Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 80-72 loss to Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in Chicago at the CBS Sports Classic.
- For those of you traveling for the holidays that missed the game, you probably enjoyed the time you spent talking with your awkward aunt more than those of us who watched the game. It was painful. Here’s a microcosm that sums up what you missed: 54.3 seconds left. Carolina down eight. Kentucky’s Reid Travis misses front end of 1-and-1. P.J Washington was the only Wildcat lined up for the free throws. All 5 Tar Heels watch as Washington tips out the miss for an offensive rebound.
- Both teams came into the game as dominant, top-level rebounding machines. Whichever team controlled the glass figured to be in position to win the game. Kentucky finished with a plus-10 margin (43-33) over Carolina. The typically offensive-rebound-happy Tar Heels only managed one in the first half and five total for the game. This marks the first time Carolina’s been outrebounded this season. The teams were close in just about every other stat. These rebounds tell the story of the game.
- Turnovers, the live ball variety in particular, continue to be a bugaboo. Each time Carolina would get close to Kentucky, someone would commit a silly turnover leading to a run-out for the Wildcats. This happened frequently also against Gonzaga, but the offensive outpouring that night covered a world of sins. At some point, the horizontal, top-of-the-key live ball turnovers have to stop.
- Cameron Johnson, who once again paced the team in scoring with 17, was the main turnover culprit (five). In fact, the starters combined to commit 14 of the 17 turnovers.
- Kentuky’s Ashton Hagans is a blur and a disruptive defensive force. He finished with as many steals as points (seven). Hagans rolled his ankle midway through the first half, but was thankfully able to return. While we want to (thoroughly and soundly) beat all our opponents, we never want to see them injured.
- Speaking of a blur, Coby White can seemingly get to the rim whenever he wants.
- The game had an incredible pace to it early on. The teams were up and down the court.
- Carolina had no answer for Stanford transfer Reid Travis. He finished with 16 points…in the first half. Brooks played him pretty well (particularly early in the second half) but there was a noticeable defensive drop-off when Manley subbed in.
- Great energy from Seventh Woods early in the second half cut the lead down to four (47-43). After securing three offensive rebounds, Kentucky hit a three to immediately push the lead back to seven. Carolina never again got that close. Each time the Tar Heels began to cut into the lead, Kentucky responded with a bucket or a steal. Case in point: Carolina cut the lead down to six with just under seven minutes remaining. The Heels secured a defensive rebound but Hagans stole the outlet pass, which eventually resulted in a Wildcat three and a nine-point lead. From there, Carolina committed a live-ball back court turnover, resulting in another Kentucky breakaway lay-up.
- A positive to walk away with: This was about as poor a performance as is seemingly possible from this group. Against Kentucky. And yet, the loss was only by eight points. What’s the take away? Clean up four or five of those lost possessions, and this is a different ball game.
- Please keep in mind: Roy Williams teams have a proven track record of growing by leaps and bounds over the course of a season. Be patient and enjoy the evolution.
- As well as this team typically scores, if they can hold on to the basketball, they should have a successful ACC record. If this team can’t learn to value the basketball, it will be a brutal ACC season. Back to the drawing board.
- That said, whether it was Kentucky’s disruptive defense or just lack of precision, today’s offense was not marked by the usual certitude and team play. There was a lot of isolation and a lot of standing around. Baskets often felt lucky, rather than the foregone conclusions that they typically are.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Davidson on Saturday, December 29. Tip is at Noon ET on ESPN2.
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