Monthly Archives: January 2019

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Georgia Tech

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-54 road win on Tuesday night over Georgia Tech.

Highlights:

  • The story of this game was a 25-5 run over the first 6:50 of the second half that pushed a seven-point halftime lead out to 27. The Heels took the lead out to 30 halfway through the second half.
  • Carolina has not yet lost on the road in ACC play. The Heels are 4-0 away from the Dean Dome in conference games. Playing at Louisville on Saturday will be a fierce test of the teams’ road mettle.
  • Curious rebounding numbers in the wins over Virginia Tech last week and Georgia Tech tonight. While UNC outrebounded both teams (VT 35-32 and GT 39-34), the margins against overmatched rebounding opponents should have been significantly larger.
  • Once again, turnovers made life more difficult than it needed to be. For the game, Carolina surrendered 15. Luke Maye was responsible for one-third of those. At one point in the first half, the Tar Heels turned the ball over on four straight possessions.

  • The beginning of the first half was all about Coby White, the beginning of the second half was all about Cameron Johnson. White was 2-for-2 from deep in the first four minutes and scored eight of Carolina’s first 11 points. He finished with 19 points (7-13 FG, 5-9 3FG) and eight assists (against two turnovers). Johnson scored the Heels’ first eight points of the second half and led all scorers with 22 points. He shot an incredibly efficient 4-6 from three and 8-10 on all field goals.
  • Leaky Black sprained his left ankle with 8:28 remaining. He was seen on crutches and in a walking boot after the game.
  • Georgia Tech’s 54 points was the fewest points Carolina has allowed this season. Also the third time Carolina has held their opponent under 60. Carolina held exactly one opponent under 60 the entirety of the 2017-18 season. The Yellow Jackets missed their first nine three-pointers and finished 2-16.
  • Even though Nassir Little’s streak of scoring in double-digit games ended, he had another solid performance (other than settling for threes on a couple occasions). Little  is so freakishly athletic. He had several rebounds that were unbelievable. His follow of his own shot and put back with 10:30 remaining was as impressive and quick of a second jump as you’ll see.
  • Tonight wasn’t 16 made three-pointers like against Virginia Tech, but 13-27 from deep is another really impressive showing.
  • Seventh Woods had a nice moment in the first half. He tipped a Georgia Tech pass, which deflected to Cameron Johnson. Johnson pitched ahead to Woods who rose up for a transition dunk.

  • As part of Carolina’s second half run, Georgia Tech had a transition lay-up to cut the lead to 10. They missed it and a Carolina break back the other way resulted in a Garrison Brooks dunk and a 14 point lead. Those were the first two points in a 15-0 Tar Heel scoring run. Here’s the dunk:

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Louisville on Saturday, February 2. Tip is at 2:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia Tech

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 103-82 home win on Monday night over Virginia Tech.

Highlights:

  • For those who didn’t watch the game, they will look at the box score and say, “Wow what a blow out over a top-10 team!” But as those of us who watched the game know, that would be a completely incorrect assumption. This game began nearly identically to the Louisville game. But instead of folding, the resilient Heels showed what they learned from that previous shellacking, and provided a shellacking of their own.
  • And that shellacking began on the defensive side of the ball with three reserves in the game. The under-16:00 media timeout didn’t come until 13:21 of the first half, with the Hokies leading 19-13. At that point, Nassir Little, Brandon Robinson, and Seventh Woods all checked in. Virginia Tech hit another three for a 22-13 lead, but after that, Carolina began to chip away thanks to defensive pressure mostly provided by Woods. The Heels went on to outscore the Hokies 32-9 in the final 12:30 of the half. Here’s a prime example of turning defense into offense:
  • Virginia Tech had two separate five minute scoring droughts in the first half. Carolina scored 20 straight points during the second of those droughts and forced Virginia Tech into 12 first half turnovers.
  • Coming into the game, Carolina was fifth in the nation in scoring offense (87.3) while Virginia Tech was fifth in scoring defense (59.5). Something had to give. The Heels hit 60 to eclipse Tech’s season average with 15:31 still remaining. The 103 total points was 43.5 over the Virginia Tech season average.
  • Roy Williams has said all season what a great shooting team this is. They have shown that ability in spurts, but tonight was the night the dam broke. The Heels shot 1-for-their-first-12 from deep and it seemed that it would be another dismal shooting night. But then something happened and Carolina hit 14 of their next 18 threes and finished 16-for-34. The 16 made threes is one shy of a UNC record.
  • What a performance from Coby White. He led the team in points (27), rebounds (7), assists (6), steals (4), and blocks (1 – tied with Luke Maye).
  • Nassir Little continues to make strides. He scored a career high 23 points, including two three-pointers. This is the third game in a row in which he’s scored double digits. He was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. He grabbed six rebounds and had three assists. Oh, and did all of that in just 20 minutes.
  • Potentially lost in the three-point barrage: while Virginia Tech was busy hitting six of their first seven three-pointers en route to building a 22-13 lead, Garrison Brooks scored eight of those 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting.
  • Two of Virginia Tech’s best players, Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker both picked up three fouls in the first half. Their absence really contributed to Carolina’s ability to not only get the lead, but extend it in the first half.

  • The play that encapsulated the game: with just under 3:00 to go and Carolina up 19, Coby White dove for a loose ball, passed to Luke Maye, who found Kenny Williams, who passed back to Maye, who promptly threw a beautiful lob to Nassir Little for a dunk and his career high 23rd point. Here it is:

  • Another highlight play was Brandon Robinson’s threading of the needle to Kenny Williams with just under 10:00 remaining in the game. Robinson went down hard under the basket in the final minute of the game. Keep your eyes on his status. Thankfully, Carolina has eight days before it takes the court again.

  • Part of Carolina’s ability to climb back into the game in the first half was that they only turned the ball over four times. Nine turnovers in the second half is less appealing, but understandable given a lead of as many as 27 points.
  • Carolina came into the game third in the nation with 19.4 assists per game and dished out 25 more on 36 made baskets.
  • This might seem backwards, but what an encouraging sign that on a night when Carolina scored 103 points, the team’s leading scorer, Cam Johnson, only had eight.
  • Curiously, UNC only outrebounded Virginia Tech 35-32. The Tar Heels entered the game second in the nation with 43.89 per game while the Hokies are 320th in the nation with just 32.59 per game.
  • ESPN commentators have shown a growing disturbing habit during games of talking about anything other than the game. The “Which Williams?” segment in the middle of game action tonight was a new low.
  • Finally, this is the exuberance you love to see of five players having a great time playing together:

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game over a week away against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, January 29. Tip is at 8:00ET on RSN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Miami

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 85-76 road win on Saturday afternoon over Miami.

Highlights:

  • Don’t overlook what a big deal a 3-0 start on the road in the league is. The Heelswill have six more road games and need just two wins in those games to ensure a winning record on the road in conference.
  • Welcome back Cam Johnson’s shot. After not hitting a three for the past two games, Johnson shot 5-for-7 from deep.

  • Carolina had 26 assists on 33 made field goals. Hopefully James Harden is paying attention. Coby White contributed eight assists, Kenny Williams seven, and Brandon Robinson and Luke Maye each had four.
  • The Heels are tops in the ACC in rebound margin while Miami is dead last. It showed today with Carolina holding a 38-23 margin, including 13 offensive rebounds.
  • In a rotation change, Nassir Little was the first sub off the bench. In his second offensive possession, he corralled a rebound, got fouled and made both free throws. The next possession he found Cam Johnson for a three. The next possession he scored off a Luke Maye assist in the lane.
  • Still no Sterling Manley, for the sixth game in a row. It’s time to start wondering if he will play again this season.
  • Carolina surrendered seven threes to Miami in the first half, but held the Canes to just two in the second 20 minutes. On the flip side, after Miami cut the lead to one in the second half, the Heels hit three-pointers on four out of their next five possessions (two each from Johnson and Williams) to push lead back to eight.
  • Refs missed a shot clock violation on Miami with 11:29 left in the first half and no one seemed to react to it. From still pictures, the ball was clearly still in the shooter’s hand when the shot clock is at zero.

  • Nassir Little had a thunderous dunk driving down the lane four minutes into the second half. Take a look:
  • A balanced scoring attack today for Carolina. Five players were in double-digits led by Cam Johnson’s 22. Most encouraging was a season high 16 points for Kenny Williams, including 6-for-9 shooting and 3-for-5 from deep.
  • This was a tight game throughout, with the only double-digit lead coming for Carolina with less than a minute to go.

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 Virginia Tech on Monday, January 21. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Notre Dame

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 75-69 home win on Tuesday night over Notre Dame.

Highlights:

  • The response after the Louisville clunker was not as resounding as you hoped it would be, but Carolina did enough to outlast a tough Notre Dame club.
  • Tar Heels got back on track rebounding with a 47-36 advantage over Notre Dame, including a 16-7 advantage on the offensive end.
  • After a concerning nine turnovers in the first half, Carolina only had two in the second half.
  • An encouraging stat: Garrison Brooks finished with zero fouls.
  • Unlike last year’s Carolina-Notre Dame matchup in the Dean Dome, John Mooney did not hit 8,345 threes (okay the real number was six). Tonight he hit zero threes, but did manage to score 16 points and grab 19 rebounds.
  • Speaking of not hitting a three-point shot, Cam Johnson has now gone 0-for-7 in the last two games after hitting one in each of the first 15 games of the season. However, Johnson did manage to have triple-double-like numbers – 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists.
  • Was this the game where Nassir Little found his place in the offense? After scoring zero first-half points, he scored 11 in the second half, including six in a row for Carolina. All 11 points came from Little attacking or being around the basket. Hopefully this performance will jump start a surge from the freshman.
  • Brandon Robinson provided another spark off the bench with a career high three made three-pointers. Robinson has now connected from deep in four straight games and five of the last six. His three-point percentage is up to 52.4 percent for the season. With nine minutes remaining in the first half, he also had a nice deflection of a Notre Dame alley-oop after rotating over to help on defense.
  • Carolina hit more three-pointers (four) in the first eight minutes of this game than they did in the entire game against Louisville (three).
  • Seventh Woods had a huge chase down block at 12:00 and then got fouled on the other end. He hit both free throws to give Carolina at 51-50 lead.
  • After scoring 26 points in the first 9:30 of game time, the Tar Heels only scored seven more points before half time.
  • The second half featured a back-and-forth affair with multiple lead changes. After Notre Dame took a 58-57 lead with just under seven minutes remaining, the Tar Heels went on a 12-1 run to gain a double-digit lead with 1:25 left in the game.
  • However, 6-for-11 free throw shooting (including missing the front end of a 1-and-1) in those final 90 seconds allowed Notre Dame to cut the lead back to four. Someone must step up and be the closer in those moments.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game at Miami on Saturday, January 19. Tip is at Noon ET on ESPN2.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ NC State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 90-82 road victory on Tuesday night over NC State.

Highlights:

  • What a start to conference play. The Heels are 2-0 in the ACC. Both road wins. This one over an upstart NC State team ranked 15thin the nation. The Tar Heels never trailed against the Wolfpack and responded each time the home team made a run. That’s the start you want to the conference portion of your schedule. Carolina finally gets a home conference game Saturday against Louisville before hosting a struggling Notre Dame team after that.
  • With 12:19 remaining Cam Johnson dove after a loose ball and crumpled into a heap on the floor while clutching his inner right knee. I (and likely a multitude of others) feared the worst: torn ACL. Poor Cam Johnson has worked so hard to get to where he is as the match-up-nightmare-sniper-who-can-also-drive-you-to-the-hole leading scorer of the 2018-19 Tar Heels. Thankfully the report turned out to be cramps and Johnson returned to the bench with just a little bit of time left on the clock. Coach Williams reported that he didn’t want to put Johnson back in the game for fear of the cramps returning in a crucial moment. Brandon Robinson and Leaky Black both filled Johnson’s minutes admirably down the stretch. Here’s Cam in the locker room postgame, discussing the incident:
  • Much has been made of Luke Maye’s consistent growth at the free throw line, but don’t miss Garrison Brooks’ numbers in the same department. In his freshman year, he shot 58.7 percent (37-63). Through 15 games this season, Brooks is up to 72.1 percent (31-43), a change of +13.4 percentage points. Checking in on Maye’s free throw numbers, he’s shooting 80.6 percent this year, up 18.2 percent from last year (62.4 percent) and 37.7 percent from his freshman year (42.9 percent).
  • Staying with Brooks, he has now tallied five assists and zero turnovers in back-to-back games. He led the team in assists in both games (Cam Johnson also had five against NC State). Brooks and Maye have developed some good big-to-big passing chemistry.

  • Luke Maye recorded a double-double (21 points, 11 boards). You’ve heard that before. But what will surprise you is that Kenny Williams (15 points, 10 boards) and Cam Johnson (15 points, 11 boards) joined him in the double-double club. Three Tar Heel double-doubles in one game! The feat was the first of Williams’ career, and the first time he’s reached double-digits rebounds. For Johnson, it was his first of the season and fourth of his career. Here’s Kenny Williams talking about being 4-0 in Raleigh during his tenure as a Tar Heel:
  • Those double-doubles helped contribute to a 51-33 advantage on the boards for the Heels. After a recent concerning trend down in rebounding dominance for Carolina (a stat they rely on heavily), this reversal was a welcome sight. Particularly because NC State has also rebounded the ball well this year.
  • The Tar Heels shot well on frees and threes. Carolina was 22-for-26 (84.6 percent) from the free throw line and 10-for-25 (40 percent) from deep. This is the second game in a row the team has shot 40 percent or better from three-point range.
  • Roy Williams loves when his teams make more free throws than the opponents attempt. Carolina made 22 free throws. NC State attempted 17.
  • Oh the turnovers. 23 of them. Luke Maye was the main culprit with seven, followed by Coby White with five. In fairness, NC State makes a living by forcing turnovers, but Carolina has to be tougher with the ball. After back-to-back games of trending in the right direction with just 11 giveaways in each, 23 is worrisome.
  • Leaky Black picked up his third foul with 4:26 remaining before halftime. Play resumed before Coach Williams could sub him out. How did Black respond? A block on the next possession. Challenging a shot on the possession after that while staying straight up and down so as to not draw a foul. That’s a freshman making important defensive plays on back-to-back possessions right after drawing a third foul in the first half.
  • Out of context, allowing 82 points sounds like it was a poor defensive night. However Carolina held NC State to under one point per possession. In fact, don’t look now, but this is the fifth game in a row the Heels have held their opponent under one point per possession.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first ACC home game, against Louisville. Tip is Saturday, January 12 at Noon ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Pittsburgh

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 85-60 road win on Saturday over Pittsburgh.

Highlights:

  • This was the start the Tar Heels needed in conference play. During the 2016-17 season Carolina had a similar start to the ACC schedule: back-to-back road games with the first against one of the presumptive bottom dwellers in the conference. That year, Carolina went to Atlanta and lost to Georgia Tech by 12. The current iteration of the Tar Heels would not suffer the same fate, by securing a dominant victory in Pittsburgh.
  • This game was Cam Johnson’s first return game to Pitt (Carolina played the Panthers only at home last year). Not a single player remaining on Pitt’s roster was one of Johnson’s teammates. Lots of players in that position of returning home try too hard or get too amped up. Not Johnson, who had another great game. He, along with Coby White, paced Carolina’s scoring in the first half. Johnson also tallied a season-high nine rebounds, had four assists and zero turnovers. Here’s Johnson talking about his homecoming:
  • This game was tied at 12. Carolina then went on an extended 26-5 run (including a 16-0 spurt) to essentially put the game out of reach.
  • Last season, Johnson fell well short of his three-point shooting expectations (34.1 percent). This year he’s up nearly 15 percent (48.6 percent), hitting 35 of 72 shots thus far. Literally one more made three would have him at 50 percent from deep on the season.
  • Garrison Brooks did a better job managing his fouls than he has of late. He didn’t pick up a second foul until just before halftime. This self-control allowed him to play 28 minutes, up from a 19.5 season average. The extra court time afforded Brooks the opportunity to have arguably his most productive game of the season – nine points on 4-for-8 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists, zero turnovers, two blocks and two steals. In fact, he was the leading assist man on the team.
  • Carolina has now committed just 11 turnovers in back-to-back games. While any number of turnovers is undesirable, 11 is a palatable number for Coach Williams and his up-tempo style of play.
  • The Heels racked up 24 assists on 32 made buckets (75 percent). At halftime, Carolina has 11 assists and Pitt had precisely zero.
  • For the third game in a row, Carolina held their opponent to 60 points or less and under 40 percent shooting. Pitt only scored 23 points and shot 20.7 percent in the first half. Here’s an example of that solid defense turning into an assist from White to Maye:

  • Carolina hauled in 51 rebounds (17 offensive), led by Luke Maye’s 11. However, they allowed 46 rebounds to Pittsburgh. So the rebounding total is where it needs to be, but the rebound margin is less than the advantage the Heels usually enjoy.

  • Coby White’s shot might be back. He led the team in scoring with 22. He and Johnson each hit three first-half three pointers en route to the team shooting 10-for-24 (41.7 percent) from deep. Pitt, on the other hand, only buried two three pointers. Here’s White discussing his first ever ACC game:
  • Kenny Williams had a rough, foul-plagued game. He picked up his third foul with just over 8:00 before halftime and his fourth less than two minutes into the second half. Williams shot 1-for-5 from the floor, including 0-for-3 from deep. You have to feel for the senior.
  • Carolina employed a zone in the first defensive possession after the under 12:00 media timeout of the first half. They played six total zone possessions in the first half as well as several more in the second.
  • An area Carolina needs to continue to grow: the Heels let Pitt get into the bonus with 14:22 left in the first half.
  • It seems like at least once a game Nassir Little comes up with some type of highlight. He had a monster block with around 12:00 left in the first half and had a huge dunk later in the game.

  • The three freshmen (Nassir Little, Coby White, Leaky Black) were on the court together quite a bit throughout the game. Roy Williams’ willingness to trust his three freshmen in a line-up together in their first ACC road game says a lot about his faith in them.
  • The Heels had really active hands against Pitt; particularly from Brandon Robinson who finished with three steals.
  • It seems like more often than not, Carolina has a lapse just before halftime. Not so today. The first half ended with a wonderfully executed fast break. Leaky Black grabbed a rebound and pitched ahead to Cam Johnson who passed to Coby White for a lay-up as the buzzer expired. Here’s the play:

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against NC State on Tuesday, January 8. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Harvard

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-57 home victory on Wednesday night over Harvard.

Highlights:

  • Tonight was the final tune-up for the Tar Heels before ACC play commences on Saturday at Pittsburgh. It was a sluggish win for Carolina, but a win all the same. At the same time, the ugly win will not do much to inspire confidence heading into conference play. The 2018-19 Tar Heels are very much still a work in progress.
  • For the 13thseason in a row, Carolina has amassed 10+ non-conference wins.
  • Sterling Manley was out tonight with left knee discomfort. There is no current timetable for his return.
  • The Tar Heels only had four first half turnovers and finished with 11. Curiously, Cam Johnson was responsible for five of those. Harvard finished with 22 turnovers.

  • Carolina only out-rebounded Harvard 38-34 and had just eight offensive rebounds.
  • Garrison Brooks had another strong start but picked up two fouls before the first media timeout. This is the third game in a row he’s had two fouls in the first five minutes. Particularly with a thin front line further thinned with Sterling Manley’s absence, Brooks has to find ways to stay on the court longer.

  • Admittedly it has been against back-to-back mid-major teams, but the defense is trending in the right direction. Purely based off of shooting numbers, Carolina has held their last two opponents (Davidson and Harvard) to 33.9 percent (41-for-121) on field goals. Anecdotally, the team appears to be playing with more urgency, activity and cohesion on defense. Of course, there is still room to grow on defense. Here is Kenny Williams talking about that need for growth:
  • This defense uptick is fortunate because the Heels are struggling in half court offense and need the defense to turn into fast-break offense. A great example of the defense turning into offense came just before the under 4:00 media timeout of the first half. Kenny Williams grabbed a steal and pitched ahead to Leaky Black who assisted Nassir Little on an explosive dunk.

  • Sluggish and sloppy start to second half. Harvard cut the lead down to as little as 5.
  • If something seemed different defensively in the second half, that’s because Carolina started switching all their screens instead of the usual hedging out.
  • 19-22 from the free throw line for the Heels. Those are numbers you’ll take any night.

  • 5 different players hit double-digit scoring, led by Luke Maye’s 14.
  • For the first time all season, Kenny Williams didn’t record an assist.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the ACC conference opener on the road against Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 5. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom. Here’s former Pittsburgh Panther Cam Johnson talking about tonight’s game, but also the impending match-up in Pennsylvania:

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