Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 71-56 win over Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational championship.
One sign of a championship caliber team? The ability to win playing various styles. From the up-tempo game against Oklahoma State on Tuesday to the grinding Wisconsin game on Wednesday night, the Tar Heels showed the ability to either enforce their will and win, or beat you at your own game. In this championship game, it’s fair to say that North Carolina out-Wisconsined Wisconsin.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but, including this year, Roy Williams has won three Maui Invitational tournaments. The first two times were the 2004-05 and 2008-09 seasons. Anyone remember anything of significance that happened in those two years?
Amount of game time the Tar Heels trailed in Maui: exactly zero seconds.
Congratulations to Justin Jackson for becoming the 74th Tar Heel to score 1000 career points. He joins Kennedy Meeks as the second player to achieve that level this year. Look for Isaiah Hicks and Joel Berry to become numbers 75 and 76 later this season.
The first eight points of the game for Carolina went to the big men (Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley). This trio is should have the edge inside in nearly every game they play this year.
Wisconsin didn’t score until 12:39 left in the first half. Most of this was due to Carolina forcing them into jump shots. I’ll keep saying it: defense is keying this team. It starts with Joel Berry as the leader setting the example, and everyone else feeds off that.
Tony Bradley’s streak of double digit scoring to start his career ended tonight. He had just six points.
On the season, the trio of Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ, and Bronson Koenig has averaged a combined 40.4 points a game. They were scoreless until Happ got a bucket with 5:45 left in first half. The trio totaled only seven points at halftime.
Just as Wisconsin pulled to within three points at 17-14, Joel Berry went on his own little five-point run with a deeeeeeep (is that enough “e’s”?) three and a mid-range jumper to push the lead back to eight before Wisconsin called a timeout. He extended his run to seven with the next Carolina bucket as well.
Sure was nice to play a game (especially after the Oklahoma State game) where there was hard-nosed, no-fouling defense. There were 52 combined free throws shot against Oklahoma State, and 22 combined against Wisconsin.
Kennedy Meeks had a double-double in the first half (10 points/12 rebounds). He finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds (a career high)
In the first half there zero fast break points for either team and only three offensive rebounds; all to Carolina.
For the tournament, the Heels shot 80% from the free throw line (60-75). Both Joel Berry and Justin Jackson were perfect from the charity stripe in the three games.
It seems like the level of games keep ramping up. Next Wednesday, Carolina heads to Bloomington to play Indiana in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge. This will be third true road game in the first eight games; a wise scheduling move for a veteran squad. Although Indiana lost last night, they are also considered one of the top five teams in the nation. And they will be looking to avenge last year’s NCAA Tournament loss. Should be a great environment!
Quick Hitters from Tuesday night’s 107-75 win over Oklahoma State in the Maui Invitational semifinal.
Let’s get this out of the way: I know not every game will be this dominant a victory (and there are certainly pieces to clean up from this game), but I really enjoyed this one. Wednesday’s Maui Invitational Championship game against #16 Wisconsin, and their traditionally stingy defense, will be the next measuring stick for where this team is at.
Great job offensive rebounding within the first three minutes of the game. As of the first media timeout, the Heels had rebounded literally every shot they took.
All five starters scored before the first media timeout. Six players ended up scoring in double figures.
Joel Berry had his right arm run into by an Oklahoma State player chasing down a rebound early in the game. He seemed to be favoring his right shoulder and stretching his arm afterwards. Curious to see how it affects him. Update: Berry’s next shot was a three that he sank and looked great for the rest of the game. Hopefully there will be no lingering effects.
Oklahoma State’s man-to-man defense is stifling. The Heels had several lazy passes on the perimeter that were either picked off or nearly picked off. That must be tightened up.
Joel Berry did a better job getting to the rim in this game; something he didn’t do well against Hawaii or Chaminade.
The thing that has impressed me most about Tony Bradley thus far is his ability to move his feet and stay in front of his man when he gets switched onto a guard.
This was the most aggressive I’ve ever seen Justin Jackson. If he continues to drive the ball and use a combination of his deadly floater and finishing at the rim, he will become one of the most unguardable players in the country. His stat line for the night: 22 points on 7-12 shooting (including 7-7 on FTs), eight rebounds, six assists, one steal, and zero turnovers. Those are the numbers Jackson needs to continue to turn in to make this a national championship caliber team.
Quote of the night: “I don’t know how long Tony Bradley’s arms are…but they’re long.” – Jay Bilas
A bit of a scare late as Kenny Williams left the game after bumping heads with an Oklahoma State player and went straight to the locker room. Williams was cleared to return to action and seemed to be in good shape.
This Tar Heel team continues to look locked in defensively. Cowboy sharp shooter Phil Forte was held to two points (free throws) and shot 0-3 from the field.
Quick Hitters from Monday night’s 104-61 win over Chaminade in the Maui Invitational.
My favorite part of tonight’s game is that Coach Robinson, who couldn’t travel with the team, was live tweeting throughout the game. It was an interesting glimpse inside the mind of a coach.
Just to put any doubts to rest about a scoring drought like last game against Hawaii, Joel Berry hit a three-pointer just :53 into the game. His final line was eight points, four assists, four steals, four rebounds, against only one turnover
The Tar Heels looked uninterested for the majority of the first half. Admittedly, it must be hard to get up for a game against a D2 school, but that’s no excuse to come out flat. As the game wore on, the Heels got more locked in and established their will.
UNC’s main three big men (Hicks/Meeks/Bradley) didn’t miss a shot until 2:35 remaining in the first half. Prior to that point, the three players were a combined 12-12 for 27 points. By the end of the night, the Big Three were 20-26 for 56 points. Keep in mind, Chaminade as a team only had five points more (61) in the entire game.
Another double-digit point effort from Tony Bradley (14). He is quickly establishing a very important role as the third option in the frontcourt. It will be fun to watch his progression throughout this year.
Kenny Williams continues to be the spark plug that this team needs, filling the void that Theo Pinson’s injury created. It will be fun to see the two of them on the court together when Pinson returns.
Speaking of spark plugs, Stilman White gave some nice minutes and scored a career high five points. He came into the game to give some extra minutes of rest for the regulars thinking of the three-games-in-three-days tournament as well as to bring some fundamentals to a team that looked sloppy.
We found out that Brandon Robinson is tough. He took an elbow in the first half and came back into the game and had an impact in the second half. Always nice to see freshmen respond to adversity in this way.
Quick Hitters from Friday night / Saturday morning’s 83-68 victory over Hawaii, moving the Tar Heels to 4-0 on the season.
I’m too old for games to start this late. That said, I made it all the way through!
If my eyes saw correctly, Theo Pinson wasn’t wearing any kind of boot. He looked to be wearing tennis shoes. Luke Maye, on the other hand, had on a walking boot.
Encouraging to see this veteran team play two true road games in their first four of the season.
Despite the victory, the Heels looked rather lackadaisical for the majority of this game. Chalk it up to the long travel, adjusting to playing a game at 1:00am EST, not getting much time in Hawaii’s gym before the game, looking ahead to the Maui Invitational, or whatever else you want, but this performance was most certainly not the same team we saw in the first three games of the season.
At the first media timeout, Kennedy Meeks was beating Hawaii 6-4 and already had four rebounds, three of which were offensive.
UNC held Hawaii to just 7 offensive rebounds, after giving up double digits in this stat category in every other game (30, 17, 15, 12), including the exhibition.
Joel Berry had zero points in the first half. Didn’t end up scoring till there was just 5:10 left in the game. Also, he uncharacteristically had four turnovers.
Thankfully, Nate Britt really stepped up his production, scoring 13 on 5-9 shooting (including 3-5 from deep), three assists, one turnover, and two steals.
Freshman Tony Bradley continues his streak of scoring in double digits every game thus far of his career. He added 13 rebounds in this game to notch the first of what will probably be many double-doubles during his time in Chapel Hill.
Quick Hitters from Tuesday night’s 93-67 over Long Beach State in the Dean Dome.
With the win, Coach Williams moves into a tie with the legendary coach Lefty Driesell for 9th (786) all-time in Division 1 wins.
This was the second straight dominant win against a team predicted to win their conference.
Long Beach State didn’t score until the 12:21 mark of the 1st This is in large part due to the fact that…
The Carolina defense is already in mid-season form. Moving feet. Hustling. Activity. Diving after balls. They’re playing a brand of defense that last year’s squad took a long time to develop. This is the type of playing that will keep you in games even when the shots aren’t falling.
This Carolina team is unselfish. It shows in the aforementioned defense, but also in assists. Tonight, there were 20 assists on 32 made baskets.
Joel Berry is more than living up to his Preseason All-ACC First Team Nomination. He looks like one of the best players in the country.
For comparison’s sake, I’ll say another word about Joel Berry. I said it several times last year and I’ll say it again: the progression of Joel Berry reminds me a lot of Ty Lawson. The improvement on the outside shot. The pace with which he pushes the ball. The comprehension of how to run Coach Williams’ offense. The understanding of when to use his strength and speed to penetrate and score. The difference is the drive and determination – Berry has a fire in his eyes that I never saw from Lawson.
Good to see UNC playing with intensity for 40 minutes no matter the opponent or score.
Freshman Tony Bradley has reached double figure scoring in all three games to begin his Tar Heel career.
A welcome sight: the Heels have scored 90+ points in all three games this season. It sounds like a broken record, but this scoring output starts with the defense opening things up for the offense.
Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 97-57 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga. It’s always good to get a win against a tough mid-major and UT-C is favored to win the Southern Conference.
It was a sloppy first six-seven minutes of the game for the Heels, who finished with 15 turnovers on the day. But after that point, the team, led again by Joel Berry’s example, locked in on defense and then began to overwhelm the Mocs in the paint.
Isaiah Hicks once again doing a good job with active feet, not reaching in, and therefore staying out of foul trouble. His first foul came with 7:49 left in the first half. He once again finished with three fouls, so that will need to be cleaned up, but Isaiah played 27 minutes in this game.
Could it be that after several years of “soft” Carolina teams, the 2016-17 team will be hard-nosed? A trait this year’s team seems to espouse more than last year’s is a scrappy determination to get after the ball. There were so many Tar Heels diving on the floor after loose balls that even Psycho T would have been proud. Along with this will hopefully come the killer instinct to put teams away, as the Heels did on Sunday.
Who’s going to fill the void left by Theo Pinson? Kenny Williams is certainly making his case with hustle play after hustle play. He was everywhere in this game. Williams also hit his first three of the season; much earlier than his first three of his freshman year. During the post-game press conference, while looking at the stats, Coach Williams said of Kenny Williams, “Four for seven, six rebounds, 11 points, five assists, one turnover, three steals – that’s a Danny Green kind of stat sheet right there.” That’s extremely high praise for the sophomore.Just before halftime, we got a taste of the non-Theo Pinson small ball line-up: Nate Britt, Joel Berry, Kenny Williams, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks (with Isaiah Hicks subbing in for Meeks just before the half).
Luke Maye checked out with 12:16 left in the second half with a noticeable limp. Hope he’s okay.
After barely missing a double-double against Tulane (nine points, 15 rebounds), Kennedy Meeks had already achieved a double-double midway through the second half of this game and ended with 14 points and 12 rebounds. More importantly, Meeks became the 73rd Tar Heel to score 1000 points in his career.
There were 26 assists on 34 made field goals (76.5%). Friday night the total was similar: 23 assists on 34 made field goals (67.6%). This is a good sign of early team dynamics.
It’s just two games into the season, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to really like this team.
It took me until two weeks ago to finally re-watch the National Championship game. I was proud of myself – I even watched the final 4.7 seconds. What a wild ride and fun season 2015-16 was. That said, I’m really glad a new season is underway so I can put some new images of Tar Heel basketball in my head.
When you lose players the caliber of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, other guys have to step up. It was an encouraging sign that both Joel Berry and Justin Jackson recorded career highs in scoring (23 and 27 respectively), while Kennedy Meeks had a career high in rebounds (15).
A big part of the reason Jackson had such a big night is because he shot 4-5 from three point range. He clearly put the time in during the off-season.
As a team, the Heels shot 9-20 from deep (45%). Although it’s only the first game of the season, this is an encouraging sign.
One of the main storylines this season is Isaiah Hicks’ ability to stay out of foul trouble and on the court. In the first half, he had no fouls and even took a charge. Hicks did, however, have three fouls in the second half. He played 25 minutes which is good news.
After committing a turnover at the 9:00 mark of the first half (the ball inadvertently went off his foot), Joel Berry had a dominant stretch that you hope to see out of your leader: He had an assist on the next offensive possession, then a steal, then another assist, then a 3-pointer, then hit 1-2 at the free throw line. In that stretch of 4 offensive possessions, he had 2 assists, a steal, and 4 points. Prior to this stretch, Tulane had cut the Carolina lead to one. Berry’s stat line for the whole game: 23 pts on 6-11 shooting, 7-9 FT (he missed two?), 6 reb, 4 ast, 2 steals, only 1 TO.
Freshman Tony Bradley (surprise, surprise, another athletic big for the Heels!) had a nice run of his own early in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions. He established good post position and scored off an entry pass from Justin Jackson, had a nice little running hook shot in the lane, then scored on a put-back off a Justin Jackson miss.
The most glaring area of deficiency after the exhibition game and first regular season game: Allowing offensive rebounds to the opposing team. UNC-Pembroke had 30 and Tulane had 18.
Kennedy Meeks struggled shooting the ball (4-13 shooting), but clearly looks more athletic and ready to run than he ever has. He dunked a ball mid-way through the second half that he previously would have laid up. The aforementioned 15 rebounds were much needed with the void left by Brice Johnson.
Tony Bradley was the most consistent of the freshmen, but Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson both had some nice moments. Both players will get minutes and valuable experience while the Heels wait for Theo Pinson to return from injury.