Monthly Archives: March 2020

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Syracuse (ACC Tournament – 2nd Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-53 loss to Syracuse on Wednesday night in the ACC Tournament 2nd Round.

Highlights:

Condensed Game:

  • Tonight was a fitting end to one of the most confounding seasons in Carolina basketball history. The Heels turned in a lackluster performance, reminiscent of the Wake Forest game earlier in the season, and consequently faced their biggest deficit (30) in a season full of them. Syracuse jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back.
  • Carolina has played Syracuse 10 times since the Orange joined the ACC. The Heels’ assist totals in those 10 games are: 25, 19, 20, 25, 22, 18, 17, 24, 22, and 13 (the lone loss). In wins, Carolina has averaged 21.3 assists per game. In the lone loss, the total was 13 assists. With that in mind, the threshold of assists we were looking for tonight was around 15. Unfortunately, Carolina only managed nine.
  • After a nine game stretch in which Christian Keeling scored nine or more points in every outing, his career ends with just six points over his final three contests. In those three games he shot a combined 2-for-15, including 0-for-4 and zero points tonight. While it didn’t affect his performance in each of those three games, the ankle injury Keeling suffered yesterday certainly played a role in tonight’s scoreless effort.
  • After shooting so well during Carolina’s three-game winning streak, Cole Anthony went 9-for-34 (26.5%) in his final three collegiate games. In that same span he tallied 10 assists and 16 turnovers.
  • Carolina turned the ball over on two of their first three possessions and finished with 18 for the game. That number is exactly double their assist total (18 to nine) and just two shy of having as many turnovers as made baskets (18 to 20).
  • Carolina has often struggled from the free throw line this season, but thankfully ended on a high note, making 11 of 13 (84.6%).
  • Garrison Brooks’ streak of scoring 20 or more points ends at seven games. Brooks finished with a Carolina high 18 points tonight. The junior was in tears on the bench after checking out for the last time. You have to believe he will do everything he possibly can to ensure that next season is not a repeat of this one. Here’s an example of what we hope to see a lot of in 2020-21:

  • Armando Bacot was a couple points and rebounds shy of notching his third straight double-double (eight points, seven rebounds). He finishes his freshman campaign second all-time in Carolina history for double-doubles in a freshman season (11 to Antawn Jamison’s 13 in 1995-96).
  • Three point shooting had been a boon for Carolina over the last several games. Not so tonight. The Heels were 0-for-7 from deep in the first half and managed just two in the second half (one each from Black and Anthony) to finish 2-for-16.
  • The Heels suffered from several mental lapses. On three separate occasions in the game, Carolina fouled a three-point shooter. Twice in the first half, Carolina goaltended balls that weren’t going anywhere near falling through the hoop (Anthony and Black). You just can’t make mental mistakes like that and expect to win.
  • An early inauspicious sign for Carolina was Leaky Black and Brandon Robinson each picking up two fouls within the first four minutes of the game. Black picked up his third foul later in the first half. Unlike last night’s explosion, Robinson was never able to get on track and finished his final collegiate game scoring just four points, not hitting a three, not getting any assists, and committing four turnovers. Thankfully, Robinson has a career full of great memories, which will trump this one.
  • With 6:47 remaining in the first half, Leaky Black hit two free throws to cut the Syracuse lead down to four. From there Syracuse went on a 19-2 run (including a flagrant foul on Cole Anthony) to essentially put the game out of reach. From that 21-point halftime lead, Carolina never got closer than 16 points in the second half.
  • One of the few highlights of the night: With 7:15 remaining in the first half, Cole Anthony had a really nice spin move and lay-up to bring Carolina within six points of Syracuse. Unfortunately, the bad-decision making version of Anthony showed up on several occasions tonight as well. He hoisted several early shot clock threes as the game was getting out of hand, rather than working for the correct shot.
  • Carolina scored 22 points in the first half. Literally none of them were outside the paint (16 points in the paint, six free throws).
  • One thing I won’t miss about Cole Anthony is how often (and how demonstratively) he complains after being called for a foul. That’s just not a good way to ingratiate yourself to referees, especially when you have not yet earned the cache to do so.
  • In a shock to no one, Armando Bacot twisted his ankle late in the first half. Thankfully he was able to come back out and play the second half, but clearly wasn’t up to his usual level of play.
  • Syracuse just plain and simple out-hustled Carolina throughout the game. The Heels had nowhere near their usual crisp passing and effort displayed against Syracuse.
  • After scoring just two first half points, Leaky Black poured in 12 in the second half for a career high 14 total points.
  • Always hard to see seniors play their last game; especially those who have been a Tar Heel for four years (and contributed to a National Champion team). So first, a big thanks to Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce for coming to play their final collegiate season in Chapel Hill. It obviously didn’t turn out the way either player was hoping, but such is sports. Thanks to Robbie O’Han and Caleb Ellis for the hard work they put in to prepare the rotation regulars for games. Thanks to Shea Rush for four years of commitment and dedication to being part of this program. And finally, thanks to Brandon Robinson for a memorable Carolina career. He started out a national champion and finished with an up and down senior season, thanks in large part to the injury bug, which just would not leave the senior alone.

Roy Williams, Garrison Brooks, and Leaky Black postgame press conference:

This loss ends Carolina’s 2019-20 season since they won’t have any postseason opportunities. Stay tuned to the Tar Heel Hoops Blog throughout the offseason for updates on NBA Draft declarations, incoming freshmen, and more.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Tournament – 1st Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-56 win over Virginia Tech on Tuesday night in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Thanks to a 22-point drubbing in a revenge game, we get to see the 2019-20 Tar Heels at least one more time this season.
  • You’ll recall that Brandon Robinson missed the first game as he was recovering from a car accident. He made up for that absence tonight by scoring eight of Carolina’s first 12 points and finishing with 17, including five three-pointers. Robinson also chipped in six rebounds, two assists, zero turnovers, two blocks, a steal, and most importantly, senior leadership.
  • Robinson was one of four Tar Heels who scored in double-figures, led by Garrison Brooks’ 20 points. Brooks now has scored 20 or more points in seven straight games. He struggled from the floor in the first half and the beginning of the second, hitting just one of his first six shots. The junior big man caught fire from that point and hit his final five shots.
  • Brooks nearly single-handedly matched Virginia Tech’s free throw numbers. He shot 8-for-10 from the line while the Hokies went 10-for-11 as an entire team. As a team, Carolina did, in fact, make more free throws (19) than Tech attempted (11).
  • Armando Bacot’s ankle seems to be healing well. He finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, his 11th double-double of the season.
  • After managing just six offensive rebounds and two second chance points in the first match-up between these two teams (including both overtimes), tonight Carolina corralled 13 offensive rebounds and turned those into 15 second chance points.
  • Carolina won the rebounding battle with a committee approach. Six different Tar Heels had four or more rebounds. In total, Carolina out-rebounded Tech 45-30.
  • Hold the presses, this is breaking news: Carolina had two more injury concerns tonight. Just before halftime, Christian Keeling had his left ankle stepped on (and flattened) by a Hokie player. Keeling didn’t join the team on the bench after halftime but eventually came back out and even played 10:06 in the second half. Hopefully his ankle will be okay, because for Carolina to even think about winning this tournament they need all the depth they can get.
  • The other potential injury issue involved Leaky Black. With 3:59 left in the game officials stopped action when it appeared Black had some sort of injury to his face. Hopefully, Leaky will be all right and able to play tomorrow. His height and distribution capability are important factors against the Syracuse zone. Tonight Black had five points, six rebounds, four assists, and zero turnovers.
  • Although Cole Anthony struggled some from the floor (3-for-10) and turned the ball over (four times, including the first possession of the game), he looked much more like the Cole Anthony we’ve seen recently than the version that struggled against Duke. Anthony has really embraced the fact that this is Garrison Brooks’ team. In fact, the two connected on two beautiful pick-and-roll plays that each resulted in a Brooks dunk. Anthony finished with 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and a steal. Here’s video of the pick-and-roll with Anthony and Brooks:
  • Thanks in large part to Brandon Robinson, Carolina stayed hot from beyond the arc. Tonight’s 7-for-13 effort means that the Heels have made over half of their threes in two of the last three games. Over the course of the last four games, they are shooting 47.1 percent (32-for-68) on three-pointers as a team. Continuing to do so, will grant Brooks and Bacot much more space to operate inside.
  • After surrendering 14 threes to the Hokies in the first meeting, Carolina gave up just 10 tonight. Interestingly, Tech made more three-pointers (10) than two-pointers (eight).
  • After turning the ball over on the first two possessions of the game, Carolina surrendered just six more throughout the game. Only two of those final six occurred in the second half.
  • After scoring the first four points of the game, Virginia Tech missed their next eight shots (and 10 of 11), which allowed Carolina to go on a 12-0 run (17-3 extended) and take a lead they would never relinquish.
  • The big lead enabled Coach Williams to grab a little more rest for his starters than he otherwise might. No one hit the 35:00 mark. This also allowed several bench players to make bigger contributions. Andrew Platek scored Carolina’s last six points, and did so in three difference ways – one free throws, one three pointer, and one lay-up. Justin Pierce scored his four points with put-backs on back-to-back possessions.
  • One of Carolina’s issues this year has been closing games. Not so tonight. The Heels pushed the lead back out to double-digits two minutes into the second half and never allowed the Hokies to cut the deficit back to single digits. Further, the lead ballooned to as much as 25 on the strength of a 13-0 run. From there, Carolina cruised to victory.
  • Carolina’s biggest issue lately has not been the offense, but rather getting stops on defense. And while Virginia Tech missed some shots they might ordinarily make, they hit just 29 percent of their field goals tonight; that can’t all be attributed to just “missed shots”. The Heels also forced two separate shot clock violations. If Carolina can truly turn a corner defensively to match their offensive improvement, it could be a good week in the Greensboro Coliseum.

Roy Williams, Garrison Brooks, & Brandon Robinson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the second round of the ACC Tournament game against Syracuse on Wednesday, March 11. Tip is at 9:00pm ET on ESPN2.

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Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 89-76 road loss to Duke on Saturday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Carolina fought valiantly to maintain proximity to Duke tonight, but it was not meant to be. The Heels weathered an early Blue Devil storm and eventually tied the game at 28, before finding themselves down by eight at halftime. Again the Heels clawed back to within one point twice in the second half, but couldn’t make the plays to get over the hump and the lead ballooned to the final margin of 13 points.
  • With apologies to Garrison Brooks, can we just pause and appreciate what a rough season Brandon Robinson’s body has endured? He has suffered countless ankle injuries and re-aggravations, a car accident, and tonight a head injury. The official word came out that Robinson would not play in the second half after taking an elbow to the face in the closing minutes of the first half. And yet he came back into the game early in the second half and wound up playing 13:51 and connecting on two three-pointers.
  • Garrison Brooks is having one of the more impressive offensive stretches in recent memory. Tonight’s 26 points give him six straight games of scoring 20-plus points and four straight games of scoring 25-plus points. His ups and downs at the free throw line have been well documented, but in this four game stretch Brooks is shooting 82.2 percent (37-for-45). Tonight’s double-double is his’ 12th on the year. Nine of Brooks’ 13 rebounds were offensive.

  • There was question whether Armando Bacot would be able to play tonight. He not only started, but had one of his most efficient outings of the season. Foul trouble and the lingering ankle injury limited Bacot to 23:2j3 of playing time, but in that time scored 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting and had 12 rebounds (including six offensive). Bacot’s double-double gives him 10 this season, the second most ever by a Carolina freshman (Antawn Jamison had 13).
  • Tonight was just the second game all season in which Cole Anthony didn’t achieve double-digits in the scoring column. Anthony had a bit of a rough night, due in large part to Duke’s defense. After multiple strong performances in a row, Anthony tried to win the game too much on his own tonight rather than involving his teammates. Such has been the case for many freshmen in their first game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
  • By no means should Anthony get all the blame. As a team, Carolina only achieved seven assists, the second lowest total this season. Far too often in the first half, the Heels let Duke goad them into taking jump shots rather than taking advantage of opportunities inside the paint.
  • Christian Keeling’s streak of nine straight games of scoring nine-plus points ended tonight as the grad transfer was only able to connect on one of his six shot attempts.
  • It was a strange rebounding night. Carolina won the overall battle 38-37, but exactly half of their rebounds were offensive. As you would imagine, the offensive glass kept Carolina close for much of the game.
  • After shooting over 40 percent from three each of the past two games, the Heels cooled off to just 33.3 percent (4-for-12) tonight. Conversely, Duke’s hot shooting from deep (10-for-21) provided a big advantage for the home team.
  • Each team’s first possession provided an inauspicious outlook for the rest of the game. On Duke’s first possession, Cole Anthony fouled Tre Jones just 16 seconds into the game. On Carolina’s first possession, Anthony turned the ball over after driving too far into traffic.
  • Duke outscored Carolina 19-to-5 in fast break points, several of which came on plays where the Blue Devils just plain outran the last line of Tar Heel defense for an easy lay-up.
  • For all the good things ESPN does, some of their production decisions are confounding. For example, why are we seeing a split screen of “94 Feet With Jay Bilas” during game action? This occurred from 11:59-11:18 of game action plus two Bacot free throws at the end of that time. People are tuned in to see the game, not hear a recap of a filler segment. It’s fine to show things like this, but don’t move away from game action for this.
  • Along a similar line (and it’s hard to say if this is a Jay Bilas issue, a referee issue, or some of both), on two different occasions in the game, Bilas said, “I don’t think that would have been a foul if the shot had gone in.” I get the humanity of officials, but it’s either a foul or it isn’t and officials should adjudicate the game as such.
  • The final 3:50 of the first half was an exercise in “don’t-let-Duke-build-too-much-of-a-lead-with-all-five-starters-on-the-bench”. At 3:50, Leaky Black picked up his second foul so he and Bacot (who already had two fouls) checked out. At 2:26, Brooks picked up his second foul and headed to the bench. At 1:42, Robinson got hurt and went straight to the locker room. Finally, with 0:56 left, Anthony picked up his second foul. So with four starters on the bench with two fouls and the fifth in the locker room injured, the lineup of Jeremiah Francis, Christian Keeling, Andrew Platek, Justin Pierce, and Walker Miller finished the first half. They played those 56 seconds to a 2-2 tie.
  • Justin Pierce drew another offensive foul tonight. Those types of hustle plays have been his biggest contribution to the 2019-20 Tar Heels.
  • We now turn our attention to do-or-die time in the ACC Tournament. We are to that strange part of every season where the next game could be the last.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first round of the ACC Tournament. Carolina has the 14 seed and will play Virginia Tech on Tuesday, March 10. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ACC Network.

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Twitter: isaacschade
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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Wake Forest

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 93-83 home win over Wake Forest on Tuesday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Congratulations to the seniors, whose final home game will always be remembered as a win. On this night six players were honored – Brandon Robinson, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, Shea Rush, Caleb Ellis, and Robbie O’Han. Since that equates to six players, Caleb Ellis was the odd-man-out who didn’t get to actually start the game.
  • It’s no coincidence that the current three-game winning streak coincides with Cole Anthony having his first three games of the season in which he shot 50 percent-plus from the field.
  • Carolina’s leading rebounder tonight was…Leaky Black. Black grabbed eight rebounds.
  • Armando Bacot went through shootaround but it was ultimately decided that he wouldn’t play.
  • The Tar Heels committed a season-low seven turnovers tonight, including only one in the second half.
  • The 35 first half points broke Carolina’s streak of scoring 40-plus points in four straight halves. But they then exploded for an absurd 58 points in the second 20 minutes. As part of the ridiculous second half, Carolina was shooting over 70 percent with 6:00 still to go. For the game, they wound up shooting 50.8 percent (31-for-61).
  • Christian Keeling did not continue his hot shooting in the first half, but scored eight straight for the Heels during a three-minute stretch midway through the second half. He did not hit double-digits but has scored nine or more points in nine straight games.
  • An underappreciated aspect of this Carolina team is their ability to draw charges. Tonight they drew four – two from Justin Pierce and one each from Christian Keeling and Cole Anthony.
  • Cole Anthony’s efficiency continues to skyrocket. In the past two games he has tallied 14 assists and just three turnovers. In those same games he has scored 25 and 28 points respectively. In the past three games he has connected on 12 of his 20 three-point attempts. His floor management grows every game. Really would love to see how the team would have fared if Cole hadn’t been injured.
  • Garrison Brooks continues to astound. He had three and-one opportunities in the first half (connecting on two of them). He has five straight games of scoring 20-plus points and three straight games of 25-plus points. In that five game stretch, Brooks is shooting 63 percent from the field. Brooks and Anthony combined for 53 of Carolina’s 93 points tonight. Also to Brooks’ credit, he picked up his second foul with 6:53 left in the first half, continued to play through the rest of the first half plus nearly all of the second half and yet never picked up his third foul.

  • Speaking of fouls, Wake typically makes a living at the free throw line, however Carolina outpaced the Demon Deacons tonight. In fact, in the second half, the Heels were in the bonus for the final 9:30 while Wake never reached the bonus.
  • Carolina had an aberrational strong three-point shooting performance against Syracuse, going 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) from deep. The fear tonight was that the three-point shooting would regress to the mean or, worse, resemble Carolina’s 1-for-16 performance from the first time they played Wake. To the contrary, it got better. Tonight they shot 10-for-17 from deep, good for an astounding 58.8 percent. Anthony and Robinson did the majority of the work in this category, contributing four and five made threes respectively.
  • Cole Anthony had some spectacular plays this evening. A flip pass over his head to Brooks for a lay-up plus the foul with just over 5:00 to go in the first half was a standout. Another stellar play was an absurd reverse lay-up about seven minutes into the second half. Here are both plays:
  • The first half featured several mini-runs. When the Carolina regulars came in for the first time, they reeled off 12 straight. Wake responded with an immediate 7-0 run and another 7-0 just a bit later.
  • The entirety of the game felt like one of those where the Heels were in control the whole time, but Wake was right there with them. Every punch Carolina landed, Wake had an answer. But in the end Carolina made the plays (and free throws) they needed in order to hold on. Have these Heels turned the corner? Do they now know how to close out an opponent?
  • Oh these Tar Heels! They are doing just enough here at the end of the conference portion of the season to give you a glimmer of hope for a run in the conference tournament. First, though, we turn our attention to Duke on Saturday.
  • Brandon Robinson Senior Night speech:
  • Shea Rush Senior Night Speech:

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 Duke on Saturday, March 7. Tip is at 6:00pm ET on ESPN.

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Twitter: isaacschade
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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Syracuse

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 92-79 road win over Syracuse on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Carolina once again dissects Syracuse and their vaunted zone. Today they tallied 25 assists on 33 made baskets (75.8 percent). In the 10 games the Heels and Orange have played since Syracuse joined the ACC, Carolina has averaged 20.5 assists per game and has assisted on exactly 70 percent of their made baskets.
  • After a season of losing leads, Carolina has now held on down the stretch in back-to-back games. The Heels were composed and held their poise in the face of Syracuse pressure throughout the second half. In fact, of their four second half turnovers, not a single one was a result of full-court pressure.
  • Against NC State earlier in the week Carolina had to grit out the final minutes. Not so today. Carolina held a double-digit lead for the final 15:00 of the game.
  • Garrison Brooks’ strong play continues. He now has 20+ points in each of his last four games and after some rough patches from the free throw line this season went 8-for-8 today (22-for-24 over the last two games). Today he recorded his first double-double in the past seven games (26 points / 14 rebounds) and his 11th on the season. Those 14 rebounds gave him a career high. Brooks also tallied four assists and two blocks.

  • Christian Keeling stayed hot and recorded his highest point total as a Tar Heel (18). He has hit multiple threes in three straight games and has reached double-digit scoring in six of his last eight. During those eight games, he is shooting 56.9 percent (41-72) and averaging 13.1 points.

  • Carolina’s free throw woes this season have been well documented, but the stripe was good to the Heels today (15-17).
  • Several injury notes from today. After playing 8:47 Armando Bacot hurt his ankle and did not return to action. We wait to learn of his availability for Tuesday against Wake Forest. Brandon Robinson and Christian Keeling also both had to leave the game with ankle issues, but both came back to play.
  • With Bacot injured and Brooks taking a breather on the bench, the Heels had a stretch where the line-up was Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Brandon Robinson, Justin Pierce, and Leaky Black. It was one of those games where Leaky has played both the one and the five.
  • Given all the scoring issues this year, the Heels are starting to find something of a groove. They have now scored 40+ points in four straight halves. Additionally, they shot over 50 percent as a team today (33-for-64, 51.6 percent).
  • Cole Anthony seems to be really rounding into form. After not shooting 50 percent from the field in a game all season, he has now done so in back-to-back games.
  • The freshman had a strong all-around day. He totaled 25 points and buried a career high seven three-pointers. Anthony also dished seven assists (one off his career high), had two steals, and even blocked a shot. Here’s a look at those three pointers:
  • Justin Pierce’s numbers don’t always jump off the page, but he tends to find ways to make hustle plays. Today he drew two offensive fouls within his first couple minutes of action. Fellow grad transfer Keeling drew one of his own in the first half as well.
  • As tends to happen against the zone, Carolina held the edge in rebounding (39-29). Early in the first half Brandon Robinson skied for an incredible rebound which he dumped off to Brooks for a lay-up.
  • Carolina built their big first half lead behind a 16-0 run (20-2 extended) that took the game from tied at 17 to a 33-17 advantage. Unfortunately, Syracuse responded with their own run of 11 straight points and the Heels eventually took a five point lead into the locker room at the half.
  • Since coming back from his various injuries, Brandon Robinson has struggled to shoot. It was an encouraging sign to see him hit two first half threes today.

  • It’s no secret that these Heels struggle to shoot the three, and the first half today was no different as they connected on just two of 12 attempts. The second half, however, was an entirely different story. Carolina made six in the first six minutes of the second half and finished the half shooting 9-for-14, a blistering 64.3 percent.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is senior night against Wake Forest on Tuesday, March 3. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ACC Network.

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

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