Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 71-70 home loss to Boston College on Saturday evening.
- If there was any remaining hope for an NCAA Tournament birth, this loss was likely the last nail in that coffin. The goals now for this team are to continue to get better throughout the remaining 10 conference games, look to make an ACC Tournament run, and the hopefully play in some type of postseason tournament.
- In the recent games that have come down to one possession at the end (Clemson, Virginia Tech, and today), the Tar Heels just haven’t been able to make a final winning play. That said, in each instance there were multiple plays and scenarios earlier in the game that could have mitigated the necessity for a game-winning shot.
- As was much publicized over the past couple days, Cole Anthony returned to action today. He didn’t start, but did play 25 minutes. Anthony was clearly rusty coming out of the gate and out of sync with his teammates on multiple occasions. The star freshman shot a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line, had 26 total points, five rebounds, three assists, and just one turnover.
- One question coming into the game was, “How will the starting line-up be affected by Cole Anthony’s return?” Today’s answer: “It wasn’t.” Anthony will certainly be back in the starting rotation sooner than later, but not in this first game back. Leaky Black, Andrew Platek, Brandon Robinson, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot, who have started the last several games together, did so again today.
- Jeremiah Francis was also able to return to action today, however he played just 2:39 and only in the first half. The coaching staff is clearly taking a cautious approach to his health.
- A Tar Heel who was not quite as fortunate today on the injury front was senior Brandon Robinson. With Carolina clinging to a one-point lead and 17 seconds remaining, Robinson fouled Jared Hamilton on a three-point shot. When the players came to the ground Robinson once again sprained his right ankle (in addition to fouling out). No determination yet on his timetable to return. P.S. So as to avoid a fine, we’ll stay away from decrying the foul call on this play:
- Carolina got Boston College’s starting backcourt into some serious foul trouble (thanks mostly to Cole Anthony’s attacking of the rim), but could not finish the job of fouling out either player. Duke transfer Derryk Thornton, in particular, was (ahem…forgive me for the upcoming cheesy dad joke) a thorn in Carolina’s side. After he picked up his fourth foul with 10:06 left in the game, Thornton scored or assisted on 20 of Boston College’s remaining 23 points.
- Despite a hot start to the game and another double-double (his eighth in the last nine games), what Garrison Brooks will likely remember most from this one (and be most frustrated by) is his 0-for-7 mark at the free throw line (all in the second half). While the missed free throws didn’t lose the game, it will be hard for Brooks to reconcile that making just two of those shots would have won the game.
- Even with picking up his fourth foul with 8:32 remaining, freshman big man Armando Bacot also secured a double-double (his third in a row and fourth in the last five games), finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Bacot continued his improved free throw shooting, achieving a 7-for-8 mark.
- Brooks and Bacot once again dominated from the tip, scoring or assisting on Carolina’s first 10 points. However, Cole Anthony checked in right around this time and took six of Carolina’s next 10 shots. Anthony will need to find a way to mix his ball-dominant style of play with the pound-the-ball-inside approach that has given Carolina success of late.
- The Tar Heels won the rebounding battle, 42-35 and dominated the offensive glass 16 to seven. Despite that dominant advantage, Carolina held just a nine to eight lead in second chance points. The offensive rebounding advantage only translates to a full advantage when Carolina converts second chance points at a high rate.
- Assist numbers were way down today. The Heels managed just nine on 22 made baskets. In fact, the team committed more turnovers (12) than they dished out assists (nine).
- With Anthony and Francis back in the line-up, Carolina now has the capability to comfortably go nine-deep into the bench. Unfortunately, with Robinson’s injury and unknown return, that depth may once again be in jeopardy.
- Sterling Manley and Anthony Harris were both on the bench in suits today. It was encouraging to get to see both players able to sit with their team during the game. Hopefully, they will be able to push each other as they work diligently on their respective recoveries from leg injuries.
- Boston College built a ten-point lead (48-38) with 12:12 remaining in the game. Carolina responded with an 11-0 run over the next three minutes to get back in the game. The game was back and forth the rest of the way, with neither team leading by more than three over the final 5:00.
- There was an eerily similar to the end of the Clemson game feeling that took place at the 3:00 minute mark. Hanging onto a three-point lead, Carolina gave up a jumper and promptly turned the ball over on the inbounds pass. The Heels forced a missed shot but couldn’t secure the rebound and wound up surrendering another basket and the lead. At that moment there was a twinge of “Oh no, not again!” in my head. Here’s the first part of that sequence:
- Despite not pulling out the win, there were several strong plays down the stretch. Justin Pierce had an incredible tip-in off a Cole Anthony miss. A couple of possessions later, Brandon Robinson had a nice drive and lay-up to grab a one-point lead. On the next possession, Bacot found Brooks for a lay-up plus the foul. Brooks missed the foul shot, but Carolina got the offensive rebound, resulting in two of Cole Anthony’s 14 free throws. Here’s video of the Pierce tip-in:
- The inexperience of working a player back in reared its ugly head in the final three Tar Heel possessions. In each of those, Boston College went to a zone defense. On two of the three possessions (including the final shot), Cole Anthony took a contested late shot clock three that missed. On the other possession Cole Anthony split the defense for a runner in the lane. Not once in those three possessions did Brooks or Bacot have an opportunity to make a winning play inside. Here’s the final play:
- Back to the drawing board. The Tar Heels have a tough week ahead of them. They face a quick turnaround in Tallahassee on Monday night against Florida State before hosting Duke in the Dean Dome on Saturday.
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 Florida State on Monday, February 3. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.
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