By Adam Lucas
North Carolina, we’ve been doing this all wrong.
You know how non-natives always tell us we don’t know what to do when it snows? I think they might be right. I think, now, perhaps I understand the way we’re supposed to do it.
To paraphrase Elf, here’s how it works. I planned out our whole weekend. On the first day, we’ll go sledding and drink hot chocolate and watch movies.
And on the second day, we’ll beat NC State by 51 points.
Folks, that was remarkable. Carolina has had some very good performances against the Wolfpack in the Smith Center. The 2008 team beat the Pack by 31 and led 37-11 midway through the first half, a game in which the Smith Center crowd actually halfheartedly cheered when State managed to make a basket (this was in a different era of NC State/UNC relations; there was no such cheering on Sunday). In the Roy Williams era, there had been five previous 15+ point UNC wins in the Smith Center over the Pack.
And all of those felt like barnburners compared to what happened on Sunday.
“I didn’t really notice (the lead) until I came out,” said Isaiah Hicks in the wake of the 107-56 thrashing. “And when I came out, I looked up, and I was like, ‘Daaaaaaaang.’ That’s all I could say.”
As a Carolina fan, Sunday almost felt like it was a play put on for our benefit. Had a rough 24 hours cooped up in the house with the kids? That’s OK. Come on down to the Smith Center and watch the Tar Heels put on a show.
This was, in so many ways, the perfect snow day. Justin Jackson scored 21 points. Joel Berry added 19. Theo Pinson returned, checking into the game for the first time this season with 13:47 remaining. At that point, the lead was 19-4.
The crowd roared for Pinson, and he noticed.
“It was a great feeling,” he said. “Having the love from everyone and knowing I’d been missed. It’s something I will never forget. It was loud, really loud. I tried my hardest not to smile and stay focused.”
Pinson would later dive on the floor to secure a loose ball in the second half. He somehow managed to bounce the ball off Nate Britt’s foot, where it found Seventh Woods, who did some sort of impossible behind the back move while he navigated through traffic, and then Tony Bradley finished it with a bucket. At that point, the lead was 95-48.
Luke Maye had a near double-double with nine points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes, and when he scored through contact with 11:11 left, we got to chant, “Luuuuuuuuuke,” because nothing is more fun than turning someone’s name into a long-echoing chant. At that point, the lead was 76-43.
We got biscuits, which taste even better when there are still over four minutes left in the game.
For everyone who believes calling timeouts is the perfect run-stopper, Sunday provided the perfect example of why that’s not always the case. Mark Gottfried burned through every one of his stoppages in the first 34:47 of the game. He called so many timeouts, when combined with the media timeouts, that Roy Williams ran out of things to say. A Pack timeout and media timeout came within 11 seconds of each other late in the second half.
After the second timeout, Williams talked briefly to his team, then sent them back out onto the court, where Pinson, Maye, Woods, Nate Britt and Tony Bradley stood around and tried not to look awkward while the Disco Cam played on the Smith Center video boards. At that point, the lead was 91-48.
No Tar Heel played more than 23 minutes, and Carolina still won the game by 51 points. Are you not entertained? You can complain about Smith Center crowds all you want, but Sunday's was loud, into the game from the start, and walked back into the frigid air having thoroughly enjoyed itself. I understand there is HDTV and comfortable recliners in your den and free snacks in your fridge. But Sunday's game was a perfect example of how, sometimes, you really just need to go to the game, because that's the only way to enjoy a game like that.
At the Smith Center, if you got tired of the basketball (I am worried about you if you get tired of beating NC State by 51 points), there were also celebrity sightings. The video board showed Rasheed Wallace (all of us got to yell, “Sheeeeeeed!” because nothing is more fun than turning someone’s name into a long-echoing chant) in the stands, and Tyler Hansbrough was three seats down for him, and even rapper J. Cole, a longtime Tar Heel fan, got some video board time. At that point, the lead was 72-43.
The only possible comparison in the modern era to this kind of UNC-NC State rout was the 104-58 whipping delivered to Les Robinson’s team by the eventual national champions in 1993. But that was a bad Wolfpack squad. This year’s State team is much better than that group, and had announced prior to the game they were bringing a “Bad Boys mentality” to Chapel Hill. To their credit, they did deliver a couple hard fouls late in the game.
Don’t ever, ever forget this: Roy Williams cares deeply about beating NC State. He grew up during the period when Carolina-State was the preeminent rivalry in the ACC, and when the Pack often had the better of it. He doesn’t see Dennis Smith and Maverick Rowan. He sees David Thompson and Monte Towe.
“He gets fired up every time we play them,” Pinson said. “There’s a certain spark he has when we play NC State…It starts off in practice. Right after Clemson, Coach Williams started talking about playing NC State next. You can just tell by his voice. He wants our execution to be perfect because it’s NC State.”
It was pretty close to perfect on Sunday, making for the absolute best snowy entertainment that 16,133 people could possibly find. Tomorrow we’ll go back to navigating icy back roads and figuring out whether work and school will be closed. Today? Let’s just enjoy this for a moment.
On Saturday, my kids and I played two separate games of street football in the snowy road. We played a ridiculous game called Watch Ya Mouth which is designed to make you look as foolish as humanly possible. We ate enormous, home-cooked meals and had friends over and went sledding and threw snowballs. At the end of the day, we were pretty tired.
And on Sunday, we went to the State game. And at the end of the game, we were exhausted.
Asher served his usual ballboy duties but somehow managed to coax his way into shooting around with the other ballboys during halftime. He got Justin Jackson-type hot during halftime, and sank first one…and then two…and finally three halfcourt shots with the entire arena watching. Look, I tried to tell you it was that kind of day. By the third one, the crowd--fueled by a 33-point halftime lead--was roaring, and he celebrated with dance moves that are most certainly not hereditary.
This evening, I asked him his favorite activity of the snowy weekend. It has been a jam-packed 48 hours.
“Has to be the game,” he said. “That was completely awesome.”
It was. It really was.