Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 68-64 home loss to Wofford on Sunday afternoon in Carmichael Arena.
This will probably be as painful to read as it was to write. Such is the stretch the Tar Heels are going through right now. Here we go:
- The hits just keep on coming. This team cannot catch a break on the injury front. Just as one or two players get back on the court, another couple of players are out. Before the game this afternoon, Carolina announced that Cole Anthony would miss the game with a knee injury, Leaky Black would miss the game with a foot injury, and that Sterling Manley would be done for the season after undergoing surgery. Throughout the game, several other players spent time being evaluated by athletic trainer Doug Halverson (Brandon Robinson, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, KJ Smith).
- The news for Cole Anthony is that he is out indefinitely with a knee injury, which will be further evaluated this week. Leaky Black is game-to-game with the foot sprain he’s been dealing with. As far Sterling Manley, he had season-ending surgery on December 12 to repair cartilage in his left knee. The timetable for his return is unknown. Tough blow for Manley who has been plagued by lower body injuries.
- The silver lining with Cole Anthony out is that you can say with assurance that the Tar Heels will not be able to fall into the trap of waiting around for him to bail the team out offensively. Six different Tar Heels scored at least six points today.
- Given the new injuries, can you imagine what the line-ups would have been today if Armando Bacot’s ankle injury had been worse or if Jeremiah Francis and/or Anthony Harris were still out of commission?
- Free throws proved to be a major issue again today. In a game Carolina lost by four, they shot 12-for-20 (60.0%) from the free throw line.
- The Tar Heels did rebound well. They grabbed 51 to Wofford’s 34. However, given their inside advantage, the points in the point should have favored Carolina more than 28-20. The Heels got the ball to Brooks and Bacot quite a bit, but the ball should have gone into the paint on literally every possession. When it did, Brooks shot an extremely efficient 8-for-10. Bacot, however, struggled; shooting just 2-for-14. These interior struggles took place even with Chevez Goodwin, Wofford’s main interior player, attached to the bench with foul trouble for the majority of the game.
- It can’t be said enough what joy it must bring Jeremiah Francis (in particular) and Anthony Harris to be back in basketball action. Both players have missed significant time and have worked extremely hard to get back on the court. Francis showed glimpses of the dynamic point guard he can be as he gets healthy. He pushed the ball and quite consistently found teammates. Depending on Anthony and Black’s availability, the two freshmen will likely continue to shoulder as much time as they can handle.
- With the starting and back-up point guards both sidelined, KJ Smith took hold of the reins and played a steady game. He scored seven points and had four assists, against two turnovers. While Smith is admittedly not the playmaker that Anthony is, the most important thing he did today was to stay within himself and not try to do more than he was capable of. Here’s Smith talking about the opportunity to start at point guard for Carolina on the same court where his own dad was the last Tar Heel to do so in a regular season game:
- Carolina, who historically assists on a high percentage of made baskets, has not done so to this point in the season. For the game, the Heels assisted on 17 of 23 made baskets. While the outcome of the game was not what Coach Williams was looking for, sharing the ball more consistently is a step in the right direction.
- We are now 10 games into the season without Carolina shooting 50% for the game or reaching the 80-point plateau.
- In both halves, the Heels took awhile to score. At the beginning of the game, the first points came on a Brandon Robinson three-pointer after 2:15 had already come of the clock. The post-halftime drought was even longer, clocking in at around 3:00.
- An encouraging sign: Andrew Platek shot 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
- Christian Keeling had arguably his most productive game as a Tar Heel, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds, and two assists. Keeling could have had 10 points, but stepped on the three-point line on two different occasions. The different of those couple inches makes this a one-possession game down the stretch instead of two possessions. Details matter.
- On the flip side, Justin Pierce, the other graduate transfer, did not attempt a single field goal. The one shot he did take was a free throw attempt, which was an air ball. For the Tar Heels to sniff success, both Pierce and Keeling will have to become consistent offensive contributors.
- The stretch that ultimately killed Carolina was Wofford’s 16-0 second half run to take a 55-42 lead. Led by Brandon Robinson the Heels mounted a strong comeback, but fell short due to turnovers and a lack of shot making.
- You would obviously like to walk away as the victors, but what a neat opportunity to play a regular season home game back in Carmichael, the setting for so many huge Carolina memories in seasons gone by.
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 Gonzaga on Wednesday, December 18. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN2.
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