In a game plagued by fouls on both ends of the court, the Texas Longhorns found a way to claw out a gutsy, hard-fought 86-83 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. The high score would have been even higher had both teams not been hamstrung by foul trouble and the inconsistency of calls made on the new hand check rule and light contact throughout the evening.
Texas was led by outstanding performances by Jonathan Holmes, Isaiah Taylor and DeMarcus Holland respectively, who combined for 46 points and 21 points between them, setting the tone early and playing with impressive aggressiveness and grit against a North Carolina team whom they appeared to be mismatched against, at least on paper. Holmes, in fact, struggled with a leg injury in the second half which reduced him to limping around the court in the game’s waning minutes. Refusing to stay on the bench, Holmes played on adrenaline to finish the evening, and was the personification of the apparent difference in Rick Barnes’ 10-1 squad through 11 games in 2013 versus a diva-centric, me first team which stumbled its way through 2012.
For Texas, it’s a monumental win which should undoubtedly vault them into the national Top 25, and in turn, open some eyes prior to another important home contest on Saturday afternoon in Austin against the No. 5 Michigan State Spartans. For the Tar Heels, it’s yet another frustrating loss to a team which they should have handled easily given the difference in experience level and with the home court at their advantage. Roy Williams’ squad just never looked settled, and in spite of solid evenings from Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo, couldn’t come through in the clutch when it mattered most.
After a 9-1 start against teams who were largely over-matched, Texas’ win over UNC proves the 2013 version of the Longhorns can play against the country’s best in one of the most hostile environs in college basketball. With a few days to rest, the Longhorns should be at full strength on Saturday afternoon in a game which should draw a much better crowd than the sparse crowds that have attended games at the Frank Erwin Center through the early going of the home schedule.
While the fire was certainly under the backside of Rick Barnes prior to the season with the arrival of new athletic director Steve Patterson and the struggles of 2012, that fire could quickly be extinguished with another big win on Saturday. In fact, that win could start to drum up support for a 2013 Texas hoops squad which many — apparently incorrectly — had pronounced dead prior to arrival.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer, Business Analyst and College Content Coordinator for Rant Sports.