Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 74-64 neutral site win over UCLA on Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas at the CBS Classic
- A win! We’ll get to the hard-hitting analysis in a minute (yes, that’s tongue-in-cheek), but first let’s stop to celebrate the joy of winning. It wasn’t pretty. It won’t win the ESPY for “Best Game”. But it was a victory. And coming on the heels of a four game losing streak, the Tar Heels will take a win any way they can get it. Against both Gonzaga and UCLA, Carolina really competed hard. If this trend can be the new norm, these Tar Heels will win some ACC games.
- Let’s start with a perhaps unpopular opinion: Having now seen Jeremiah Francis in action for a grand total of four collegiate games, (1) he pushes the ball better than Cole Anthony and (2) the offense appears more organized with Francis at the helm. This is no dig at Anthony, but rather an observance of the different skill set both players bring to the table.
- In Anthony’s absence, the emergence of recently healthy freshmen Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris has been a boon for the Tar Heels. The two were vital to Carolina’s success today and are bringing a toughness quality to Carolina. More on both players…
- Francis is showing glimpses of being able to confidently and consistently run the team from the point guard position. He was money from the free throw line today (9-for-10), including being selected to shoot the technical free throws. He made a freshman mistake with 1:45 left in the game. With Carolina ahead comfortably compared to the remaining time, Francis drove in for a lay-up rather than pulling the ball back out to re-set and run clock. In subsequent positions, Brandon Robinson demonstrated how to do this well, which Anthony Harris took a cue from and did as well on the very next possession. Those are errors you can live with because it’s a kid (who hasn’t played in two years, by the way) being aggressive.
- Harris played just three minutes in the first half and had a memorable defensive stop right before halftime (UCLA had been driving at will and Harris walled off his mark twice on the same possession, leading to a turnover). However, he exploded in the second half, playing nearly three-quarters of the half, and was just the spark Carolina needed. Known more for his defensive acumen, Harris provided eight straight points for Carolina (a steal and lay-up, back-to-back threes) in one stretch.
- As the Tar Heels amassed a rather sizable lead, I thought to myself, “When was the last time the Tar Heels had a double-digit lead this season?” Great question. It was nearly a month ago, November 27 against Alabama.
- Interesting minutes distribution. As predicted, KJ Smith got the start at point guard, but Jeremiah Francis got the starter’s minutes (28-10). Look for Francis to start for the first time when the Heels return to action at home against Yale.
- The past two games have yielded “Gonzaga Bacot” (bad and foul-laden) and “Wofford Bacot” (also quite bad). “Oregon Bacot” is the player Coach Williams wants to see on a consistent basis. Thankfully today against UCLA, Armando was “Oregon Bacot”. After going 3-for-20 from the field in those previous two games, Armando Bacot went 5-for-7 against UCLA for 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
- After missing the second half of the Gonzaga game, Brandon Robinson returned to action today. Robinson, Bacot and Black are all still banged up in one way or another. Hopefully the large gap before the next game (Mon., Dec. 30) will allow some ailments to heal.
- 5 different Tar Heels scored in double-figures – Bacot (15), Harris (14), Brooks, Robinson, Francis (all had 12). This balanced attack is an encouraging sign.
- Carolina has been absolutely terrible recently at the start of the “third quarter” (first 10 minutes of the second half). Today’s version included a 12-0 UCLA scoring run to cut Carolina’s 13-point halftime lead to just one.
- In the most un-like-Roy-Williams thing ever, the Heels were down to just one timeout with 16:07 remaining in the second half. Coach took a timeout with 18:01 remaining to stem the UCLA run. Then Garrison Brooks had to take the penultimate timeout with 16:07 because he couldn’t inbound the basketball against UCLA’s full-court pressure. Carolina struggled with UCLA’s pressure throughout the second half (that’s putting it nicely) and will certainly need to spend practice time on breaking the press.
- Brandon Robinson hit three important three pointers in the first half. However he didn’t make another basket the rest of the game.
- I mentioned earlier that this was an ugly game. Some numbers to prove it: UCLA had 14 first half turnovers. For the game, the teams combined for a total of 39 turnovers. The second half was plagued by so many fouls. In total, 46 fouls were called in the game. The Tar Heels put the Bruins in the bonus with 15:37 left in the game.
- Not much to show from either grad transfer today. Neither reached double-digits in playing time and Pierce and Keeling combined to score five points. These young men will find their place on this team. It’s just taking longer than anyone hoped or expected.
- Some old friends were in the house for this one:
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 Yale on Monday, December 30. Tip is at 7:00ET on ACC Network.
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