The Morning After: Thoughts, notes and anything else that didn’t quite make this space after North Carolina’s latest game (in this case, the Tar Heels' 60-57 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday). It was a game that posed an important test for UNC after losing to UNLV last weekend – and it passed.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Reserve wing P.J. Hairston will have X-rays on his left wrist Thursday morning after falling awkwardly on it during Wednesday’s second half while trying to draw a charge. He went to the locker room briefly, returned to the bench, but did not return to the game.
A loss of Hairston, for any amount of time, would make a major impact on the fifth-ranked Tar Heels. Although the freshman was 0-for-4 before he was injured against the Badgers, he was ranked fourth in the ACC in 3-point percentage (.483) and 3s made per game (2.3), entering Wednesday.
With reserve sharpshooter Leslie McDonald still sidelined by offseason knee surgery, and UNC’s starting backcourt of Kendall Marshall and Dexter Strickland combining for only three 3-pointers this season (all by Marshall), Hairston and sophomore Reggie Bullock have been key offensive pick-me-ups off the bench. The Tar Heels need both to stay healthy.
BIG NIGHT FOR ZELLERS: Senior forward Tyler Zeller was curious to see how fast his parents would make it to the game after watching his brother Cody, a freshman for Indiana, play at N.C. State in the 7:30 p.m. game.
He was pleased to hear they showed up by the first TV timeout.
“Which was impressive, because they usually come and get my car before the game, so they can park back here [behind the Smith Center],’’ Tyler Zeller said. “But they were in Raleigh, so they couldn’t do it. … So I’m very impressed that they made it that close [to tipoff].”
Tyler finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds, scoring his first field goal after his parents took their seats. Cody scored 19 points in the Hoosiers’ win – eight in roughly the final eight minutes, after his parents left the building.
NUMBER TO KNOW: Strickland, after scoring nine points and making 4 of his 6 shots Wednesday night, continues to lead the team in field-goal percentage -- .622. One of the reasons: he’s taking smarter shots, tending to use his speed to drive to the basket rather than force 3-pointers. In fact, he has yet to attempt a 3-pointer this season.
Strickland also was key Wednesday to helping slow Wisconson point guard Jordan Taylor, who made only 6 of 20 shots (including 3 of 11 3-pointers).
Said UNC coach Roy Williams: “Jordan Taylor just dominates the ball so effectively, and yet I’ve got to congratulate Dexter and Kendall [Marshall] because it’s hard to guard that guy.”
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.