Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 98-96 home overtime loss to Duke on Saturday night.
- I sit here on my couch five hours after the game ended and I am still numb. I am still confused. I am still heartbroken. None of that compares to how the players and coaches must be feeling.
- Bottom line: if you hit your free throws you win this game. Overall, Carolina went 21-for-38 (55.3 percent) at the free throw line. The most painful thing is that the Heels made just five of 10 in the final 1:11 of regulation. If the Heels make any of those five misses, Tre Jones is never in the position to potentially send the game to overtime.
- Speaking of that end-of-regulation scenario, how (painfully) ironic that it was nearly identical to the end of the Clemson game? Against Clemson, Carolina forgot to foul up three in the waning seconds and gave up the game-tying three. Against Duke, Carolina did foul (maybe a little too quickly) and everything went the Blue Devils’ way to force overtime.
- Sticking with free throws, you really have to feel for Garrison Brooks. He went 0-for-7 against Boston College. If he makes any of those, Carolina wins. Tonight he went 0-for-5 (including missing the front end of a 1-and-1. If he makes any of those, Carolina wins. Outside of the missed free throws and five turnovers, Brooks played a really strong game. He shot efficiently (9-for-12 for 18 points) and played solid defense on Player of the Year candidate Vernon Carey.
- Guess how many shots Garrison Brooks took over the final 8:50 of regulation and the 5:00 of overtime? TWO (And both were off broken plays. On the first, Pierce randomly found Brooks in the lane when he got trapped on the baseline. On the second, Brooks received the ball in a late shot clock situation and had to hoist a shot. There were ZERO times when he received an intentional post feed in a scoring position, which had worked so well earlier in the game.
- How many times has it happened this year? Carolina builds up a double-digit lead, only to fumble it away at the line or with late turnovers. Tonight, the Heels led by 13 with 3:55 left, 10 with 2:10 left, seven with 1:11 left and five points with 20 seconds left in overtime. It’s like there’s this one missing piece, this one play and if Carolina could just get that they would come out on top.
- Okay, let’s talk about some positive things. We must turn the tide. Christian Keeling is having his best stretch as a Tar Heel. Against Florida State and Duke, two of the best three teams in the ACC, he has scored double digits back-to-back for the first time all season. In those two games he has hit 10 of his 17 shots, two of three three-pointers, and all five of his free throws.
- Fellow grad transfer Justin Pierce also had a good night, scoring 11 points. The two combined for 24 points in their first ever Duke game.
- Pierce scored five straight points for Carolina in what looked like it would be the most important stretch and turning point of the game prior to the outcome being what it was. With 1:51 left before halftime and Carolina clinging to a four point lead, Armando Bacot picked up his second foul and went to the bench to join Garrison Brooks and Leaky Black in the two-foul club. Seldom used Walker Miller came in to guard Vernon Carey, who already had amassed 16 points. In those 111 seconds, Carolina stretched the lead to nine (plus-five in this span) with a line-up of Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, Andrew Platek, and Walker Miller. Each team had three possessions. Duke missed a three, hit two free throws (Carey), and had a turnover. Carolina had a Pierce lay-up, a Pierce three, and a Platek (incredibly athletic double-pump) lay-up. Holding off Duke in this stretch to close out the front half (and instead expanding the lead) should have been a huge deal, but instead it will be shelved right alongside Marcus Paige’s three in the 2016 National Championship game. Here’s Platek’s lay-up:
- Also lost to history will be Brooks’ block on Cassius Stanley with seven seconds remaining in regulation to stop Stanley from tying the game. In the moment, it felt like a game-saving play. Sadly it will just be a footnote.
- Despite all three of Brooks, Bacot, and Black having two first half fouls, the Heels managed the foul trouble (mostly) wisely and none fouled out in regulation (although Bacot and Black both did in overtime). In his postgame comments, Bacot lamented that he could have secured one of the free throw rebounds had he been in the game. Roy Williams pointed out that Leaky’s defense on Tre Jones would have been beneficial when Jones put the Duke team on his back.
- Let’s go back to Walker Miller. What must have been going through his head when Bacot fouled out, Brooks was back in the locker room with an injury and he had to step to the free throw line in a tie, overtime situation against Duke? Miller made one of two (although the first nearly dropped as well) to give the Heels a one-point lead which would not be relinquished until the final six seconds of overtime.
- Duke landed the first punches in overtime, taking a five-point lead just one minute into the extra session. While it appeared the Heels might be out of gas, they responded with an 11-1 run to take a five point lead with 20 seconds left. Unfortunately they never scored again and the Blue Devils reeled off seven straight for the final 98-96 tally.
- You never want to blame the refs (especially when you miss 17 free throws), however the previously mentioned Duke 7-0 run was helped by an egregious no-call with 12 seconds left and Carolina up one. Brooks inbounded the ball to Platek, who was bumped, resulting in the ball going out of bounds and being awarded to Duke. So rather than shooting two free throws with 12 seconds left and leading by one (with a chance to go up by three), Carolina had to defend, which lead to the game-winning play. Here’s the no-call:
- Andrew Platek will be quite frustrated with himself for shooting 1-for-4 from the free throw line at the end of regulation and feel like he cost the team the game, but he did some great things. Earlier in the second half, he hit both parts of a one-and-one. On two important plays in the second half, he doubled on Carey, who spun right into the waiting Platek. The first occurrence resulted in a Duke turnover. The second time Carey bulldozed Platek and picked up his fifth foul.
- As strange as it sounds, Vernon Carey fouling out was a blessing in disguise for Duke. The freshman big man scored 18 in the first half, but had as many points as I did in the second half (zero). He fouled out with Carolina up 13 (77-64) and over the course of the final four minutes of regulation, Duke outscored the Heels 20-7. Carey’s absence opened up the floor for Duke to attack off the dribble, which they did at will.
- So many good things to be said about what happened in the first 37-38 minutes of the game. Carolina played with intensity. They moved the ball well: assists on 10 of the first 14 field goals. They had a balanced scoring attack: seven Tar Heels scored multiple baskets in the first half and five finished in double-figures. They gang rebounded: seven players had four or more rebounds. Every time Duke punched or threatened, Carolina answered. They were disruptive on defense. Bacot ran the floor really well. On more than one occasion, I uttered: “That’s a Carolina fast break!” Here’s a great example of one of those fast breaks (Kendall Marshall pitch-ahead style):
- Cole Anthony felt like he was more in the flow of the offense tonight. There was more cohesion. He took fewer shots, made a higher percentage of those shots, got more teammates involved, grabbed 11 rebounds, and hit nine of his 10 free throws. Of course he’s only played 12 college basketball games, so he still made some freshman mistakes. One in particular came with 2:00 left in regulation. Carolina was up nine and Duke applied pressure. Anthony got sped up and didn’t pull the ball back out when he got across the timeline to run some clock, but rather pushed on towards the basket for a difficult and contested lay-up. Duke quickly converted the miss into a three-pointer. Down to a six-point lead with 1:45 to go. From there the game turned into the parade to the free throw line, which we already know how that turned out.
- As has happened seldom this year, the Tar Heels both hit the 80-point plateau (and in fact scored a season high 96) and achieved a 50 percent field goal success rate. In fact, the first half Carolina shot 59 percent and scored 44 points (the most Duke had given up in a first half this season).
- Leaky Black played a solid and diverse game before fouling out. He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and a career-high nine assists; just a few plays shy of a double-double. Black also seems to have a knack for hitting the first shot of the game. He’s done so multiple times this season, and did so again tonight.
- Something to keep an eye on: Tonight we saw Leaky Black play some point guard, and Cole Anthony slide over to shooting guard. Not sure if it will be a look Coach Williams employs more, but could be a good wrinkle in the offense.
- A painful number to see: Carolina led the game for 41:50. Duke led for just 1:47. The game was also tied for 1:23.
- Just to say it again: Carolina had a double-digit lead as late as 2:07. Very (very) eerily similar to the Clemson loss.
- Joel Berry was honored at halftime tonight and his jersey hung in the rafters. Great to have him in the house for a game where his late-game sure-handedness and clutch free throw making ability would have come in handy. Here’s video of the halftime ceremony:
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 Wake Forest on Tuesday, February 11. Tip is at 8:00pm ET on ACC Network.
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