Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-74 win over Notre Dame in the Elite 8:
First off, biggest play of the game was the steal by Theo Pinson with 12:22 left in the game. Although Marcus Paige had just hit a jumper to stop a 12-0 Notre Dame run and put the Tar Heels back in the lead 53-52, the Irish had all the momentum. Theo’s steal ignited the bench and things progressed positively from there.
The crucial juncture of the game was the 12-0 Notre Dame run midway through the 2nd half to take a 52-51 lead. Rather than packing it in, the veteran Tar Heels responded in kind, with a 12-0 run of their own and never looked back. All of this run happened with Brice Johnson on the bench, having just picked up fouls 2 & 3 (the latter of which was a technical).
Getting back to Theo Pinson, he provided a huge spark this evening. His stat line was solid, but not overly impressive if you didn’t see the game: 6 points on 2-2 shooting, 2 rebounds (both offensive), 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers. But if you did see the game, you know how important every one of those stats was. Almost all of this stat line came in 2 critical stretches of the 2nd half – all after the Brice Johnson technical. Stretch #1 (12:22-8:37). Situation: Notre Dame has just reeled off the 12-0 run to take the lead and gain momentum. Carolina could fold, or respond. Enter Theo: The 1 steal in the stat line is the aforementioned biggest play of the game at 12:22. Subsequently, although he missed both free throws (which provided the craziest play of the game when Isaiah Hicks had a left-handed tip-in from 5 feet out off the 2nd miss), he drew the 3rd foul on Zach Auguste at 10:57. He then secured his first two points with a lay-up at 10:01 while guarded by the now-saddled-with-3-fouls Zach Auguste who couldn’t play aggressive defense. Next, at 9:21, off a beautiful, standard-issue Kennedy Meeks full court outlet pass, Pinson threw a nice alley-oop to Hicks for one of his 4 assists. Then, at 8:40, he corralled an offensive rebound in traffic (with all 5 Notre Dame players surrounding him) and put it back for points 3 and 4. Stretch #2 (2:07-1:39). Situation: The Tar Heels are maintaining a pretty comfortable 10 point cushion, but the game is not out of reach. Enter Theo: At 2:07, Justin Jackson snags an offensive rebound and kicks it back out to a wide-open Pinson at the top of the key. Pause. Syracuse was in the exact same situation just a few hours earlier. Up 6, Tyler Lydon got an offensive rebound and kicked it out to a wide-open Michael Gbinije at the top of the key. He promptly fired a 3. With a fresh 30 on the shot clock. Up 6. With 2:37 to in the Elite 8. Would Theo suffer the same fate? No, he pulled the ball out, found Berry and the Tar Heels ran clock until the Irish decided it was time to start fouling. At 1:54, Justin Jackson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Theo had a tip-out to Joel Berry for offensive rebound number 2. To wrap up stretch #2, Pinson was fouled at 1:39 and sank both free throws in a 1-and-1 situation to give Carolina a 12 point lead. Mr. Theo Pinson earned his trip to the press conference on this night.
With 25 points and 12 rebounds tonight, Brice Johnson broke a record and tied a record. The double-double was his 23rd of the season and is the most by a Tar Heel in one season. The 12 rebounds gives him 399 on the season, which places Brice in a tie with Tyler Hansbrough’s 2007-08 season for the most by a Tar Heel in one season. Should Brice secure 1 rebound against Syracuse he would hold the single-season rebound record and be the only Tar Heel to ever get 400 in a season.
At this point, I’m convinced Marcus Paige was sandbagging all season. In all seriousness, so glad for Marcus and the re-start that the tournament has allowed him.
Coming into the game this Tar Heel team had the best assist-to-turnover ratio and the lowest turnovers per game average of any Tar Heel team since turnovers were first recorded in 1981-82. Carolina only had 6 turnovers tonight (versus 17 assists), so both those numbers should continue to improve.
Big play when Demetrius Jackson hurt his ankle. He was clearly at least somewhat hobbled and Joel Berry was able to take advantage on several drives to the hoop.
This is the first time I remember seeing Brice’s emotions affect the game in such a monumental way. Getting a 2nd foul was no big deal, but the subsequent technical foul (& therefore 3rd personal) which sent him to the bench really hurt. It was in the middle of the Notre Dame 12-0 run and could have potentially effectively ended the North Carolina men’s basketball season. Fortunately, his teammates picked him up and it didn’t end up hurting. Brice was quick to take the blame at the top of the press conference.
Another solid game from Kennedy Meeks. Although he only played 15 minutes, he scored 10 points on 4-4 shooting and hit both free throws he shot.
The “burn” offense. Great tactic from Mike Brey. Certainly a source of frustration for the Heels in the 1st Also allowed the Irish to stay in the game while Zach Auguste was on the bench in foul trouble. All the same, for the most part, the Heels showed great defensive patience and stayed dialed in for the full shot clock. I should also say, I’m not sure Notre Dame was still using this tactic down 12 with 5 minutes to go. I think they should have abandoned this approach much sooner than they did, but that’s why they pay Mike Brey and not Isaac Schade.
Tonight, the Irish had the highest FG% (55.1%) against the Tar Heels all season. Previous to this, the Heels had held 28 straight opponents under 45%. This was only the 2nd time all season a team has shot over 50% against Carolina.
Hats off to Notre Dame. Back-to-back Elite 8s. Came in with a great game plan tonight and executed it. They are a classy program, who works hard and plays the game well. Certainly going to miss watching the departing players in the ACC.
Welcome to the 2016 ACC Tournament, Round 2! What a testament to the depth and talent in the conference. On the second day of Elite 8 games, the only four teams in play are all from the ACC: Virginia vs. Syracuse and North Carolina vs. Notre Dame. It’s highly possible that the Tar Heels could repeat the path they took in the semifinals and finals of the ACC Tournament. They play Notre Dame tonight (ACC Tournament semifinals) and, with a win, would most likely play Virginia (ACC Tournament final) in the Final Four next Saturday.
Elite Eight: Notre Dame
6th in ACC
Points: Demetrius Jackson – 15.5
Assists: Demetrius Jackson – 4.7
FG%: Zach Auguste – 55.9
Rebounds: Zach Auguste – 10.9
Steals: Demetrius Jackson – 1.2
Blocks: Demetrius Jackson – 1.1
Minutes: Steve Vasturia – 36.0
Previous 2015-16 ND / UNC Games
February 6. UNC @ ND. Notre Dame won 80-76. UNC led by at many as 15 and 9 at the half. The Heels let off the accelerator in the 2nd half and lost by 4.
March 11. ACC Tournament semifinal. North Carolina won 78-47. The Heels were locked in defensively and the game was effectively over by halftime. The Tar Heels had a 24-0 run at one point in this game.
Bonzie Colson has started most of the season for Notre Dame, but Coach Mike Brey has inserted Matt Farrell into the starting lineup throughout the NCAA Tournament. As he says, this gives them “another ball handler on the floor…and that’s kind of helped and taken a little pressure off Demetrius that we have another ball handler on the floor to start a game”. The problem for the Irish is that while this gives them another ball handler, it eliminates their height advantage in the backcourt and doesn’t seem to provide any matchup difficulties for the Tar Heels in the frontcourt.
While North Carolina has won every tournament game by double digits, Notre Dame has played three very close games. In fact, Notre Dame has been behind in the 2nd half of every game they’ve played. Michigan last held a lead with 4:32 remaining. Both Stephen F. Austin and Wisconsin held leads with under :30 left.
This is Notre Dame’s 2nd straight Elite 8. They lost to Kentucky in the same round last year.
By the numbers, Notre Dame’s defense is by far the worst of the 4 units in adjusted efficiency. UNC is 2nd on offense and 16th on defense. ND is 10th on offense but 154th on defense.
While having a very efficient offense, Notre Dame plays at a much slower pace (318th in the country) that do the Tar Heels (50th). It will be interesting to see which team can exert their will.
There has been a lot of talk from Notre Dame about 2014-15 when Duke beat them handily before Notre Dame got revenge later in the postseason. They are hoping to do the same to North Carolina after the Heels’ 31 point victory a few weeks ago. If I were Roy Williams (and I’m most decidedly not), I would counter by reminding my team of the 2008-09 season. Carolina played Michigan St. in the Big 10/ACC Challenge and won 98-63 (35 point victory). When the teams met again for the National Championship later that season, there was a lot of talk of revenge, but the Heels won 89-72 in a game that never felt that close.
A couple records that might be broken tonight:
Brice Johnson has 387 rebounds this season. This is 12 shy of tying Tyler Hansbrough for the most by a Tar Heel in one season. Tyler has 399 in 2007-08. Should Brice break the record, he would be the first Tar Heel to have 400 rebounds in a seson.
Brice also has 22 double-doubles (points and rebounds) on the season. He is tied with Billy Cunningham for the most for a Tar Heel in one season. Cunningham achieved this in 1963-64.
Notre Dame Starters (**Colson usually starts but Farrell has been starting in the NCAA Tournament)
Notre Dame Key Reserves
Points per game
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank)
Offensive Reb Rate
Defensive Reb Rate
X-Factor: Notre Dame’s starting lineup change. Can Carolina take advantage of the now even more pronounced frontcourt size advantage before Bonzie Colson comes in off the bench? Justin Jackson (6’8”) will most likely match up with Steve Vasturia (6’5”) – advantage Jackson. Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson (both 6’10”) will, in some form, match up with Zach Auguste (6’10”) and VJ Beachem (6’8”). The Heels need to attack whomever Beachem is guarding. The question for Carolina is whether Meeks will be quick enough to follow either Auguste or Beachem or whether Roy Williams will need to bring in Isaiah Hicks or go small with Theo Pinson. The personnel chess match between Coach Williams and Coach Brey will be interesting and go a long way to determining which of these teams will head to the Final Four next Saturday.
Main Key to the Game: Stop me if this sounds familiar to Friday’s game against Indiana: Stop Demetrius Jackson’s dribble penetration (Friday it was Yogi Ferrell). Staying in front of Jackson (without fouling) is top priority tonight. If other players have to help off, that leaves shooters open outside for 3s and, with the defensive rotations required, also leaves the offensive glass vulnerable.
Quick Hitters from Carolina’s 101-86 victory over Indiana in the Sweet 16:
Oh hello there, Marcus Paige, good to see the real you. Paige was 4-4 from 3. BEFORE THE FIRST MEDIA TIMEOUT. Unreal. Marcus finished 6-9 from 3, granted two of those misses were near the end of the game on a possession when the Heels were jacking up shots. Along the way to scoring 21 points tonight, Marcus passed Michael Jordan for 12th on the UNC career scoring list. Brice Johnson has moved up to 19th, so this team has 2 players (heck, roommates) who are top 20 in UNC history in career scoring.
This game marks the first time the Heels have scored 100 after the first week of the NCAA Tournament.
Probably the biggest storyline all week was Indiana’s ability to shoot a high volume and percentage on 3 pointers. They did shoot 41.9% (13-31) for the game, but that was neutralized by Carolina’s 55% (11-20). To be honest, Carolina’s percentage would have been even better were it not for end of game possessions in which Carolina was playing run-the-shot-clock-down-and-shoot-a-3-at-the-buzzer offense.
The Tar Heels had 3 turnovers in their final 5 possessions of the 1st half and 7 total for the half. At least 5 of those turnovers were traveling calls. The Heels cleaned this up and only had 2 turnovers in the entire second half.
The story of the first couple minutes of the 1st half was Marcus Pagie’s shooting. The story in that same time frame of the 2nd half was Indiana’s fouling. UNC reached the bonus with 16:35 left and eventually the double bonus with 12:52 to go.
With 15:20 left in the game, Kennedy Meeks stepped around to poke away an entry pass seemingly leading to a run-out. Yogi Ferrell came up the loose ball before Nate Britt could get to it. At this point there were five players beneath the free throw line – 4 Hoosiers and a Brice Johnson. Ferrell had what looked to be a gimmie layup, but Johnson came flying in from the opposite wing to block the shot (we’ll just skip the part where Troy Williams finished the possession with a 3).
Though it probably wouldn’t have helped Indiana overcome so great a deficit, it’s worth noting that Robert Johnson didn’t play at all tonight for the Hoosiers.
You might have already realized this, but with the ACC sweep of Friday night (Virginia, Notre Dame, and Syracuse in addition to Carolina), the conference has secured half the spots in the Elite Eight and is also guaranteed 2 teams in the Final Four and 1 team in the National Championship game. Also, with the way things are laid out, it’s highly possible that the Heels will have to replicate the semifinal (Notre Dame) and final (Virginia) of the ACC Tournament in order to reach the National Championship game.
Brice Johnson recorded his 22nd double-double this season. That ties him for the most ever in a season by a Tar Heel with the great Billy Cunningham. Incidentally.
Speaking of Brice and records: he now has over 1,000 rebounds for his career (1,006) which only 7 other Tar Heels have done. He also has 387 rebounds this season. Tyler Hansbrough holds the record for the most in one season with 399. There’s a very good chance Brice Johnson could become the first player in program history with 400 rebounds in a season.
Tip of the cap to Yogi Ferrell. What a career. An incredible basketball player and leader; a seemingly even better young man.
Quick Hitters from UNC’s 85-66 victory over Providence in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.
A rough start to both halves for Carolina. In the 1st half, the Tar Heels first three offensive possessions: 0-2 from 3, 1 turnover, no post touches. In fact, the Heels attempted three 3s in the first 5 possessions. In the 2nd half, Providence started hot, reeling off 6 points in 75 seconds. Over that same stretch, Marcus Paige struggled: 2 turnovers and a missed 3.
After struggling to get the ball inside on the first couple possessions, Carolina made a concerted effort to control that portion of the court. 18 of the first 21 points came from inside. For the game, Carolina dominated the boards (42-24), points in the paint (46-18), and 2nd chance points (16-1).
Providence certainly proved to be the 2-headed monster they were made out to be with Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. And what a show they put on. I said in my preview that the main key to the game was stopping, or at least limiting, Dunn and Bentil. They certainly got their points (29 & 21 respectively), but their overall effectiveness was limited by foul trouble.
Speaking of foul trouble, Kris Dunn picked up his second with 11:07 to go in the 1st Unfortunately the Tar Heels couldn’t capitalize on Dunn sitting out the rest of the half and, in fact, were outscored by Providence by 1 in his absence. The 2nd half was a different story. Both players had to scale back on their aggressiveness as they picked up 3rd fouls (Bentil – 17:54, Dunn 13:54), 4th fouls (Dunn – 8:44, Bentil – 8:14), and Bentil eventually fouled out at 7:23. It was during these minutes that Carolina put the game completely out of reach.
Sadly for Providence, Dunn and Bentil were the only ones doing anything offensively. Other than their combined 50 points (out of 66 total for Providence), the rest of Providence’s roster had serious trouble scoring. I said in my game preview that Rodney Bullock was the X-factor for Providence. He had 2 points off of free throws, shot 0-7 from the floor, and had 4 turnovers.
Providence did a pretty good job controlling pace early on, but the Tar Heels asserted their will as the game wore on and the Friars wore down. Fast break points were 20-8 in favor of the Tar Heels.
Too many turnovers for Carolina. 7 in the 1st half, 8 in the 2nd – 15 in all.
Carolina closed the 1st half on a 9-2 run. The biggest of that stretch was not Brice Johnson’s monster block, but rather Nate Britt’s strip that lead to 2 free throws and a 30-28 lead.
2 big defensive shifts swayed the game: One, the move to Justin Jackson guarding Dunn. Dunn still got his, but it was obvious that Jackson’s length bothered Dunn. The second shift, was the now oft-employed small ball line-up that put Theo Pinson on Ben Bentil.
What a sequence for Marcus Paige from 10:29-9:56 of the 2nd He came flying in for an incredibly athletic offensive rebound and tip-in, followed by a defensive rebound, then buried a 3.
Friars’ coach Ed Cooley said they needed to hit 10 3s to be in the game. The Friars shot 6-23 from deep.
Heels made a lot of hey at the free throw line (19-21). Only missed free throws were from Joel James on an and-1 and Luke Maye in the closing seconds of the game. The starters, Hicks, and Britt were a combined 18-18.
At this time of year, there is great joy in having the honor of continuing to play basketball. Tonight, The Tar Heels get that honor at least one more time in the 2015-16 season when they take on the Providence Friars in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament.
4th in Big East
These two teams played two years ago in the 1st Round (although at that point it was called the “2nd Round” in one of the NCAA’s silliest marketing ploys ever). 79-77 UNC. Providence featured another dynamic point guard named Bryce Cotton who went off for 36 and played the entire game. Here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen again.
A difference for Providence this year is that there is also a formidable frontcourt player (Ben Bentil) to go along with point guard Kris Dunn (this team’s iteration of Cotton).
As per the DailyTarHeel.com, Providence is 9-1 this season in games decided by 4 or fewer points. Given the Tar Heels’ penchant for not closing games down the stretch, although they’ve done marvelously in this department during the current 6 game winning streak; Providence’s experience in close games could prove worrisome.
While Dunn and Bentil are the names to know, Rodney Bullock is the x-factor as the only other player averaging double-digit points for Providence.
As per usual, the Tar Heels will have a size and depth advantage in the front court. However, Providence will have a height and size advantage in the backcourt.
On paper, there doesn’t seem to be a Providence player that will slow down Brice Johnson and the UNC front court attack, assuming the back court players will be able to effectively feed the post.
Kris Dunn (6’4”, 220) vs. Marcus Paige (6’2”, 175)
Junior Lomomba (6’5”, 205) vs. Joel Berry (6’0”, 195)
Jalen Linsey (6’7”, 210) vs. Justin Jackson (6’8”, 200)
Ben Bentil (6’9”, 235) vs. Brice Johnson (6’10”, 230)
Rodney Bullock (6’8”, 225) vs. Kennedy Meeks (6’10”, 260)
The Numbers (from tarheelblog.com)
Points per game
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank)
Offensive Reb Rate
Defensive Reb Rate
Main Key to the game: Stop Dunn. Stop Bentil. Heels win.
Quick Hitters from Carolina’s 61-57 win over Virginia in the ACC Championship Game
So is Carolina tough now? Can we agree on that? Okay thank you, moving on.
The first possession for each team was indicative of the defense that would be played. Carolina had a turnover when Virginia doubled the post. Virginia had a shot clock violation when Carolina played 30 seconds of tight defense.
Carolina plain and simple had too many turnovers (8) in the first 13.5 minutes of the game. After that there were only 2 more the entire game. So no turnovers in the last 7:26 of the 1st half and no turnovers in the last 17:53 of the 2nd
It was these early turnovers and offensive rebounding (16-5 in favor of UVa) that kept Virginia in the game. In an interesting twist, Carolina did the work on the defensive end that allowed these lapses to be overcome. In the end, 51.1 FG% for UNC and 36.5 FG% for Virginia.
Though it took him a couple minutes to get settled, Brice Johnson marvelously navigated the double teams from Virginia – ably deciphering when to score and when to pass. In fact, to go along with his pretty standard 12 point, 9 rebound night, Brice lead the team in assists with 5, against 2 turnovers. It felt similar, although not quite as prolific, to the first game against Syracuse in which Brice simply picked the Boeheim zone apart. Would love for Brice to get some more double-doubles to break the Carolina single-season record, but if sacrificing a couple points or rebounds means being able to get teammates involved, so be it.
Not sure how Virginia plays as tough defensively as they consistently do without fouling (or getting caught at least), but they do, it’s impressive, and you have to be ready to respond to that. On this night, Carolina not only responded, but showed their own version of Virginia-defensive toughness without fouling. And because of the result, you might say that the Tar Heels out-Virginia-ed Virginia.
On a similar note, the 1st half (and what a fun first half it was!) only had 6 fouls and 3 free throws between the two teams. There were only 20 total by the time the game was over. Marcus Paige took the first 1-and-1 free throws of the game with 7.9 seconds left as Virginia was fouling to extend the game.
The single most important factor in Carolina’s win: Marcus Paige’s defense on Malcolm Brogdon. Paige (6-2, 175), while giving up several inches and pounds (6-5, 215), did about as good a job as you could guarding the ACC Player of the Year. While Brogdon did score 15, it took him 22 shots to get there. Any coach can live with that. Expanding to the whole backcourt, Brogdon and Perrantes shot a combined 9 of 36. I’ll take those numbers any day of the week. Yes they missed some shots they often hit, but Coach Bennett said a lot of that should be contributed to Carolina’s consistent defensive pressure.
On the offensive side of the ball for Paige, he was 0-7 from deep, including two ill-advised early shot clock 3s. However, by and large he did an incredible job aggressively driving to the hoop (AND finishing). Love seeing him find huge ways to contribute on O and D, even when the outside shots aren’t falling.
Getting back to defense on Brodgon, Paige wasn’t the only one who did a solid job on him. Insert Mr. Kenny Williams. He came in at the 15:11 mark of the 2nd His assignment, starting at the 14:21 mark? Guard the ACC Player of the year. When Williams went back out the 9:11 mark after playing 6 minutes, he had played 5 possessions of defense on Brodgon. During that stretch Brogdon was 0-2 with a turnover. Well done young man.
Virginia’s shot fakes were highly effective in this game.
What a great move and finish for Isaiah Hicks with 30 seconds left on what might have been the biggest offensive possession of the game. Miss that shot and Virginia can hold for one shot and a 3 to tie the game. Make it and you just have to hit your free throws.
In case you were wondering just exactly how dialed in the Tar Heels are defensively right now: Virginia did not score a field goal from 9:51-1:38 of the 2nd half.
Quick hitters from last night’s 78-47 ACC Tournament semifinal victory over Notre Dame:
The last 2 two times these teams met, the Tar Heels should have won. They didn’t. The first was last year’s ACC Championship game in which Carolina had a 9-point lead with 9:59 to go and ran out of gas down the stretch after playing 4 days in a row. The second was this year’s only regular season match-up (in South Bend) in which Carolina had as much as a 15-point lead, lead by 9 at the half, and were ahead as late as 6:36 left in the game. Last night, the Tar Heels should have won again. And they did. Handily.
Oh, hello there, Marcus. Mr. Paige, just as in Thursday’s quarterfinal, hit his first 3 of the game. The difference is that against Notre Dame he then continued to play like Marcus Paige. He was both aggressive and decisive. He led all scorers with 16, shot 4-7 from 3, had 7 assists, 2 steals, 3 rebounds, and 0 turnovers. On the defensive end, he put a dog collar on Steve Vasturia – drawing a charge and holding him to 0 points. Most college basketball writers and commentators have been saying, “If Marcus Paige gets back to being Marcus Paige, this is a national championship team. If he doesn’t, they’re still really good, but don’t have a chance at a championship.” Here’s an example from Jeff Goodman: Tar Heels Need A Better Marcus Paige. If last night was an example of things to come, look out America.
It’s been well chronicled that Roy constantly reminds his team of the defense it takes to win a championship (conference or national) – in particular how successful the ’05 and ’09 national championship teams were when they bought in on that end of the floor. Against Pittsburgh on Thursday, the Tar Heels were more locked in defensively. But last night against Notre Dame was another level. Carolina bigs were able to break contact on multiple occasions to get around and deflect entry passes. There were active feet, active hands, help defense. You might say the Tar Heels were flying around making plays, which is an accolade usually attributed to a defensive unit in football. Will it happen against tonight against Virginia? Is that swarming defense sustainable for 6 games across three weekends? I sure hope so.
Here are some statistical examples of last night’s defense:
ND didn’t SCORE in the final 6:10 of the 1st half
ND didn’t record a FG until 14:52 of the 2nd
Combined, that’s an 11:18 drought without a FG.
ND shot 33.3% in the 1st half, 26.9% in the 2nd half, and 30% for the game. For the Irish, the 2nd half percentage was the lowest for a 2nd half and 2nd lowest in any half on the year. The overall percentage was the lowest in a game for the season.
ND scored 47 points – the only time this year they didn’t hit 50.
According to Pomeroy rankings, ND is the 10th most efficient offense in the country, EVEN AFTER this performance.
During Notre Dame’s scoring drought, the Tar Heels had another big run. 18-0 over the course of the final 6:10 of the 1st Extended to 24-0 to start 2nd half.
Something else about the run to end the first half: Brice Johnson & Kennedy Meeks were on the bench. Both left the court with 2 fouls and 6:30 to go in the first half (the 18-0 run started at 6:10). When that happened, I, along with probably all Tar Heel fans, was nervous. The score was 23-20. Neither player came back in in the 1st The halftime score? 41-22.
Let’s see, how do I put this? Ah yes: Joel Berry is strong.
To think that Carolina was this dominant on a night when Brice Johnson was saddled with foul trouble (only played 15 minutes) and “only” (by his normal standard) had 12 points and 7 rebounds is scary for the rest of the country. This also meant no double-double for Brice.
Part of the reason UNC didn’t need a huge performance from Johnson is that Isaiah Hicks recorded his first career double-double (11 points and 15 rebounds) to go along with an assist, a steal, and two blocks in 23 minutes of action. He continues to be very efficient. A good sign of things to come next year.
The offensive percentages were somewhat down: 43.5% FG and 63.2% FT for the game. The Tar Heels missed several bunnies right around the rim. And yet, this was a dominant performance. This exemplifies the importance of the defensive effort.
Once again, Carolina did the work of putting the game away early so that they didn’t have to fret down the stretch. 20+ point lead for all but the first minute of the 2nd
Tonight will be Carolina’s 5th ACC Championship game in 6 years. Of course, as we know, they haven’t won any of the previous 4. Tonight could be the night. And another great opportunity to buckle down and get a tough win against Virginia.
Interestingly, after the wins against Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, I now hear commentators and writers using words like “attitude”, “edge”, “hard”, “pit-bull mentality”, “committed”, “chip”, and “personality” to describe this “soft” team.
Bonus: If you are a college basketball fan, today was a fun day. A classic UConn/Cincinnati 4OT game, including a deeper-than-half-court-game-tying-buzzer-beater. A game-winning half-court buzzer-beater from Buddy Hield that was no good because he didn’t get it off in time. Michigan fighting for their life and upsetting the #1 seed Indiana. The list goes on. Let’s not kid ourselves: March Madness has already started.
Here are quick hitters from today’s ACC Tournament Quarterfinal win over Pittsburgh:
Pitt jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 90 or so seconds (all 8 points from Jamel Artis). The Heels were 1-7 from the floor until Marcus Paige hit a 3 to make the score 10-7. After settling in, Carolina took its first lead at 15-14 with 12:07 to go in the 1st half on Nate Britt’s lay-up (after penetrating Pitt’s 2-3 zone, which was a nice sight to see).
Joel Berry was 6-6 with 13 points in the first 20 minutes. Have a 1st half young man! He ended the game with 20 points and was the high scorer. I’m not saying he’s Ty Lawson, but Joel has put the team on his back in very similar ways at times this year.
Neither team reached the bonus in the 1st That just doesn’t happen in today’s college basketball climate.
The game went to the last media timeout of the 1st half at 3:21 with Pitt up 35-29. By the time the teams went to the locker room, the Heels had gone on a 10-0 run and were up 39-35.
Speaking of runs, Carolina had 2 big ones on the day. The aforementioned 10-0 run grew to 12-0 after halftime. There was also an 11-0 run midway through the 2nd half; which effectively put the game out of reach.
Kenny Williams came into the day 0-12 from behind the arc in his freshman campaign. The first 3 of his Tar Heel career (and there will be many more – that’s a pretty stroke) could not have come at a better time. The shot came as part of the 11-0 2nd half run and pushed the lead to double digits for the first time at 66-55 with 8:28 to go. That lead would never shrink back to single digits.
Speaking of Kenny Williams, he played critical minutes in the heart of the 2nd Obviously, I’m not Roy Williams, but if I had to guess – he wasn’t thinking solely about today, but rather doing everything he can to use the Tar Heels’ depth to his advantage as this tournament goes on. At the same time, good to see that Kenny has his coach’s trust enough to insert him at a critical juncture in the game. Kenny received a nice round of applause from the crowd as he came back to the bench with 7:05 left in the game.
Brice Johnson, with his 19 points and 10 rebounds, notched his 20th double-double of the season. Of the power 5 conferences, only Ben Simmons has more (22) on the season. With an eye toward the UNC record books: 20 double-doubles on the season ties Johnson with Mitch Kupchak (‘74-‘75), Billy Cunningham (‘62-‘63), and Doug Moe (‘60-‘61). John Henson (‘10-‘11) and Antawn Jamison (‘97-‘98) had 21. Billy Cunningham (’63-’64) has the most Carolina double-doubles in a single season with 22. Carolina will play at least 2 more games, so Johnson should have a chance to tie (and possibly even break) the record.
This was a game in which the Tar Heels demonstrated a high level of closeability. In a tight game, Carolina used the 2nd half 11-0 run to extend to a double-digit lead. In the previous 2 games (Syracuse & Duke), Carolina had shown closeability in that they made tough plays down the stretch to win close games. In this win, they did the work of closing earlier so that outcome was not in doubt in the waning moments. This is a good sign moving forward.
With free throw shooting being an Achilles (ahem) heel the past couple of years, this year has been a breath of fresh air (74% as a team). Today’s 89% (16-18) is always welcome. It helps to have Marcus Paige, Joel Berry, and Nate Britt who are each top 14 in career FT% at UNC.
The Tar Heels have shot extremely well against Pitt this year. Today, they had their highest 1st half FG% of the year (56.7%), their 4th highest 2nd half FG% (61.5% – also the 4th highest in any half), and their 2nd highest FG% for the whole game (58.9%). Last time the Heels played Pitt, the numbers were similar. 55.6% in the 1st half (2nd highest in the 1st half), 63.0% in the 2nd half (3rd highest in the 2nd half or any half), and 59.3% for the game (the highest for a game).
I love stats. Therefore I love records. Therefore I also love tracking the potential breaking of records. With the regular season wrapped up, and on the eve of the Tar Heels’ first ACC Tournament game, I thought it would be fun to open up the Carolina record book and see where current players stand in different Tar Heel stat categories.
We already know that Marcus Paige has set the Tar Heel record for made 3-pointers in a career (273 and counting – Incidentally, can you imagine what that number would be if he had been healthy all year and shot the ball around his normal 3-point percentage?). Let’s see where Marcus and Brice Johnson rank in some other stat categories (both career and single-season records) as they wrap up their time in Chapel Hill. We’ll also check in on the progress of some of their underclassmen teammates who are working their way into the Tar Heel record books.
Remember, Carolina could have as many 9 or as few as 2 games left. The ability for this group of Tar Heels to continue moving up the leaderboards depends on the number of games remaining.
Note: All stats (career & single-season) are updated through the end of the 2015-16 regular season.
Marcus Paige – 1718 (#16)
Brice Johnson – 1559 (#25)
Needs 68 points to tie Eric Montross for #20
If he achieves this, there will be 2 of the top 20 UNC scorers of all time graduating together
Career – 953 (#8)
47 shy of 1000 for his career, which only 7 other Tar Heels have done. And it’s a prestigious list – Hansbrough, Perkins, Lynch, Cunningham, Jamison, Kupchak, Daugherty
This year – 334 (#T-14)
Needs 65 rebounds to tie Tyler Hansbrough for the single season record.
It’s possible that Brice could become the first Tar Heel with 400 rebounds in a season.
Marcus Paige – 330-389 – 84.8% (#2)
Marcus started the year #1 all time, and currently sits .1% behind Shammond Williams.
Nate Britt – 146-176 – 83.0% (#11)
Joel Berry – 100-122 – 82.0% (#14)
If this holds through the remaining seasons of Britt and Berry’s careers, this team would have 3 of the top 15 FT% shooters in Tar Heel history.
Career Field Goal % (Career)
Brice Johnson – 655-1150 – 57.0% (#15)
Kennedy Meeks – 375-670 – 56.0% (#T-17)
Isaiah Hicks – 217-388 – 55.9% (#19)
If this holds through the remaining seasons of Meeks and Hicks’ careers, this team will have 3 of the top 20 in FG% in Tar Heel history.
Double-Doubles (Points/Rebounds) (Single Season)
Has 19 this year. Single season record is 22.
Also, if current averages hold (16.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg), Brice would become the first player since John Henson in 2010-11 to average a double-double for the year. He would be only the 4th player to do so in the 2000’s (Henson, Hansbrough, May) and only 5th since 1975-76 (add in Jamison in 97-98).
Marcus Paige – 566 (#10)
This one is sad for me because he has a chance to pass Kendall Marshall (581, #8) who would have destroyed the Tar Heel record books in terms of assists if he had stuck around another couple years. That reminds me of how absolutely ridiculous Marshall was. If Marshall had stayed, he had a chance to surpass Ed Cota for 1st in Tar Heel career assists (who, by the way, is 3rd all time in NCAA history).
Brice Johnson – 141 (5 behind Brad Daugherty for #10)
Marcus Paige – 193 (#5)
We’ll check in again with these records (and any others that have come to light in the remaining games) after the season is over.
Any records I’m missing? Any other stats or records you want to know about? Leave a comment or drop me an email (email@example.com).
A feature I will do on the blog after every game is what I’m currently calling “Quick Hitters”; which will typically be 10 quick takeaways from the game posted within a couple hours of the end of the game. I would love to hear your thoughts from the games as well, so please share them in the comments section!
This game felt very similar to the Duke game just shy of two weeks ago. A game in the Dean Dome. A game in which Carolina built a seemingly-comfortable second half lead. Then squandered it while simultaneously forgetting that Brice Johnson is a candidate for National Player of the Year. The difference? The Tar Heels were able to do just enough to pull away in this one.
With the win, the Heels clinch a top-3 seed in the ACC tournament. Why does that matter? Because the top 4 seeds each get a double bye. With the win, the Heels also continue to control their own destiny. A win Saturday at Duke secures at least a share of the regular season conference championship and top seed in the ACC Tournament. If Miami also wins out, the teams would have the same conference record with Carolina winning the tiebreaker and top seed because of the head to head win. victory. demoralization.
Senior Day. Every year, I get so nervous at the beginning of the Senior Day game when several atypical starters are in the line-up – often including walk-ons. I always wonder what in the world Roy is thinking. But they always play hard and often exit the game with a lead, as was the case tonight. Of course, it helped that 2 of the seniors on the court were Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. I thankful for the tradition and the memories it provides for some young men to talk about the time they started for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
Isaiah Hicks needs to be in the starting line-up. If you caught the halftime studio broadcast, you saw Jay Williams trying to start a campaign to get Isaiah Hicks in the starting line-up. I’ve been hesitant to admit, but there is a different level of comfortability between Johnson and Hicks. Their games and skill sets are more complementary. As much as it pains me to agree with a Blue Devil, I’m on board with JWill. Why should this line-up change happen? Simple: because….
Kennedy Meeks is (currently and unfortunately) just not explosive or athletic enough. Perhaps his knee is still bothering him? I don’t know that I can remember another Carolina frontcourt player getting blocked or beaten to out-of-range rebounds to the extent that Meeks has this year. I hate to see it, because I love Kennedy and his easy smile. Hopefully, 1 more off-season of conditioning will get him to the level he needs to be at to really dominate.
Marcus is not shooting well. Joel is shooting better. Marcus appears to be more comfortable with the ball in his hand. Marcus sees plays develop more readily than Joel (at this point in their careers). I’m not comparing Marcus to his jersey number’s predecessor; no one has Kendall Marshall’s Nostradamus-like ability to see things before they unfold in real life. We saw more of it tonight, but Marcus’ best asset right now is as a playmaker (8 assists, 1 turnover tonight). So let’s call him the ‘1’ and Joel the ‘2’. Don’t forget, we all thought Marcus was primarily a play-maker until he (out-of-necessity) became a scoring machine in his sophomore season.
This game was another example of Carolina’s lack of closeability. Wondering what that is? Read this: Closeability.
There’s just no other way to say it: The ball must funnel through Brice Johnson all game long. Thankfully, this didn’t hurt the Heels in the loss column tonight as it did against Duke and Virginia. The problem, as I see it, is 3-fold: 1. Johnson is one of the best players in the nation, so opposing teams are going to do everything they can to stop him from getting the ball (especially down on the block). 2. At the same time, Johnson can’t disappear. Knowing that he is the focus of the defense, he must work that much harder to get open and make himself available for entry passes (and stay out of foul trouble). 3. The Heels cannot get jump-shot-happy. This was at its worst against Duke (and both Virginia and Syracuse are doing everything they can to goad Carolina into taking 3s). The first half against Syracuse was fools’ gold and we all felt it. A jump shot (especially against the zone) is open and available at any point in the shot clock. This offense is predicated on owning the paint, so the guards must keep attacking and probe the interior throughout the first 20 seconds of shot clock.
Of all the roller coaster rides this team takes us on, nothing is more maddening to me than their inability to commit to defense for a whole game (which includes finishing off the possession with a rebound). Sure, there are pockets of stellar defense here and there, but never or rarely a full game’s worth. Imagine what this team could be down the stretch if they defended for a full game. The ‘09 team played a little bit of defense in the last few weeks of the season and things turned out all right for them. The #1-in-the-nation Kansas Jayhawks are in that position right now because they committed to defense at some point in January. In a year where just about anyone could win the whole thing, defensive buy-in is going to be the difference between the 2015-16 Tar Heels having 5 or 6 games left and having 10 games left.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Marcus Paige look more defeated than he did after his only turnover of the game came with less than a minute to go and allowed Syracuse to cut the lead to 3.