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North Carolina 84 - LSU 70: Closer Than the Score

In the end, I think we really would have had a great chance to win this game if Ty Lawson had been out.  He scored 23 big points, almost all of them in the second half, and he dominated the decisive part of the game, 

This game was tied 63-63 with just over 7 minutes remaining.  Lawson scored 11 of North Carolina's last 21 points.  He also had 2 steals and an offensive rebound in that stretch, and contributed to the defense that kept LSU from hitting shots when we really needed them.

This team fought hard, and the low post mismatch we expected to see for North Carolina never really materialized.  Chris Johnson played his best defensive game that I've ever seen and held Tyler Hansbrough below his average, despite Hansbrough making a couple circus shots early that could not have come against better defense.  

It was a good way for this team to go out.  They were playing a team that overmatched them in talent and size, but the heart and toughness we had seen from this team kept them in it.  Even a 9-point halftime deficit was not a big obstacle.  It was shrugged aside in the first couple minutes of the second half and then it was an outstanding game for about 10 minutes.  LSU took a lead of up to 5 points, 54-49, before North Carolina's superior talent finally took over.

In the end, we just could not stop their guards, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, who scored a combined 46 points.  It was not how I expected us to lose this game.

It was the final game for a group of seniors that will forever be remembered as guys who won a conference in their final year.  Some of them went to a Final Four.  Garrett Temple, Chris Johnson, Marcus Thornton, Quintin Thornton, and Terry Martin form a group that will definitely be missed.  They scored a lot of points and played a lot of roles for this team.  They did not go out quietly, as for about 33 minutes they put a big scare into the #1 team in the country.  I would have loved to have seen them pull it off, but it was not to be.

I've already singled out Chris Johnson for his play, but I also want to say that Quintin Thornton did a heck of a job on the defensive side of the ball when he was in the game.  He did not allow the UNC forwards to dominate him.  He even got a couple points on a put-back after an offensive rebound.  He committed no turnovers in 13 minutes.  All in all, it was a good night for him.

Now this team moves on.  Strangely, for such an average team (by some standards), I really think Marcus Thornton, Garrett Temple, and even Chris Johnson are going to get long looks from the NBA.  Thornton's obviously a scorer, but I don't really believe the statement that he is 6'4".  He'll get an opportunity to show a team that he can do in the NBA what he was able to do in college, and the rounding out of his game this year will certainly help.  Garrett Temple is a good athlete with the length to play a wing in the NBA.  He could find a role as a perimeter defender in the Bruce Bowen mold.  Chris Johnson lacks an elite game, but his 6'11" inch frame and above-the-rim athleticism will get him some looks, especially if he can ever re-discover the long range shooting touch he showed in his first couple years in Baton Rouge.

We'll need to find more scoring among the players already here, and more defense particularly in the interior.  We will return a nucleus of Tasmin Mitchell (I assume) and Bo Spencer.  There's a little scoring there.  I expect Storm Warren to develop his game a little further and probably be our undersized starting center next year unless we find a bigger post player somewhere else.  Outside of that, the starting spots are up for grabs.  Chris Bass could come in and move Spencer to shooting guard.  Delwan Graham could be this team's small forward, as could Alex Farrer.  A freshman such as Aaron Dotson or 6'10" redshirt Dennis Harris could be big factors.

It's a long time to Novembe, and we have a little thing called football season between here and there, but it will be interesting to see where this team goes from here.  They are, however, to be commended on a good game here at the end of their season