Quick Hitters – UNC @ Gonzaga

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-81 road loss to Gonzaga on Wednesday night in Spokane.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Give credit where credit is due: This is a really good Gonzaga team. They were too much for a depleted North Carolina squad, and quite frankly are better than the Tar Heels even at full strength. The environment in “The Kennel” was electric. As is often said, kudos to Coach Williams for his willingness to go play a true road game in Spokane. If nothing else, Carolina played tough and fought to stay in a game they could have easily lost by 30.
  • Leaky Black, who is considered game-to-game as he deals with a foot injury, played tonight. However the Tar Heels were dealt other blows. After a lackluster first half, Brandon Robinson missed the second half with some type of illness that kept him in the locker room after halftime. Armando Bacot committed two fouls in the first 67 seconds of the game and was essentially a non-factor.
  • KJ Smith once again started for Cole Anthony, and was serviceable, but the real revelation has been Jeremiah Francis. How does someone not play for two years with knee issues and then suddenly come out like a wrecking ball? Francis played 22 minutes, scored 11 points, shot 2-for-3 from deep, had two steals, and perhaps most importantly, had three assists and zero turnovers.

  • Another Tar Heel coming back from a knee injury, Anthony Harris had a nice game. He had eight points on efficient shooting numbers and had a nice steal at the free throw line.
  • Perhaps Christian Keeling has finally turned a corner. He scored in double digits for the first time as a Tar Heel (12), and did so on 5-for-7 shooting, while also grabbing some rebounds (3) and dishing a couple assists (2).
  • The other grad transfer, Justin Pierce rebounded from scoreless outings against Virginia and Wofford to score seven points.
  • The best Tar Heel tonight was Garrison Brooks. In 31 minutes, Brooks scored 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, had three assists, two steals, and just one turnover. Brooks needs to continue delivering these type of performances.
  • For the first time all season, the Tar Heels scored 80 or more points (81). Granted, the second half of this game didn’t feature much stellar defense and Carolina still didn’t look like a great shooting team.
  • Carolina’s bench nearly doubled their previous season high scoring number. Carolina had 28 against UNC-Wilmington thanks in large part to Justin Pierce’s 18. Tonight, the Heels scored 53, contributed to by eight different players. As further evidence of tonight’s bench usage, 10 different Tar Heels played 10 or more minutes, while 12 played five or more. Keep in mind, these numbers coming with a dwindling roster.
  • Carolina’s defense struggled mightily tonight against KenPom’s number one rated team in adjusted offensive efficiency. Corey Kispert shot 10-for-12 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from three, for 26 points.
  • As a team, Gonzaga shot 72.0% on field goals in the second half. During one stretch, the Bulldogs hit 11 straight field goals without a miss. Those numbers are simply unacceptable.
  • For large portions of the game, the offense looked absolutely discombobulated. This is likely a function of weird combinations of players who have spent little to no time functioning together as a five-person unit. To get an idea of the issues, watch the spacing between the players on the floor Saturday when Carolina plays UCLA.
  • An example of the strange line-up combinations. From 2:59-1:07 of the first half, Carolina sported a line-up consisting of Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, and Justin Pierce (with KJ Smith eventually coming in for Francis). Who is the center in that combination?
  • After starting the season 3-for-19 (15.8%) from three, Andrew Platek has hit four of his last five. Coach Williams has spoken about his quality shooting in practice, so hopefully the fruit of that will start showing up in games.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a the CBS Sports Classic against UCLA on Saturday, December 21. Tip is at 3:00ET on CBS.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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