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Ken Medlin

Senior Night a month early for Smith

Posted February 10, 2011

If felt like Senior Night for Nolan Smith.

That was the only thing missing from Smith's virtuoso performance against North Carolina. Smith scored 22 of his career-high 34 points in the second half as the Blue Devils came from 14 points down at halftime to win by six.

Going in to this game, the most glaring weakness for Carolina was perimeter defense -- a shortcoming made even more short when Larry Drew, II skipped town for parts unknown. Smith exploited that weakness with precision; just look at the foul totals for Carolina's backcourt.

But Smith's dominance earned him something much more lasting. In a series like this one, great performances are remembered for years to come. This will be the "Nolan Smith Game," just as other games over the years have come to be known for great individual performances.

Just as there was an "Art Heyman Game" remembered for his 40 points, and a "Gene Banks Game" in which he hit two buzzer beaters and threw roses to the crowd, there is now a "Nolan Smith Game."

And it was impressive.

For Carolina, this team proved it has returned to prominence. The frontcourt combo of Henson and Zeller was much more than Duke could handle --  as evidenced by their combined totals of 38 points and 25 rebounds. And while Kendall Marshall still has some work to do defensively, his playmaking ability continues to impress -- 6 assists, 1 turnover.

Had the Tar Heels hit a few more free throws (they shot 13-for-22) or three-point shots (2-of-14), there might not be a "Nolan Smith Game" to remember.

But there is, and the only thing missing was Senior Night.

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