Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 89-76 road loss to Duke on Saturday night.
- Carolina fought valiantly to maintain proximity to Duke tonight, but it was not meant to be. The Heels weathered an early Blue Devil storm and eventually tied the game at 28, before finding themselves down by eight at halftime. Again the Heels clawed back to within one point twice in the second half, but couldn’t make the plays to get over the hump and the lead ballooned to the final margin of 13 points.
- With apologies to Garrison Brooks, can we just pause and appreciate what a rough season Brandon Robinson’s body has endured? He has suffered countless ankle injuries and re-aggravations, a car accident, and tonight a head injury. The official word came out that Robinson would not play in the second half after taking an elbow to the face in the closing minutes of the first half. And yet he came back into the game early in the second half and wound up playing 13:51 and connecting on two three-pointers.
- Garrison Brooks is having one of the more impressive offensive stretches in recent memory. Tonight’s 26 points give him six straight games of scoring 20-plus points and four straight games of scoring 25-plus points. His ups and downs at the free throw line have been well documented, but in this four game stretch Brooks is shooting 82.2 percent (37-for-45). Tonight’s double-double is his’ 12th on the year. Nine of Brooks’ 13 rebounds were offensive.
- There was question whether Armando Bacot would be able to play tonight. He not only started, but had one of his most efficient outings of the season. Foul trouble and the lingering ankle injury limited Bacot to 23:2j3 of playing time, but in that time scored 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting and had 12 rebounds (including six offensive). Bacot’s double-double gives him 10 this season, the second most ever by a Carolina freshman (Antawn Jamison had 13).
- Tonight was just the second game all season in which Cole Anthony didn’t achieve double-digits in the scoring column. Anthony had a bit of a rough night, due in large part to Duke’s defense. After multiple strong performances in a row, Anthony tried to win the game too much on his own tonight rather than involving his teammates. Such has been the case for many freshmen in their first game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
- By no means should Anthony get all the blame. As a team, Carolina only achieved seven assists, the second lowest total this season. Far too often in the first half, the Heels let Duke goad them into taking jump shots rather than taking advantage of opportunities inside the paint.
- Christian Keeling’s streak of nine straight games of scoring nine-plus points ended tonight as the grad transfer was only able to connect on one of his six shot attempts.
- It was a strange rebounding night. Carolina won the overall battle 38-37, but exactly half of their rebounds were offensive. As you would imagine, the offensive glass kept Carolina close for much of the game.
- After shooting over 40 percent from three each of the past two games, the Heels cooled off to just 33.3 percent (4-for-12) tonight. Conversely, Duke’s hot shooting from deep (10-for-21) provided a big advantage for the home team.
- Each team’s first possession provided an inauspicious outlook for the rest of the game. On Duke’s first possession, Cole Anthony fouled Tre Jones just 16 seconds into the game. On Carolina’s first possession, Anthony turned the ball over after driving too far into traffic.
- Duke outscored Carolina 19-to-5 in fast break points, several of which came on plays where the Blue Devils just plain outran the last line of Tar Heel defense for an easy lay-up.
- For all the good things ESPN does, some of their production decisions are confounding. For example, why are we seeing a split screen of “94 Feet With Jay Bilas” during game action? This occurred from 11:59-11:18 of game action plus two Bacot free throws at the end of that time. People are tuned in to see the game, not hear a recap of a filler segment. It’s fine to show things like this, but don’t move away from game action for this.
- Along a similar line (and it’s hard to say if this is a Jay Bilas issue, a referee issue, or some of both), on two different occasions in the game, Bilas said, “I don’t think that would have been a foul if the shot had gone in.” I get the humanity of officials, but it’s either a foul or it isn’t and officials should adjudicate the game as such.
- The final 3:50 of the first half was an exercise in “don’t-let-Duke-build-too-much-of-a-lead-with-all-five-starters-on-the-bench”. At 3:50, Leaky Black picked up his second foul so he and Bacot (who already had two fouls) checked out. At 2:26, Brooks picked up his second foul and headed to the bench. At 1:42, Robinson got hurt and went straight to the locker room. Finally, with 0:56 left, Anthony picked up his second foul. So with four starters on the bench with two fouls and the fifth in the locker room injured, the lineup of Jeremiah Francis, Christian Keeling, Andrew Platek, Justin Pierce, and Walker Miller finished the first half. They played those 56 seconds to a 2-2 tie.
- Justin Pierce drew another offensive foul tonight. Those types of hustle plays have been his biggest contribution to the 2019-20 Tar Heels.
- We now turn our attention to do-or-die time in the ACC Tournament. We are to that strange part of every season where the next game could be the last.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first round of the ACC Tournament. Carolina has the 14 seed and will play Virginia Tech on Tuesday, March 10. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ACC Network.
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