Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-72 road win over Duke on Wednesday night.
- How absolutely sublime that in a year when all anyone can talk about is Duke’s freshmen, it was Carolina’s senior leadership that won this game. Luke Maye finished with 30 points (his first 20-point game against Duke), 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers. Cameron Johnson had 26 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers. And while Kenny Williams didn’t have the scoring numbers, he drew three charges, had five rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers. Maye has scored 20+ in four of the last six games, while Johnson has 27 and 26 points in the last two.
- While the seniors had really strong games, the freshmen unfortunately struggled. Coby White finished with six turnovers and nine points, but on 3-for-14 shooting. He did corral five rebounds, dish out three assists and have two blocks. Nassir Little was essentially a non-factor and Leaky Black is still in street clothes.
- With the freshmen struggling, it was up to the juniors and sophomores to help out. With White struggling, Seventh Woods provided 12 strong minutes. He scored five points, drew a charge, passed out three assists and had two steals. One of those steals led to the vicious Garrison Brooks dunk right before halftime. Speaking of Brooks, he was the other unexpected scoring contributor – 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two steals.
- The aforementioned Brooks dunk right before halftime was part of the most important sequence of the game. With 1:30 remaining before halftime, Duke cut the Carolina lead to five. Over the next 90 seconds, the Heels went on a 5-0 run to rebuild a double-digit lead. On two occasions early in the second half, Duke cut the lead back to nine, but the Heels led by double-digits for the remaining 18 minutes of the game. A week after Duke’s impressive comeback against Louisville, Carolina knew they had to keep playing. Every time Duke made a push, the Heels responded right back.
- If you told me before the game that Carolina was going to shoot 2-for-20 from three and that Coby White was going to shoot 3-for-14 and have six turnovers, I would have thought there was no way Carolina wins. This team has been so dependent upon the outside shot this year.
- Carolina wasn’t the only team to struggle from deep. The two teams combined to shoot 3-for-34 from three in the first half. Duke wound up shooting 8-for-39 for the game.
- Part of the reason Carolina was able to overcome those shooting woes was their points in the paint. The Heels scored 30 of their first 32 points in the paint (12 of which were second chance buckets). Duke allows 30.0 points in the paint per game this season. Carolina more than doubled that number, finishing with a whopping 62.
- And part of the reason Carolina was able to get those inside points was a knee injury to Zion Williamson less than a minute into the game. It’s unfortunate for the young man, who is a transcendent athlete. Hopefully he’ll be okay. It was obvious (with apologies to Tre Jones) that Williamson is the one who sets the defensive tone for Duke. Without him, the Blue Devils are extremely vulnerable defensively; particularly in the paint. The Williamson-less Blue Devils we saw tonight reminded me more of last year’s poor defensive team than the unit I’ve seen this year in Durham.
- An important factor in Williamson’s absence was the freedom it allowed Luke Maye. Maye, who would have had a much more difficult time navigating Williamson’s defense, quickly scored six points against the replacement (Jack White) and was then off and running to a 30-point game.
- Duke fans will say the injury cost Duke the game (and it certainly had a great impact), but the same could be said for Carolina’s game against Virginia last week. A game in which Carolina came much closer to winning than Duke did tonight. Even without Zion, Duke still has three of the top 10 freshmen (and two of the presumptive top-five NBA Draft picks) in the country. Plus, the game was played at Cameron (a.k.a. Hansbrough) Indoor Stadium.
- It’s so vitally important to get off to a good start on the road (see Carolina’s 18-0 opening against Wake on Saturday). The Tar Heels jumped on top early, never trailed and built a double-digit lead seven-and-a-half minutes into the game.
- 160 total points were scored in the game. Only 44 of those points (27.5 percent) were scored by someone not named Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish.
- Carolina is now 7-0 in the ACC in road games. The remaining two are at Clemson and at Boston College. Only one team has ever gone 9-0 on the road in ACC play – Virginia in 2017-18.
- This was the 11th time in the Roy Williams / Mike Krzyzewski era that Carolina and Duke have met as top-10 opponents. After tonight’s win, Carolina now holds a 6-5 advantage in those games.
- With the win (and given the tiebreaker over NC State), Carolina is now guaranteed no worse than the seventh seed in the ACC Tournament, including a first round bye.
- The Heels are tied for first in the ACC with Virginia and Duke. Carolina’s next two games are against Florida State and Syracuse, the teams tied for fourth (and two games back in the loss column). The results of those two games will go a long way to determining who winds up with the top four seeds in the ACC Tournament (which comes with a first and second round bye). Carolina has the scheduling advantage of playing both these games in the Dean Dome.
- Carolina now has victories over two of the four current projected number one seeds (Duke and Gonzaga) and came a few plays away from a third (Virginia). Duke has two wins over Virginia, but, outside of that, the Tar Heels arguably own the best pair of wins in the country.
- Something to keep your eye on: Cam Johnson can’t seem to catch a break on the nagging injury front. This was the third game he’s missed part of because of an injury. Tonight he hurt his left ankle when stepping on a photographer four minutes into the second half. He came back in a couple minutes later and promptly hit a mid-range shot and later drew a charge. However, he appeared to re-tweak the ankle in the last minute of the game. Hopefully Cam will be okay for the quick turnaround against Florida State on Saturday.
- Many celebrities were on hand for the game. Most notably was President Obama. Others included Spike Lee, Todd Gurley, Greg Olsen and Ken Griffey Jr.
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 Florida State on Saturday, February 23. Tip is at 3:45ET on CBS.
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