Category Archives: Quick Hitters

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. NC State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 85-79 home win over NC State on Tuesday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Can’t underestimate the role the crowd played in the victory. How cool that a full (and loud) crowd will turn out for a 10-17 team to play a late game on a school night. Really grateful for the Carolina faithful. It felt really good for the Tar Heels to get a big win tonight against an in-state rival who is currently vying for an NCAA Tournament birth. Hopefully the Heels can build on this momentum!
  • For a moment, this game had the makings of the same story line we’ve seen time after time in this 2019-20 season. Carolina held an 11-point lead with 8:00 remaining and still a 10-point lead with 5:00 to go. However, NC State cut the lead to three with 2:00 remaining. Unlike other experiences though, the Heels were able to make winning plays down the stretch, including going 7-for-8 from the foul line in the final 0:40.
  • The most consequential stretch of the game came after NC State opened up a seven point lead with 14:45 left in the game. The Heels responded with a quick 9-0 spurt from 13:51-12:12. That run extended out to 22-4, giving Carolina a 67-56 lead with 8:33 to play.
  • There was question about Garrison Brooks’ ability to play after the illness he had been suffering from and the eight pounds he lost as a result. It’s safe to say he did just fine. Following in the lineage of recent Pack-killers Marcus Paige and Luke Maye, Brooks dropped in 30 points and nine rebounds. If you’re keeping track at home, that 55 points against NC State this season.
  • Brooks was also able to exorcise some free throw demons this evening. After going 0-for-7 and 0-for-5 from the line respectively against Boston College and Duke respectively, Brooks went 14-for-16 tonight including making six out of six in the final 0:41. The junior big man did his best Tyler Hansbrough impersonation by getting four separate and-ones (three of which he converted the free throw).
  • Let’s not forget that NC State jumped out to a 10-0 lead while making their first four shots (13-2 extended). During that same stretch Carolina was busy turning the ball over five times in the first 3:30. The Heels eventually settled in and ran off a 9-0 over the course of two minutes from 15:40-13:45 to cut the deficit to 13-11.
  • After the Wolfpack’s initial 10-0 lead, the Heels clawed back to take a 38-37 lead off a Garrison Brooks shot in the paint with 1:00 to go before halftime. After a sloppy sequence from both teams, a Leaky Black lay-up at the halftime buzzer made it 40-37 Heels at the half.
  • NC State foul trouble in the first half contributed to Carolina’s ability to get back in the game. Three important Wolfpack players (Hellems, Bates, and Daniels) each picked up two fouls before halftime. While Carolina didn’t take advantage as much as they would have desired, they were able to grab the lead.
  • Cole Anthony had an under-the-radar 19 points. This is a tell-tale sign of the freshman starting to settle in to the game, getting teammates involved, and then calling his own number when the time is right. He also did a great job in getting back on defense during a NC State fast break which allowed Christian Keeling to catch up and block the shot from behind.
  • Speaking of Keeling, what a night for the grad transfer! Before the Louisville game, he had not hit multiple threes in a game this season and now he’s done so in back-to-back contests. Keeling poured in a total of 16 points and the 6’3” guard was second on the team in rebounds with seven.
  • Keeling has now scored in double-digits in five of the past seven games (and he had nine in the two in which he didn’t hit double-digits). He’s averaging 12.4 points per game over that seven game stretch. It’s been really fun to watch Keeling find his offensive stride in the latter part of the season; you just wish it could be for a more successful team in terms of wins and losses.
  • Armando Bacot was curiously ineffective tonight against the Wolfpack, despite having registered a double-double against them in the first meeting in Raleigh. The freshman only played 13:26 total, and just 5:36 in the second half. Bacot picked up his second foul with 10:54 remaining in the first half and never really seemed to find his stride after that.
  • The victory loss kept Carolina from tying the 1950-51 team for the longest losing streak in program history.
  • It’s worth noting that both teams were sloppy with the ball early. They combined for 12 turnovers in the first seven minutes.
  • Carolina did all of this tonight while shooting just 3-for-16 from three.
  • One of the big factors was offensive rebounding (surprise, surprise). Carolina hauled in nearly double what State did (13-7) and held a similar edge in resulting second-chance points (13-6).
  • Carolina scored 80 points for just the fifth time all season. Interestingly, it was only the second win in those five games (Miami being the other occurrence).
  • Justin Pierce didn’t have an overly impactful game in the scoring column but he did snag four offensive rebounds, got three steals, and had two assists. It felt like both he and Keeling were all over the court. It showed in the final tally. Carolina was +25 with Pierce on the floor and +24 with Keeling on the floor.

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 Syracuse on Saturday, February 29. Tip is at 4:00pm ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters: UNC @ Louisville

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 72-54 road loss to Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • With 4:09 remaining in the first half, Cole Anthony made two free throws (the first free throws of the game for either team) to bring Carolina within four (25-21). Louisville outscored Carolina 11-2 over the remaining four minutes before halftime and 11-0 in the first five-and-a-half minutes of the second half. That 22-2 run essentially ended the game and the Heels would get no closer than 14 points.
  • At one point in that 22-2 run, Carolina missed 11 straight shots (last two shots of the first half, first nine shots of second half.
  • Carolina knew they would be short-handed in the front court before the game even started, with both Garrison Brooks (illness) and Justin Pierce (ankle) out. With apologies to senior Brandon Robinson and star Cole Anthony, Brooks is the heart and soul of this team and his absence leaves a huge hole.
  • With Brooks out, the starting five were Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black, and Armando Bacot. That quintet had literally not shared a single second of court time prior to today. This was the ninth different starting line-up the Tar Heels have used this year, the most of the Roy Williams era.
  • By the time the first media timeout occurred, neither team had attempted a two-point shot. At that point both teams were 1-for-4, all from the three-point line.
  • For the second time this season, only one Tar Heel (Cole Anthony – 18) scored in double-digits. The other instance was against Ohio State when Cole Anthony was also the only double-digit scorer.
  • For three straight games, Cole Anthony has shot 7-for-16 from the field. He has shot under 50 percent in every game this season, other than one, the first game of the season against Notre Dame when he shot exactly 50 percent (12-for-24).
  • Staying with Cole Anthony, part of the reason for his low field goal percentage is shot selection. He seems to have two or three head-scratchers per game. He will certainly grow in this area as his game continues to evolve and mature.
  • Just two Tar Heels had more assists than turnovers. One was Brandon Robinson, with three assists and two turnovers. The other was KJ Smith who had one assist and no turnovers in mop-up duty.
  • Carolina assisted on fewer than 50 percent of their made baskets (10 assists on 21 buckets) and had nearly double as many turnovers as assists (17 to 10).
  • Carolina’s side of the court appeared to have issues with moisture in the first half. Four different Tar Heels slipped in the first 20 minutes.
  • With Brooks and Pierce out, both Walker Miller (8:16) and Brandon Huffman (3:57) saw more playing time than they ordinarily do.
  • It was encouraging to see Andrew Platek hit a couple three-pointers and have a solid all-around shooting day (3-for-5 FG, 2-for-3 3FG, 1-for-1 FT).
  • Carolina played three possessions of zone late in the first half. The results were a wide-open lay-up, a three-pointer, and a dunk. Needless to say the zone didn’t come back out in the second half.
  • The Tar Heels bungled multiple fast break opportunities today. Not enough that it would have changed the outcome of the game, but would have perhaps put game pressure on Louisville.
  • In a season where the walk-ons haven’t received as much playing time as they normally would, it was encouraging to see them get a couple minutes including a great pass from KJ Smith to a cutting Caleb Ellis for a lay-up.

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 NC State on Tuesday, February 25. Tip is at 9:00pm ET on ESPN.

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Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Notre Dame

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-76 road loss to Notre Dame on Monday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Déjà vu? Nope. Groundhog day? Nope. Time travel? Nope. We really do keep witnessing the same miserable ending over and over again. Yes, most of the blame is on the Tar Heels for their play down the stretch in these losses, but how can you help but feel awful for these young men?

  • This was a game of runs. The Heels missed eight shots in a row in the first half, allowing Notre Dame to take a nine-point lead. Thankfully Carolina was able to get the lead down to three at the half. Notre Dame scored the first bucket of the second half but Carolina went on a 13-0 run to take an eight-point lead (19-3 extended run). Notre Dame eventually went on their own 9-0 run to cut the lead to five. The Irish kept chipping at the lead, but never led until the final bucket with :02.4 to go.
  • This was also one of those “Carolina-had-this-big-a-lead-with-this-much-time-left” games. The Heels held a 15-point lead with 8:15 remaining, a nine-point lead with 4:15 to go, and a four-point lead with the ball and just 66 seconds remaining. Another way to look at it: Carolina led from 16:35 of the second half until Notre Dame hit the kick-out three for a 77-76 lead.

  • Carolina will look back and rue several things, including two failed defensive rebounds in the final 90 seconds which both directly led to Notre Dame points.
  • Were the Tar Heels victim to another incorrectly adjudicated foul situation (for the third time in a late-game scenario)? Cole Anthony air-balled an ill-advised three with :21 left. Leaky Black nearly tracked down the offensive rebound, but was called out of bounds as he attempted to save the ball. Black’s right foot was clearly out-of-bounds, but only because he was quite clearly bumped by Notre Dame’s Nate Laszewski. If called, that would have been Laszewski’s fifth foul and he would not then have been able to hit the game winner (because he would have fouled out and because Leaky Black would have shot two free throws for a potential four-point lead). Here’s the play in question:

  • Much can and will always be said about Cole Anthony. He led all scorers tonight with 23, and despite some interesting decisions down the stretch posted his best assist-to-turnover ratio of the season at 6-to-1.
  • It’s interesting that Carolina was on the brink of a victory despite Armando Bacot scoring just two points (the first Tar Heel bucket of the second half). The freshman reeled in a typical 10 rebounds, but will need to contribute more offensively.
  • Leaky Black continues to put up productive, and diverse, stat lines. Tonight he recorded double-digit rebounds (10) for the first time in his career. He’s had at least one assist, block, and steal in five of the past six games. Black also contributed nine points tonight, including a no-hesitation three-pointer and 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
  • Garrison Brooks continues to be the most consistent performer on the year. He has back-to-back 20+ point games for the second time this season (22 tonight). Unfortunately, Brooks took exactly one shot (1!) over the final 8:30 of the game. The team has to find a way to continue getting shots for its best offensive players in crunch time. A very similar thing happened with Garrison Brooks during the stretch of the Duke game.
  • Christian Keeling’s double-digit scoring streak stopped at four games, but he managed nine in this one including the first bucket of the game just five seconds in.
  • The starting line-up was the same for the second game in a row with Christian Keeling taking the spot Andrew Platek had been occupying. However, Brandon Robinson was back tonight after missing four games. Robinson came off the bench to play 25:24. The starting five going forward will likely include two of Christian Keeling, Leaky Black, and Brandon Robinson.
  • The Tar Heels got their turnover issues mostly in check tonight. They committed just four in the first half, but added eight in the second half (including several costly turnovers down the stretch). The team got back to having more assists (18) than turnovers (12), however Notre Dame committed just six.
  • Carolina did their usual work on the backboards, routing Notre Dame 47-31, which included 18 offensive rebounds. These rebounds allowed the Heels to double up the Irish in second chance points, 16-8.
  • Similar to the Wake Forest game, Carolina missed just two free throws, both of which came from Garrison Brooks late in the first half. That also means that Carolina made every free throw they shot in the second half, including both ends of 1-and-1 on two separate occasions.
  • Curiously, Andrew Platek only played 4:32. That’s quite the fall for a player who was starting as recently as two games ago.

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 Louisville on Saturday, February 22. Tip is at 4:00pm ET on ESPN or ESPN2.

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 64-62 home loss to Virginia on Saturday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Well here we go again. Same script for the last three Saturdays in a row: Carolina home game. Saturday night. Comes down to last possession. Tar Heels lose. February 1 against Boston College (terrible foul called against Brandon Robinson). February 8 against Duke (let’s not talk about it). February 15 against Virginia (last second three). These poor Tar Heels just cannot catch a break.
  • Unlike last week against Duke, Carolina made offensive plays down the stretch, including sinking free throws. It’s just that Virginia had one more play in them and Carolina couldn’t make the defensive stop.
  • If you’re keeping track at home, Carolina has lost four of their last five at home (Miami being the lone win). Those four losses have been by a combined eight (8!) total points and two of the games have gone to overtime. You just can’t make this stuff up.
  • The team that showed up tonight was much more the team was saw last Saturday against Duke than the imposters that played in Winston-Salem last Tuesday. They moved the ball better, hustled more, and generally looked like a Roy Williams-coached team.
  • It’s been well documented that Carolina has struggled offensively all year long. For just the third time all season, the Heels hit 50 percent of their shots tonight (25-for-50, exactly 50 percent). And of course that happened against the team ranked 4th in defensive efficiency in KenPom. And of course Carolina still lost.
  • Garrison Brooks’ vision must be much improved from his troubles on Tuesday night against Wake Forest. Even though Brooks wore his goggles again, he scored 20 points tonight, many of which came from the mid-range game. He also made his second career three-pointer. Similar to junior and senior Tyler Hansbrough, if Brooks can continue to consistently hit these deeper shots away from the rim, he will be a very dangerous man. This also opens up more operating room for a more traditional, back-to-the-basket big man.
  • Turnovers were an issue tonight, especially early. As has happened with regularity this season, the team had more turnovers than assists (15-14). Armando Bacot was the main culprit tonight, surrendering five turnovers against zero assists. The freshman was a rebounding machine (16), but found himself in trouble often tonight against Virginia’s pesky defensive scheme.
  • A positive note about the turnovers: The Heels committed their ninth (in their first 19 possessions) with 9:18 left before halftime. However, they cleaned up their act and only committed one more in the half, and six total more for the game.
  • Christian Keeling continues to shoot well and hit double-digits for the fourth straight game. Keeling came up huge in the final minute, burying three free throws to give Carolina a one-point lead with 10 seconds to go. One thing Keeling will need to pay more attention to is getting his feet behind the three-point line. Three separate shots tonight could have been threes if he was just a couple inches further back.
  • Good to see Brandon Robinson back in uniform, although he didn’t play. Today marked the two week point since his injury.
  • Poor Cole Anthony took a shot to the face, just above his eyebrow, and bled a good deal. He just can’t seem to catch a break. After receiving medical attention in the locker room, he eventually came back in. Here’s video of the play:
  • This game moved quickly. Much of that can be attributed to the lack of fouls and foul shooting. The teams combined for just 22 total free throws. The first free throws of the game didn’t happen until 12:30 had already elapsed.
  • Carolina drew three charges in the first half (Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, Andrew Platek).
  • As part of the offensive struggles, it’s plainly evident that several players are hesitant to shoot when they get a good look from three. There seems to be a lack of confidence. The open shots are coming within the flow of the offense, but players are reticent to pull the trigger.
  • This turned out to be one of the more fun Virginia games of recent memory. Both teams scored in the 60s. There were seven ties and 16 lead changes.
  • It’s a quick turnaround to playing in northern Indiana on Monday night. The Fighting Irish will also be flying back up after playing Duke on Saturday. Which Tar Heel team will show up?

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 Notre Dame on Monday, February 17. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Wake Forest

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 74-57 road loss to Wake Forest on Tuesday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Do you want to know how cruel this game is? On a night where Carolina got absolutely blown out (aside from a late push), they went 14-for-16 (87.5%) from the free throw line. That would have been quite useful on Saturday night.
  • Garrison Brooks played with an eye injury suffered against Duke on Saturday. Brooks’ issue was less about pain and more about an inability to see. He wore protective goggles during the game and was clearly hampered.
  • Brooks suffered an additional injury late in the first half when a Wake Forest defender flailed his arm and caught Brooks in the mouth. The Tar Heel junior had to get two stitches in his mouth.
  • Armando Bacot suffered some type of right hand injury and came out of the game for a time, before returning with some of his fingers taped together for stability.
  • Walker Miller not only played meaningful first half minutes, but started the second half to give Brooks time to recover from getting stitches.
  • You love to see Brooks learning more and more about what it means to be a vocal leader. Even though he wasn’t starting the second half, he huddled with the starters to give them some last minute coaching and encouragement.
  • The Tar Heels found themselves down at halftime. By 18 points. To Wake Forest. Who started the game at 3-10 in the ACC. This is Carolina basketball in 2020.
  • Part of the reason Carolina played so well on Saturday is that the ball moved well amongst the five players on the court. Tonight it didn’t and the Heels managed just four assists in the first half and finished the game with only nine.
  • Wake Forest started the second half on a 7-0 run to open up a 25-point lead. A 10-2 extended run made it a 26-point lead for the Demon Deacons – the biggest deficit the Heels have faced all season.
  • Despite the massive deficit, the Heels cut the lead down to nine points with 2:37 to go (and missed a three-point shot to make it six). Unfortunately, the late game push was too little, too late.
  • Christian Keeling was the lone individual offensive bright spot for Carolina. He hit double-digits for the third game in a row, this time dropping 15 points (his season high). Over those three games, Keeling has shot a combined 17-for-31 (54.8%) from the field.
  • Garrison Brooks, despite his impaired vision, shot much better from the free throw line tonight – 7-for-8. Curiously, these were his only seven points of the game.
  • The Tar Heels had multiple scoring droughts in the first half, including the first 3:30 of the game.
  • Andrew Platek inexplicably only played the first 54 seconds of the second half. Neither he, nor Coach Williams made any mention of the reason in their postgame comments.
  • Carolina and Wake were very close in their made field goals (21 and 23 respectively). The difference tonight was a sizable three-point discrepancy. The Tar Heels shot a putrid 1-for-16 from deep, while the Demon Deacons connected on nine of 23. That shooting stat alone is a 27-point difference.

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 Virginia on Saturday, February 15. Tip is at 8:00pm ET on ESPN.

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 98-96 home overtime loss to Duke on Saturday night.

Condensed Game:

 

Highlights:

 

  • 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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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Florida State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 65-59 road loss to Florida State on Monday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • The stat that tells you everything you need to know about this game: After leading for most of the game, Carolina missed 17 shots in a row from 16:22-to 5:23 of the second half. Yes, you read that right: Over the course of 10:59 of game time (more than one-fourth of the game) the Tar Heels missed or were blocked on 17 (SEVENTEEN!) straight field goals.
  • It was a low scoring first half and a rather close game. However, Carolina led 28-20 with 2:30 remaining before halftime. But the Seminoles went on a 9-0 run over those final 150 seconds to take a 29-28 lead into the locker room. Still, the Heels led most of game (18:27-15:28), but the Noles went up five with 10:00 to go and never really looked back.

  • The last ditch effort came with 51 seconds remaining. Christian Keeling hit a three to cut the lead to four. Florida State committed a turnover on the inbounds pass, but the Heels couldn’t convert a bucket and were never able to get the game down to one possession.
  • Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot, who have been so important for Carolina in recent weeks, combined for just 11 points and 10 rebounds. That is the second-lowest combined total in a game for both stats this season. The Heels need that out of both players individually to be competitive.

  • Brooks’ five points was his lowest scoring output of the season.
  • Brooks and Bacot also struggled with foul trouble throughout the game. Bacot picked up his third foul with just shy of 16:00 remaining and Brooks picked up his fourth with just over 10:00 to go. Neither player fouled out, but the foul trouble with a thin front line leads to the ineffective play evidenced in the stats above.
  • Impressively, Carolina only committed nine turnovers against Florida State, who averages 18 forced turnovers per game. However, credit Florida State’s disruptive defense for wreaking havoc in passing lanes and keeping the Heels outside the perimeter time and time again.
  • As imagined following his rough ankle injury at the end of the Boston College game, Brandon Robinson was unable to play tonight. The absence of his shooting was a glaring hole as the Heels worked to fight back late in the game. In his absence, the rest of his teammates made six three.
  • Jeremiah Francis has played a similar role in each of the last two games. He comes in after the under-4:00 media timeout of the first half, plays around 3:00 and doesn’t play again in the second half. This is an effort to both give Cole Anthony a breather and protect Francis’ knee issues.
  • Cole Anthony was once again Carolina’s leading scorer with 16, but he took 22 shots to get there. While Anthony was admittedly an ineffective shooter prior to his surgery, he is certainly working his way back into playing form currently.
  • Anthony will also be frustrated with himself for going 3-for-8 from the free throw line after shooting a perfect 14-for-14 on Saturday. Two of these misses were each the front end of 1-and-1s with the Tar Heels trailing by five in the second half.
  • As a team, Carolina continues to struggle from the line, shooting just 64.7 percent (11-for-17) tonight.
  • Let’s take some time to be encouraged by some positives. Christian Keeling poured in a season high 14 points, six of which came as Carolina was trying to get back in the game at the end. He also had a great sequence midway through the first half where he made a deep jump shot to tie the game, got a block on the next possession (leading to a Leaky Black fast break lay-up), and then got a steal on the next possession (which he finished off himself). In fact, it was a great series for the whole team, who grabbed another steal on the next possession (Black) resulting in a Bacot dunk and a six point lead.
  • Leaky Black had a solid game, scoring in double-figures (10) for the third time in the past five games. Black was a stat-stuffer, also collecting five rebounds, three assists (just one turnover), one block and two steals.

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 Duke on Saturday, February 8. Tip is at 6:00pm ET on ESPN.

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Boston College

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 71-70 home loss to Boston College on Saturday evening.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • 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.

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ NC State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 75-65 road win over NC State on Monday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • How exactly did Carolina follow-up their success from Saturday’s win over Miami when they went on the road to play a potential NCAA Tournament-caliber opponent in NC State? They follow it up with another win. This has to be a great feeling for those young men and coaches who have continued to work tirelessly to get better.
  • As has often been true this season, Garrison Brooks deserves the statistical accolades and top billing, but tonight we must start with Brandon Robinson. This poor guy has had a rough go of it in the 2019-20 basketball season. A sprained ankle in the exhibition game kept him out of the first four games of the year. He missed another just last week recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident. He’s hobbled off the court in multiple other games to get ankles re-taped. Tonight he fought through tweaking his right ankle and some sort of rib injury. On three different occasions he left the court for medical attention. But he just kept coming back, and in total played 29:32. Despite his aching midsection, Robinson secured an important offensive rebound in the closing minutes and, as you undoubtedly saw, nailed four straight free throws to close the game (after his teammates had just missed five straight). Robinson definitely wins tonight’s “tough little nut” award.
  • Okay, now it’s your turn Mr. Brooks. Brooks was an absolute beast out of the gate. He scored the first two Carolina points with 17:10 left in the first half and by the time the clock showed 14:24 he was up to 10 points. Just to make sure you get what a big deal that is – Carolina as a team has rarely scored 10 points in a three-minute span this season and here Garrison Brooks was doing that all by himself. He got back on the double-double train (seven in the last eight games) by finishing with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists. What a season this guy is having. Here are some of Brooks’ highlights from tonight:
  • Carolina has been at their strongest when both big men contribute in big ways. Tonight was no different. Armando Bacot had 11 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists. He was a steady 7-for-11 from the free throw line. Bacot’s most impressive stretch was two and-one potential plays just before halftime. He completed the first free throw, but missed the second. But as you might guess (because this is what he always does apparently), Brooks was there for the offensive rebound and putback. Here’s the first of the two plays before halftime:
  • The Heels were one made field goal and five points away from back-to-back games of 50% field goal shooting and reaching 80 points. They shot 49.1% (28-for-57) from the field. Making one extra of those shots would have put the team over 50%.
  • Andrew Platek’s assist-to-turnover numbers were negative (1:2) for the first time since he’s been in the starting line-up, but he contributed in multiple other ways. He played solid defense and contributed eight points (on 4-for-5 shooting). The biggest of those buckets helped push the Carolina lead back to 10 after an NC State surge. The Wolfpack had cut the lead to four with 6:36 left. Platek and Leaky Black both scored and with 3:47 remaining Platek received an outlet pass from Garrison Brooks, found NC State’s transition defense in a state of disarray (even though four of them were back on defense) and promptly drove for an easy lay-up. The Heels never led by fewer than eight points the rest of the way. Here’s video of Platek’s lay-up:

  • Justin Pierce and Christian Keeling didn’t have overwhelming nights, but did contribute seven straight Carolina points midway through the second half to push a three-point lead back to eight.
  • Injury watch: Jeremiah Francis sat out again. Today marked the six-week point for Cole Anthony following his surgery. You have to think he’ll be back sooner rather than later.
  • As I’ve documented, Carolina has pushed to double-digit leads in multiple ACC games that they’ve lost this year. Thankfully, in this one they were able to maintain their lead. Had the Heels held on against Clemson and Virginia Tech, they would be 5-4 in the ACC and tied for fifth, rather than sitting alone in 12th.
  • The possibility of a loss similar to Clemson was present in the closing minutes. Carolina was up 10 with 2:00 to go. Rather than standard turnovers, they missed five straight free throws (three of which were the front end of one-and-ones), which might as well have been turnovers. Unlike Clemson though, NC State couldn’t capitalize and Brandon Robinson sealed the deal. The most glaring difference tonight (at least Roy Williams would say so) is that Carolina had three timeouts for those final minutes.
  • Carolina showed strong road resilience tonight. NC State jumped out to a 7-0 and 9-2 lead. However, the Heels employed traps and quickly tied the game at 12 behind the Garrison Brooks barrage. The basket that tied the game at 12 featured multiple misses and offensive rebounds right at the rim for Carolina before Brooks finally got the tip-in. My family was watching the game at a restaurant and my four-year-old said “miss, miss, miss, miss, miss, HE DID IT!”
  • The Tar Heel resilience allowed the team to grab its first lead at 16-14. They eventually took a 39-35 advantage to the locker room and never trailed in the second half.
  • NC State made a lay-up with 6:36 remaining and didn’t score again until 1:35 remained in the game. Tough to win with a 5:00 scoring drought to essentially close out the game.
  • Despite Brooks’ gaudy scoring numbers, three other Tar Heels reached double figures in the scoring column (Bacot, Robinson, and Black each had 11).

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 Boston College on Saturday, February 1. Tip is at 6:00pm ET on ACC Network.

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Miami

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-71 home win over Miami on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Congratulations to Coach Roy Williams who, with today’s victory, passed Coach Dean Smith for fourth in all-time Division 1 career coaching victories (880 to 879). Feels good to have that out of the way, doesn’t it? Hopefully with that monkey off the back, Carolina can get things going. If you didn’t have a chance to read my article about Coach Williams and Coach Smith, you can do so here.
  • Happy birthday to me! I turned 36 today and Carolina broke their five game losing streak (and six game ACC losing streak). Perhaps, for good luck, I should celebrate my birthday every day the Tar Heels play.
  • As weird as it sounds to say, this was Carolina’s first win in the month of January 2020. The Heels’ last win was against Yale on December 30.
  • The big Tar Heel lead allowed Coach Williams to limit the minutes of some of the starters, Garrison Brooks in particular. Brooks played 27:19 today, marking the first time he’s been under 30:00 since game eight of the season against Ohio State. The reason minute-reduction was so important is that Carolina turns around and plays at NC State on Monday.
  • Brooks’ double-double streak ends at six games. At first blush, this is a disappointing statement. However, I would suggest to you that this is good news, because it means his teammates are helping carry the load. It’s nice for Brooks to not have to shoulder so much.
  • His frontcourt partner, Armando Bacot, on the other hand did record a double-double. In fact, Bacot’s line was very nearly a triple-double as he finished with 19 points (on efficient 8-for-11 shooting), 12 rebounds, and seven assists. For good measure, Bacot added two blocks and had just one turnover. Here’s one of the seven assists:

  • After missing the previous game with soreness from his car accident, Brandon Robinson returned to action today and scored a career high 29 points. He did so on just 16 shots, including an impressive 6-for-10 from three. Here’s highlights of Robinson’s performance:
  • Finally! For the first time all season (this was game number 19), the Tar Heels shot 50% or more for the entire game. The 55.0% (22-40) shooting in the first half was a great mark, but the 62.1% (18-29) in the second half brought the final tally for the game up to 58.0% (40-69). The individual half percentages clock in as the second and third highest numbers of the season, behind only the 64.3% (18-28) Carolina shot in the second against Notre Dame in the season opener.
  • If you shoot that strong a field goal percentage you also probably score a whole truckload of points. That conjecture turned out to be factually correct. Carolina obliterated their previous season high (83 vs. GT) by finishing with 94 points. The Heels passed the previous mark on a Justin Pierce three-pointer with 6:01 left in the game. Today was just the third time Carolina has eclipsed 80 points this season, but the first time to do in a victory. Here’s Pierce’s three that set the new season mark:

  • Over the course of the last four games, Andrew Platek has moved into the starting line-up and amassed 17 assists against just four turnovers in those games. For the season, his assist-to-turnover ratio is an absurd 3:1.
  • Bacot’s free throw shooting has grown dramatically through the season. Through the first 12 games of the season, he was shooting 54.2% (26-48). In the seven games since he has shot 78.6% (22-28) to bring his season average to 63.2% (48-76).
  • If you watch enough North Carolina basketball, you’ll learn that Roy Williams teams typically move the ball rather adroitly against zone defense (which the depleted Miami roster employed for most of the game). Today was no different. Carolina assisted on 17 of 22 made baskets in the first half and finished with a season high 32 assists on 40 made baskets. For the game, nine different players recorded an assist. 32 assists is also tied for the most ever in a game in the Roy Williams era.
  • The Carolina “missed-games-due-to-injury” meter is now up to 61 missed games through 19 games played. Jeremiah Francis was once again in street clothes today. The Heels got no sympathy from Miami though, as the Canes are going through similar woes and only had six scholarship players available on Saturday. One of those missing-in-action was Chris Lykes who has wreaked havoc the past couple years against the boys in baby blue.
  • The Tar Heels dominated the glass 41-21. They were also efficient at getting offensive rebounds and turning them into second chance points (17 points on 10 offensive rebounds). Miami only had two offensive rebounds, the first of which came with 13:07 left in the game.
  • Justin Pierce followed up his strong performance against Virginia Tech by chipping in nine points, five rebounds, and four assists. Fellow grad transfer Christian Keeling also had nine points, and looked more confident today. Both players were just one point away from joining Robinson, Brooks, and Bacot on the double-digit list.
  • Carolina has struggled to hold onto leads of late (lost three of last four after having a double-digit lead at some point in the game). That double-digit lead threshold was reached early today as the Heels jumped out to a 15-4 lead. The encouraging fact is that that lead did not stay stagnant, but rather ballooned to 24 by halftime (the largest lead of the season to that point). Carolina showed good resolve in growing the margin to as much as 34 with around seven minutes remaining.
  • This might be painful to hear, but if Carolina had hung onto two of those losses (Clemson and Virginia Tech, for example), they would be 4-4 in the conference and sitting in 7th place rather than tied for 12th with Notre Dame and Wake Forest.
  • Although the Heels finished the game with 12 turnovers, 10 of those came in the second half with the game well in hand. That means Carolina committed just two turnovers in the opening frame.
  • Three-point shooting was a plus today. Five different players connected from deep (Platek, Keeling, Black, and Pierce each had one; Robinson had six). The final percentage was 43.5% (10-23) and at the point when Robinson hit his sixth three, Carolina was shooting 50% from outside the arc.
  • Leaky Black is starting to hunt for and find his outside shot more and has connected on seven threes in the past five games. It might not seem like much volume, but even the threat of him pulling the trigger creates more space for Carolina’s strongest current assets (Brooks & Bacot) to operate inside.
  • Good to see KJ Smith get back on the court after not playing in the previous two games.

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 NC State on Monday, January 27. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
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