't relinquish saying they are a quality shooting team and would eventually begin knocking down shots, especially from the perimeter. Stubborn to some, Doherty knew that working it - grinding it - would eventually begin to pay off. His intensity clearly rubs off on the team. Don't look for many theatrics from this club – for now. Expect gradual improvement.
Rebounding – Although Lang had a career-high and Carolina was the stronger team down low, the Heels didn't get many long rebounds on either end of the floor. The Yellow Jackets snared 14 offensive boards, at least nine long caroms off the glass. A quicker UNC lineup and one that anticipates better will reduce the number of long rebounds the opposition snags. Tech won the overall battle 37-32.
Turnovers – The Heels committed 19 turnovers (11 in the first half) and often struggled against Tech's pressure defense. There was an awful stretch in the first half in which the Heels had a tough time getting quality looks because there wasn't much flow and numerous possessions ended in turnovers.
Free throw shooting – The Heels may have found their stroke from the field but they sure didn't at the charity stripe. For the game UNC was 18-33 (54.5%) and had a chance to salt the game away late but missed five of ten in the last 3:55, including 3-6 in the last 39 seconds.
3-point defense – The Heels appeared to do a better job defending the 3 on Sunday but Tech still made nine of 22 3's. Halston Lane, a 3-point artist, was left alone too many times, which contributed to his hitting four of eight.
Adam Boone – Boone was charged with four turnovers but appeared to commit at least one or two more. He struggled against Tech's full court pressure and picked up his dribble allowing easy double teams. He is clearly having difficulty with confidence and could use a quality performance.
Will Johnson – Not to be too critical, but if Johnson is going to warrant 25 minutes of playing time on a team that is struggling offensively, he will need to take more than one shot.
The Tar Heels are off until Saturday when they travel to Kentucky for a 4 p.m. game that will be televised on CBS. Carolina will try to avenge a 17-point loss to UK at the Dean Dome last December.
Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.