|Photo by Agatha Donkar|
1.2: Iona Man, Iona has some ballers on their roster. Most notably, junior do-everything guard Marina Lizarazu. She's got deft handles, excellent court vision, an incredibly versatile offensive game, and a tenacious defensive presence. She plays with the kind of constant, searching propulsion that can occasionally get players into trouble but is more often an asset. As you may know, they grow some damned fine basketball players in Spain (she hails from Madrid), and Lizarazu was deeply impressive all afternoon. The other Gaels standout was forward Joy Adams, who drifted into open space or darted off screens and put in buckets before the Heels could get out to contest. Perimeter defense continues to be something of a concern for the Heels against teams who move the ball well or play decent slash'n'kick, and Iona does both. So a game that should have been something of a walk given the overall talent disparity turned into a slog in the second half.
Luckily for us, N'Dea Bryant and Stephanie Watts played excellent games, and Destinee Walker continued her freshman coming out party, pouring in 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting including going 5/6 from deep. After we failed to put the game away in the third quarter like we should have, Iona surged back down the stretch. The defense got sloppy, the offense got careless, and the Gaels got a lot of ground back in a hurry. Thankfully, Des shot the lights out of the flippin' building to maintain the lead, and the Heels firmed up when they had to on both ends of the floor. This was not an elegant win, but the job got done.
1.3: Yale Another one Carolina should have had in the bag well before the final buzzer. Yale plays fast and they've got size on the Heels, and they have no quit in them. They played hard and fought like hell and didn't back down an inch. We had them in a double-digit hole at halftime, and things looked to be well in hand. Then the Bulldogs came out and bisected that deficit within two minutes in the third quarter. This forced Sylvia Hatchell to call one of her angry timeouts. You know, the ones that mean "I will make you run suicides for twelve straight hours tomorrow if you don't get it together!!!" So the Heels pushed their collective tachometer into the red. N'Dea Bryant went into the paint and just skyed over ever living body for crucial rebounds. My lord, she was transcendent. Xylina Walker is playing herself back into game shape, and she flashed some low post brilliance today that will only become more potent. When she gets all the way back, she's going to be a straight-up force. And Jamie killed it down the stretch. Yale kept pounding away, and we kept responding. This was a win that required focus and heart and intuition, and Carolina had just enough of all three to get the job done.
1. Jamie hasn't shaken all of the ill-advised bravado out of her game quite yet. There were a few saucy/difficult passes this weekend that shouldn't have been attempted, and the outcomes were not good. But she is worlds ahead of the erratic talent she was last season, and clearly capable of leading this team. That kind of fearlessness can be problematic at times, but she counterbalances it with so much excellence that it's not really an issue.
2. Damn our kiddos are going to be special. The freshmen are showing up and showing out already and they are fully prepared to light some things on fire like West Virginia football fans. This is going to be fabulous.
3. I will stand on this soapbox until the Dove bar within is ground to a fine powder. Sylvia has got to expand the bench. If she keeps running this six-or-seven deep rotation all season, the whole thing will be shot by February.
That's all. After a lackluster start, we're on a winning streak and rolling into the heart of the season. Go Heels.