1. Credit to Brice Johnson for recovering from what could've been a momentum-killing missed dunk in a tight game in the second half. On the next handful of possessions, Johnson contributed a blocked shot, turnaround jumper and layup, and his defensive energy helped the Tar Heels recover from a lethargic opening minutes of the second half. It was essentially the Johnson and Marcus Paige show in the second half, and the offense ran almost entirely through those two through the majority of the second half.
Johnson was key in Carolina's game-seizing 12-0 run. "I just had to bring the energy," the sophomore said.
By the way, is this the game we'll look back on at the end of the year and identify as the game when Carolina became Paige's team? It's incredible how far he has come in just a year, to the point that with the current roster you want him taking every big shot.
"I felt I had to take charge a little bit," Paige said after the game. And he's right--Carolina needed him to play that role.
2. Those final minutes aren't going in a time capsule. You can tell a lot from Roy Williams' sideline demeanor, and as his team sputtered through the first 30-35 minutes, he remained fairly calm, trying to encourage a team that is going to experience some growing pains. But some of the questionable decisions late--Nate Britt and James Michael McAdoo showed very little awareness of time and score with the clock under three minutes, and Paige saved the ball back under the Holy Cross basket--are the type that Williams simply isn't going to tolerate from any of his teams, no matter what their makeup.
Britt is, as he reminded us late in the game, a freshman point guard. He's going to do some head-scratching things. That's just what freshmen do. His growth in some of those late-game situations will determine whether Paige can stay at two guard or needs to handle the ball more in close-and-late scenarios. By the way, before you give up too quickly on Britt, take a look at No. 1 above and Paige's progress.
3. This gets talked about frequently when it's bad, so it's worth mentioning when it's good: Carolina appears to be an improved free throw shooting team, which is especially important because any free points are going to be valuable. In an especially encouraging development, the Tar Heel big men are shooting well. James Michael McAdoo, who has changed the way he lines up at the free throw line (he now has one foot behind the other rather than side-by-side), hit 5 of 6 in the game and is 8-for-10 for the season after hitting just 54.3% last season.