Byron Sanders – What a sequence! Sanders, who often goes lengthy stretches without being noticed on the floor, stole a pass using perfect denial defense – incredibly at the top of the key – and raced down the floor for an impressive slam. He then slammed to the floor, but got up and ran back to play defense. Few knew the Mississippi freshman had this in him, but it was certainly an encouraging sight for Tar Heel fans. Sanders finished with seven points, seven rebounds and two assists, one a gorgeous dump-down to Raymond Felton.
Melvin Scott – Finally, Scott went off. He finished with 15 points on 5-7 shooting (all 3s), four rebounds, and three assists with just a single turnover. It's crucial that Scott becomes a dependable scorer and ballhandler for the Heels. He's had moments this year, most notably against Kansas, but at times hasn't been as aggressive offensively as he should. With more teams figuring zoning UNC is the best route to success, Scott's value will increase.
Raymond Felton – Felton had a terrific game, scoring 13 points, grabbing five rebounds, and handing out five assists to go against only one turnover. He didn't dribble as much as in recent games, one reason why UNC's offense flowed pretty well for the final 30 minutes. He was scrappy on defense and recorded a pair of steals. The freshman's accuracy from the field (4-14 overall, 1-7 from beyond the arc against Davidson) remains a concern.
Bench – UNC's bench was terrific. Consider Will Johnson a bench player in this game despite starting in place of Rashad McCants. He's not a regular starter and only played eight minutes, but scored five points. David Noel gave 11 quality minutes, totaling five points and doing his usual solid job on defense. Add Scott's output and the bench combined for 25 points on 8-14 shooting, six rebounds, four assists and just one turnover in 52 minutes.
Matt Doherty – Four days after a discouraging loss, Carolina played extremely hard on defense, which is a credit to Doherty, the staff, and the players, but it begins with the head coach. He also made some nice adjustments during the game by apparently tweaking the zone offense a bit and giving Scott 28 minutes and limiting Manuel, the lesser shooter and ballhandler of the two, just 20 minutes. Doherty has done a good job getting this extremely young team ready to play after difficult losses.
Zone offense – After the first 10 minutes or so, the Heels were much better against a zone than at any time in the last two seasons. More than one player moved at a time, the spacing was excellent, and they rotated the ball exceptionally well. Most of their 35 attempted 3s were open, a reason they had success.
Ball movement – Carolina's ball movement was much better than it was in Miami when Tar Heels not named Felton totaled a paltry three assists. Against Davidson, seven different Heels registered assists, with five players dishing at least twice. Better movement without the ball and recognition by UNC resulted in this improved statistics.
Rashad McCants – McCants had another solid shooting night as he was 5-10 from the floor, including 4-8 from 3-point range. However, he should get more than two looks that aren't 3s, and he turned the ball over six times. His assist-to-turnover numbers over the last six games are seven and 15. The Asheville freshman just hasn't looked as aggressive lately as he did in the first few weeks of the season. But his quality shooting night keeps him on the "good" side.
Under 40% - UNC held yet another opponent to less than 40% shooting from the field, as the Wildcats were at 39% (23-59). Only Rutgers, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, and Iona have been above 50% against the Heels.
Free throws – Carolina was 18-25 (72%) from the free throw line, which isn't great, but is very solid. Most impressive is that UNC shot 14 more freebies than Davidson did, which is a major improvement over most of the games this season.
Rebounding – The Heels and Wildcats were even on the glass at 37 apiece. Both teams shot 39% from the floor, so what appeared to be a UNC shooting fest is no excuse. Injury excuses aside, the Heels have to do a better job of rebounding, especially against teams clearly inferior to them.
35 3s – Doherty wanted them to shoot a lot of 3s, but a school-record 35 may have been a bit excessive. Even though Davidson was in a zone, Carolina should be able to get more inside looks. Banking on winning by the 3 means there is a high probability of losing by the 3 as well. Considering that interior struggles are likely ahead, improving the inside game is crucial. And if Doherty feels they need to shoot so many 3s to beat a decent at-best team like Davidson, especially if the Heels CAN'T get quality inside looks, than UNC is in trouble. If this was a glimpse into the immediate future of how Doherty wants to play, then the strategy was fine and it worked.
Jawad Williams – Williams had one really nice stretch, but otherwise didn't have a great offensive game. He was 4-12 from the field, which included 1-5 from 3-point range. With May out, Williams must be more of an inside presence, and taking five 3s means he was on the perimeter too often, which is another reason why the Heels were too trigger happy from beyond the arc. Williams must post on the blocks more, even against zones. Otherwise, defenses won't respect the Heels much down low because Sanders is still very green.
Jackie Manuel – Manuel did a fine job defensively but wasn't sharp on offense. His shooting and ballhandling skills need considerable work, but he penetrates too often and takes too many perimeter shots. Most noticeable is that when on the floor with a bunch of reserves Manuel appears to try to take over offensively, which isn't one of his strengths. However, he was once again sensational on defense and did a solid job getting rebounds, especially long ones, which is another of his many attributes. Nobody D's it up like Jackie.
The Tar Heels travel to Virginia for their second ACC road game of the campaign. This is an extremely important game as fans should learn a great deal about the Heels. Game time is set for Noon and will be televised by ESPN.
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.