It was a fairly modest stat line.
Two points on 1-for-4 shooting three rebounds a turnover and four fouls — in just eight minutes of action.
On any other night — or from any other player — those stats wouldn't demand anything more than a passing glance. But given the fact that they belonged to North Carolina's Tyler Zeller" the numbers carried a little more meaning. They marked Zeller's return from a broken left wrist suffered Nov. 18 against Kentucky.
""It was great to be back out there"" Zeller said after UNC's win against N.C. State. It's definitely very different being out for 13 weeks.""
Though Zeller knew that he eventually would enter the game"" that didn't subside any feelings of anxiety as he watched other players sub in and out in the beginning of the game.
""I kept on looking over at the clock like" ‘Ah" when's he going to put me in?'"" Zeller said.
""They asked me on the bench" ‘You nervous?' I'm like ‘Yeah" I'm a little nervous.'""
It took awhile" but Zeller's moment came with 8:28 left in the first half. As UNC led 24-22 coach Roy Williams motioned to the 7-foot freshman to check in prompting an immediate standing ovation from the Smith Center crowd.
But it was far from a picture-perfect return for Zeller. He appeared antsy when he first stepped out onto the court shuffling his feet in the middle of the paint before finding his man on defense.
Rusty and out of position" Zeller committed three fouls on the defensive end to finish the night with four total whistles.
""I think Tyler knows that he's a lot better than what he was tonight"" senior Tyler Hansbrough said.
But Zeller wasn't brought back to become UNC's defensive stalwart — Williams acknowledged Zeller's deficiencies on that end Tuesday. Zeller's return gives North Carolina another offensive option down low.
The first time he touched the ball, Zeller spun and swished a turnaround jumper.
I think it really helps us a great deal" Williams said. The depth factor and the ability to rebound" the ability to block a shot and have that extra size is something.""
Zeller's outing also puts to rest any possibility that he'd sit out the rest of the year and declare for a medical redshirt. He said that it wasn't that difficult to miss out on the chance to keep an extra year of eligibility.
""It was the best thing for me to help me prepare for next year"" Zeller said of his decision.
I can tell you I've already learned a lot from tonight's game. … You can't get that kind of experience if you can't play.""
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