Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 103-90 home win on Saturday night over #4 Gonzaga.
- What a big-time win in an incredible environment. Yes, Gonzaga is missing a starter and another key player, but they’re still good enough to be top five in the country. While you would love to add win over Kentucky to the résumé next Saturday, taking at least one of these two games is encouraging.
- Welcome to the 1,000-point club Luke Maye! Maye becomes the 78thTar Heel to reach that milestone. The 1,000thpoint was a free throw tacked on to a dunk that put Carolina over the century mark. In fact, Maye was 7-for-7 on free throws, with the first six coming after being fouled while shooting three pointers. This was not only the Heels’ first signature win of the year, but also Maye’s first signature game: scoring 20 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
- While on the subject of Luke Maye, it is being said around basketball that his production has “really dropped off from last year”. He’s currently averaging 14.3 points to last year’s 16.9 when he neededto shoulder a bigger portion of the scoring load. He’s currently averaging 10.0 rebounds per game as compared to last year’s 10.1. While his field goal percentage (48.6 to 45.0) and three-point percentage (43.1 to 31.3) are down, his free throw percentage is up almost 20 percentage points (62.4 to 79.5). All that to say – Luke Maye is going to be juuuuuuust fine.
- With a sample size of 10 games (roughly one quarter of the season), we can legitimately begin to look at season stats. Cameron Johnson is shooting 49.1 percent from deep, exactly 15 percentage points better than last year’s 34.1 percent. Johnson had an absurd night, leading all scorers with 25 on efficient shooting. While his six threes (including a shot-clock-ending desperation heave) were impressive, it was this dunk that was the most memorable:
- Seventh Woods had a career-high 11 points – by halftime. The junior finished with 14 points. Woods made two three pointers, the first time he’s hit multiple in a game. In fact, two three pointers ties the number he hit in his first two seasons combined. Woods went on a personal 6-0 run over the last 1:16 of the first half to stretch an eight point lead back out to 14.
- Coach Williams wants to dominate the glass, and dominate the glass the Heels did – 42-21. Additionally, Carolina had 14 offensive to Gonzaga’s five and outscored the Bulldogs by an overwhelming 27-0 on those second-chance opportunities.
- The Tar Heels had to be that good on the boards to win because they coughed up a season high 23 turnovers, which led to 29 Bulldog points and kept Gonzaga in the game.
- On several occasions Gonzaga out-Carolina-ed Carolina by getting pitch-aheads to a man streaking down the court behind the defense. This will no-doubt be a point of emphasis in the film room.
- Much like the UNC-Wilmington game, the Heels showed much better defensive desire and did some things well, while others have room to grow. The want-to seems to be there, and that’s a step in the right direction. That said, as I predicted the final score resembled the UNC-Kentucky regular season game from 2016-17 in which the Wildcats won 103-100 behind 47 points from Malik Monk. In fact, Carolina finished with that exact same total tonight. Let’s just hope this season doesn’t wind up for the Heels the way that season wound up for Kentucky. But just for a reminder of how that season ended for Kentucky:
- On five occasions in the second half, Gonzaga cut the lead to single digits. But on all five of those instances Carolina responded by scoring the next basket to push the lead back to double-digits. The Bulldogs are a team that can score in bunches, so maintaining the double-digit threshold provided security for the Heels. Although, once again, avoiding live ball turnovers and Carolina-like-run-outs would have placed an even larger cushion between the two teams.
- Roy Williams has been saying how good a shooting team this is and that it would eventually break out. 13-for-25 (54.7 percent) from deep is a great example of that. Shooting that well from outside on a consistent basis will cover a multitude of sins in other facets of the game.
- Leaky Black, who is dealing with patellar tendinitis, only played three minutes. But in that time he used his go-go-gadget arms to steal a pass and head in the other direction for an electrifying dunk. Sterling Manley also only scored two points, but it was a nice turnaround jump shot early in the second half.
- I must unfortunately leave you with a sour taste in your mouth: The execution after the final media timeout left much to be desired. The play included several turnovers, some fouls and some missed clutch-ish free throws. Thankfully, the cushion in this game was large enough to absorb these gaffes, but that won’t always be the case.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago against Kentucky on Saturday, December 22. Tip is at 5:15ET on CBS.
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