Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 66-52 road loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.
Carolina has now dropped four straight to start the main body of ACC play. After losing 10 days ago to Pitt in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels once again fell victim to the Panthers and Coach Williams stays frozen at 879 victories.
Garrison Brooks is doing everything he can to put Carolina on his back. He now has five straight double-doubles (16 points, 13 rebounds in this one). On the season, Brooks is close to averaging a double-double: 14.4 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Holding it down with Brooks in the front court, Armando Bacot also turned in a strong performance today. He totaled 12 points and 11 assists.
Two glaring statistical issues tell the story of the day; the first of which is turnovers. In the first half, the Heels committed 11 turnovers while making just eight field goals in the same time frame. Five of those turnovers came on five straight possessions midway through the first half. For the game, Carolina had more turnovers (16) than assists (11).
The second statistical issue is not a new story: free throw shooting. While difficult to believe, it’s true, Carolina shot UNDER 50 percent from the free throw line today (10-for-21, 47.6 percent). In a season where the team struggles offensively, leaving free points at the free throw line makes it even more difficult to win. Even Garrison Brooks fell victim, shooting just 2-for-8 from the charity stripe.
Andrew Platek has now started the past two games and has shown a real penchant for putting his teammates in position to succeed. In the two games he has totaled 10 assists versus just two turnovers, good for an absurd 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
An already depleted team had to finish without Brandon Robinson and Armando Bacot, who both fouled out.
The highlight of the day came just over a minute into the game. It was an unbelievably athletic play from Garrison Brooks for Carolina’s first bucket. He contorted his body to lay in an alley-oop from Andrew Platek while someone was undercutting him. Brooks missed free throw but Bacot tipped out the rebound. The ball came back to Bacot who found a wide-open Leaky Black for a three. The gave the Tar Heels a 5-2 lead (the only lead of the day).
The good news is that Carolina never stopped fighting and was able to cut Pitt’s lead to 10 with 1:49 left in the game. As we know all-too-well from the Clemson game last Saturday, 10 points in that amount of time can be overcome. Unfortunately, Garrison Brooks missed a wide-open lay-up which would have cut the lead to eight and Pittsburgh pushed the lead back to the final 14 point margin.
Some more potential injury concern: Justin Pierce limped off the court with some type of lower leg injury.
On the positive side of the injury epidemic: Brandon Robinson was able to start and play 32 minutes despite being involved in a car accident a week ago (although he missed the final 5:55 after fouling out). Jeremiah Francis, who missed the last game, didn’t start but was able to play 15 minutes. Here’s Robinson talking more about his accident:
Pittsburgh curiously piled up five fouls in the first 4:40 of the second half. However, even when the Heels got to the bonus, as you know from the previously mentioned free throw statistics, they couldn’t take advantage
Pittsburgh shot terribly in the second half: 22.7 percent on field goals and 10 percent on three pointers. Over the final 15 minutes of the game, the Panthers made precisely ONE field goal. Despite all of this ugly shooting, Carolina still only outscored Pitt by six in those 20 minutes.
Carolina shot 31.7 percent for the game. That now makes 17 straight games to start the season without shooting 50 percent for an entire game.
Curiously, KJ Smith didn’t play. He was in uniform and on the bench. He’s played in literally ever contest this year other than the season opener when he was sidelined with an injury. Is he suffering from an injury? Was it a conscious decision by Coach Williams to cut his minutes?
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 Virginia Tech on Wednesday, January 22. Tip is at 8:00ET on ACC Network.
Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-76 overtime home loss to Clemson on Saturday afternoon.
An absolute soul-crushing disappointment in Chapel Hill today. The Tar Heels led by 10 points with 2:00 remaining, but managed to lose the game. The heartbreaking thing is that for 38 minutes, Carolina played tough, they were aggressive, they shared the ball, the defense looked a lot better, and everything seemed to be pointing to a historic win, but it was not meant to be. In a season full of low points, perhaps we have reached the bottom.
Unfortunately, this loss means that not only has Coach Williams still not passed Coach Smith for fourth place on the all-time Division 1 wins list, but that the unbelievable win streak in Chapel Hill against Clemson ends at 59.
In any game that goes to overtime (especially one in which you led by 10 points with 2:00 remaining), you will inevitably play the “what-if” game. Here are a few big ones:
With just seconds remaining before halftime, Armando Bacot tipped out a rebound in an effort to run out the clock, but the ball went straight to a Clemson Tiger who buried a three-pointer to cut the Tar Heel lead to 10. Without that shot, Carolina wins.
With 10:00 left in regulation, Armando Bacot got a steal leading to a monstrous fast break dunk to put Carolina up eight. Roy Williams was incensed, believing that a foul should have been called. Meanwhile, Clemson abruptly went to the other end and buried a three to pull the game back within five. If that foul is called (and Bacot hits the free throw), Carolina is up nine instead of five.
Up three points with 12 seconds remaining in overtime, the Tar Heels elected not to foul, which resulted in Clemson burying the game-tying three-pointer. According to Coach Williams in the post-game press conference, he forgot to remind the team to do so in the timeout before that play.
The injuries just keep mounting: Today, Jeremiah Francis was in street clothes due to concerns over knee soreness. Carolina has paid enough injury dues this season to last them the entire 2020-2029 decade.
Carolina’s turnover numbers weren’t all that glaring – 10. Curiously, they had committed just six with 2:00 remaining in the game, but coughed up three during those final two minutes of regulation. Clemson, meanwhile was busy hitting three three-pointers in that same stretch. Here are the turnovers:
Due to Francis’ injury, Andrew Platek got his first career start and made the most of it. He scored eight points and had career highs in both rebounds (eight) and assists (six). If you were to nitpick, you could certainly question some of his shot decisions (early shot clock threes down the stretch and at the beginning of overtime), but all-in-all Platek played admirably.
Carolina had uncharacteristically not made 50% of their shots in any one single game so far this season. Today was game number 16, and after Brandon Robinson’s three-pointer with 5:25 remaining in regulation they were sitting at exactly 50% (25-for-50) shooting. From there, the Heels missed their final six shots in regulation and shot 3-for-10 in overtime.
Armando Bacot seems to have emerged from his rough patch. Against Pittsburgh and Clemson, he shot a combined 13-for-21 from the field and 10-for-14 from the free throw line for a total of 36 points.
Despite a slow offensive start (two points in the first 25 minutes), Garrison Brooks scored 13 to extend his double-digit scoring streak to seven straight games and his 11 rebounds extended his double-double streak to four straight games.
For the second time this season, Justin Pierce has scored zero points in back-to-back games. Curiously, these most two recent performances come immediately on the heels of back-to-back double-digit scoring outputs against Yale and Georgia Tech.
Similar to Garrison Brooks’ performance against Georgia Tech in a losing effort, Brandon Robinson was absolutely sensational this afternoon. He scored a career high 27 points, hit two clutch free throws to put Carolina up three with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, carried the Tar Heels offensively in the first half with 19 points.
One curiously glaring number is that Clemson managed to match Carolina on the glass, 39-39. Watching the game, it was clear that Clemson was getting a fair share of rebounds (more so than the Heels usually surrender), but it still felt that Carolina won the rebounding battle. The numbers told a different story.
As previously mentioned, Carolina shared the ball more capably today than in recent games. The assist total was 18 (on 28 made shots). Interestingly, the Heels assisted on the first four made baskets of the game, the first three of which all went to Andrew Platek.
Credit to the big guys for staying out of first half foul trouble. Carolina was playing with an already shortened bench (which was made even shorter with Francis out) and Armando Bacot picked up a quick foul and Garrison Brooks got his second midway through the first half. Both players were able to stay away from adding to these totals, which enabled Carolina to keep the Tigers at bay in the first half.
Hard to know what to say and where to go from here. It’s obvious that the injuries (to players in street clothes and those who are still playing) are severely limiting Carolina’s ability to win consistently. How do you salvage this type of season? Are there moral victories? As coaches, do you start getting younger guys as much experience as possible for next year? With Carolina losing these three very winnable games, does Cole Anthony elect to not suit back up? Keep in mind – these are 18-to-22 year old young men. Continue to cheer them on, continue to root for them, continue to encourage them. Their worth as humans is not (or at least should not be) tied to their ability to put an orange ball through a hoop at a higher rate than their opponents. Chin up, Tar Heel fans.
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 Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 18. Tip is at 12:00ET on one of the ESPN Networks (TBD).
Carolina’s next game:
at Pittsburgh 🌎 = Pittsburgh, PA 🏟️ = Peterson Events Center 📆 = Saturday, January 18 ⏰ = 12:00ET 📺 = An ESPN Channel (Specific Channel TBD) 📻 = TuneIn App#CarolinaFamily
We are now 15 games into the season and Carolina has failed to shoot 50% from the field in a single game.
With the win, Pitt breaks a 22 game ACC road losing streak. This was also their first victory ever in Chapel Hill (0-7 before this game).
In a reversal from the Georgia Tech loss on Saturday, this game had a rather promising first half. Carolina was hustling, the offense looked more efficient, and the defense held Pitt to 32.1% shooting, including just 1-for-10 from deep.
With the game tied at 14, Carolina took control of the first half when Xavier Johnson picked up his second foul and went to the bench. Carolina immediately went on a 13-2 scoring run to take a 27-16 led and eventually lead by as many as 14 points, before finishing the half up nine. The lead could have been bigger, but some careless turnovers (harbingers of what was to come in the second half) prevented that from becoming a reality.
The second half was a completely different story. It’s hard to put your finger on just one issue as the main culprit, but carelessness with the basketball is what seemed to prime the pump of Pitt’s comeback. Jeremiah Francis and Leaky Black handled the majority of the point guard duties and combined for seven of the 17 turnovers, many of which were of the live ball variety. KJ Smith also had a turnover in his three-plus minutes on the court running the point.
As Pitt’s confidence grew in the second half, so did their three-point shooting. The team that had just shot 1-for-10 in the first half from three suddenly went 8-for-12 (70%). That’s a better percentage from the three-point line in the second half than Carolina shot from the free throw line. Freshman Justin Champagnie led the Panther charge from deep, burying four threes over the course of just four minutes of game action.
While Carolina’s defense was once again struggling in the second half (the last two opponents have shot 63% and 58%), the offense was also losing its way. With no Cole Anthony to confidently run the point guard position, the offense looks discombobulated at times. The ball moves east and west around the perimeter several times before someone has to hoist a desperation three.
There is no question that this team struggles offensively; the statistics and advanced metrics bear out that reality. Therefore, in order to be successful, defense will have to be the calling card of this crew. Thus far, that has not been the case. Never count out Coach Williams’ ability to get his team bought in.
Garrison Brooks followed up his monster game against Georgia Tech with his third straight double-double and sixth straight scoring in double-figures. His tally for this game was 21 points (9-for-12 shooting), 10 rebounds, and interestingly, hit his first career three-pointer in an end-of-shot-clock situation.
Armando Bacot had a nice bounce back game, scoring 15 points (6-for-11 shooting), grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing out four assists (although he did have four turnovers). Bacot looked more aggressive and engaged throughout the first half and the beginning part of the second.
The Brooks / Bacot combination carried the offensive load, scoring 36 of the team’s 65 points. This is great news for a Roy Williams-coached team. Unfortunately, there is not currently a dynamic point guard in uniform to balance the front court and back court.
Brandon Robinson has scored in double figures four games in a row; the longest such stretch of his career.
It’s clear that Coach Williams is doing anything he can to find a nuance to help his team or throw off the opponent. At the beginning of the game, Carolina was trapping every ball screen they could. The Heels secured a turnover on the first possession of the game, but didn’t have as much success afterwards.
In this injury-laden season, it was a nice change to get Andrew Platek back on the court. He hustled and was aggressive, apparently trying to fill the void left by Anthony Harris. Shortly after checking in for the first time, Platek had a steal and ensuing fast break lay-up. At this point, you need all the bodies you can get to field a competitive team.
To that end, while no one left the game, Carolina continues to have injury concerns. Brandon Robinson had medical attention more than once on the bench. Garrison Brooks took a hard fall and on another occasion landed on his elbow going for a loose ball. Jeremiah Francis appeared to be hobbling at one point and was examined by Doug Halverson on the bench.
Every starter committed a turnover, and four of the five had at least three.
Free throws continue to be an issue. Tonight the Heels shot 10-for-17 (58.8%).
A positive take-away: eight of the nine Tar Heels who played scored at least one point.
Christian Keeling’s minutes continue to dwindle. Tonight was the fewest minutes he has played all season (6:00).
Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-74 win over Oregon in the consolation game of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday afternoon.
Big time win for Carolina to close out the Battle 4 Atlantis with a 2-1 record. Heading into the upcoming Ohio State, (at) Virginia, (at) Gonzaga gauntlet, that 2-1 record provides a lot more cushion than 1-2 would have. Additionally, this win will be a nice resume-boost come March.
Congratulations to Coach Williams (877) for passing Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp (876) for 5th place on the all-time D1 coaching victories list.
The stat that made the difference in the game: Coming into today, Carolina was hitting 60.3% (82-for-136) of their free throws, good for 324th in the country. What has been a weakness all season, turned into a strength today: The Tar Heels hit 20 of their 21 charity stripe attempts (95.2%). This number included 11-for-11 in the second half.
UNC shot 95.2% from free throw line (20 of 21) today vs Oregon. Second-highest pct. under Roy Williams (min. 20 made) and highest since making 23 of 24 (.958) in 2007 ACC championship game vs NC State in Tampa #CarolinaFamily#GoHeels
The Tar Heel bench is beginning to look like the MASH unit on the sideline for the Looney Tunes in Space Jam. The infirmary has already claimed Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, and Sterling Manley. Leaky Black sprained his foot against Michigan, and while he was able to start the game, was only able to play 8:30 (all in the first half). Garrison Brooks suffered a corneal abrasion (a surface scratch) against Michigan and had to wear what looked like shop glasses to protect his eye. Brandon Robinson suffered from Joel Berry syndrome: He stepped on a Ducks’ foot and re-tweaked his bad ankle. We await a status update on all three Tar Heels.
Garrison Brooks was able to overcome his Cyclops-like condition to play 32 minutes, score nine points (on 4-for-6 shooting), pull down 10 rebounds and block three shots. His combination inside with Armando Bacot is becoming a dominant force.
When Brandon Robinson tweaked his ankle, he immediately ran back to the locker room (2:30 into the second half) and appeared to be in a great deal of pain. However, he checked back in just 1:30 of game time later. Robinson was able to manage a career high 13 points, hit three three-pointers, dish four assists, block a shot, and grab two steals. Perhaps most importantly, Robinson played some key (and certainly painful) defensive possessions against Oregon’s dynamic point guard, Payton Pritchard. The most crucial of these possessions came with 20 seconds remaining and Carolina clinging to a three-point lead. Robinson did a marvelous job staying with Pritchard and forcing him into a deep three; however, discerning viewers caught Robinson crouching on the sideline in a great deal of pain after the possession.
Hard to believe we haven’t talked about Armando Bacot’s performance yet. Bacot, just like Brandon Robinson, set a career high with 23 points. He also had a career high six blocks. The combination of the points and his 12 rebounds (seven of which were offensive) gave Bacot his fourth double-double in five games. The big freshman was just four blocks shy of a triple-double. Most impressively Bacot, shooting just 41% on his free throws this season, hit nine out of 10. This performance at the line will be imperative for the type of inside game he plays.
Armando Bacot is the first Tar Heel with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 6 blocks since Feb. 19, 1995, when sophomore Rasheed Wallace had the same line at Virginia. Those are the only two times in UNC history a player had at least 23/12/6 in a game. #CarolinaFamily#GoHeels
Carolina has struggled with three-point shooting. The team got off to an encouraging 4-for-8 start today, made by four different players (Cole Anthony, Brandon Robinson, Justin Pierce, and Christian Keeling). Unfortunately, the Heels only hit two of their final 15 attempts and finished with a 26.1 percentage for the game.
The Tar Heels were saddled with a good deal of foul trouble. Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, and Garrison Brooks each had four fouls while Brandon Robinson and Justin Pierce each had three. Curiously, no other Tar Heels committed a foul.
Anthony’s foul trouble, paired with Leaky Black’s injury, forced KJ Smith into playing 8:16 (by far the most game time he’s seen as a Tar Heel). Smith didn’t contribute much on the stat line, did have two assists and just one turnover. One of the assists was a beautiful drop-off to Armando Bacot for a dunk. Anthony’s fourth foul came with 10:16 remaining but Smith’s steady play allowed the freshman to stay on the bench until after the under-4:00 media timeout.
The foul trouble and injuries also created some unconventional line-ups. When KJ Smith checked in at 10:16, he was paired with Brandon Huffman, Garrison Brooks, Christian Keeling, and Brandon Robinson.
Let’s talk about the blocks. Carolina had nine IN THE FIRST HALF. They finished the game with 12. The most impressive of these was the highlight of the game when 6’3” Cole Anthony went up to reject 6’7” Shakur Juiston in transition.
The second most impressive highlight was also from Mr. Anthony. Just a minute before his block, Anthony deflected an Oregon attempted inbounds pass, chased down the loose ball, and threw down a one-handed slam in transition.
Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce both had a more dynamic first half, finishing with seven points each. However, Carolina will need the two grad transfers to put together a complete game in order to achieve this teams’ goals. Keeling and Pierce combined to shoot 0-for-9 in the second half. Keeling, in particular, looks uncomfortable or unsure of his shot. Keeling comes in with the reputation of a scorer, and will hopefully soon settle in and find his touch (and confidence).
Here’s what a senior adds: With around 13:00 minutes remaining in the game, Keeling missed a three and in the rebound action the ball rolled toward the baseline. Brandon Robinson, bad ankle and all, was able to save the ball and throw it directly to Garrison Brooks for a lay-up plus an and-one foul shot (which Brooks made).
Now seven games into the season, Carolina is still yet to hit 80 points or shoot 50% from the floor. Quite the anomaly for a Roy Williams-coached club.
The events surrounding the final media timeout of the game were quite interesting. As previously mentioned, this is when Cole Anthony checked back in. Carolina had mounted a 10 point lead which Oregon whittled down to six. The play that led to the under-4:00 media timeout was an incorrectly adjudicated out-of-bounds call which gave Oregon the ball, to go with the momentum they had already built up. This seemingly incorrect decision contributed to the closing moments becoming more tense than they otherwise might’ve been. The other curious happening during this media timeout was that someone involved in the on-court timeout entertainment apparently stole the game ball.
While they were the flashiest, Cole Anthony’s dunk and block weren’t the most important moments of his play. Saddled with four fouls, the freshman scored six of Carolina’s final eight points after Oregon cut the lead to one with 1:30 left. Most impressively, four of these points were pressure-filled one-and-one free throws. The final two points were also one-and-one free throws, completed by none other than the gritty Brandon Robinson.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Big 10 / ACC Challenge at home against Ohio State on Wednesday, December 4. Tip is at 9:30ET on ESPN.
Carolina’s next game:
vs. Ohio State (10th – AP | 4th – KenPom) 🌎 = Chapel Hill, NC (Big Ten / ACC Challenge) 🏟️ = Dean E. Smith Center 📆 = Wednesday, December 4 ⏰ = 9:30ET 📺 = ESPN 📻 = TuneIn App#CarolinaFamily
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 74-63 home win over Louisville.
I cannot stress enough what a huge win this was, for two reasons. First, with Duke losing to Syracuse earlier in the night, this win over Louisville gave the Tar Heels a two game lead in the ACC with three tough games remaining. It by no means guarantees a conference regular season title, but it sure is nice to have some breathing room. Second, Carolina has struggled with Louisville’s defense and athleticism in the two years they’ve been in the ACC.
Nearly three minutes before Tar Heels scored to start the game. Carolina opened the game shooting 2-15 with 4 turnovers in the first 6 minutes.
Stilman White played some meaningful minutes in the first half when Coach Williams put in five brand new players. He even hit a mid-range jumper that put a jolt in the Smith Center crowd.
We’ve been seeing this all season, but let’s just make sure we say it: Justin Jackson and Joel Berry take (and make) some really deep threes.
After starting off the season looking like he would set Carolina’s career and single season records for free throw percentage, Joel Berry has really “struggled” (a relative term) in conference play. He missed 2 more free throws last night. Weird.
This was the second game in a row where an opponent missed an inordinate number of shots in a certain aspect of the game. This time it was both free throws and three-pointers. Louisville’s first made free throw came with 7:41 left in the game. For the game Louisville shot 4-13 while Carolina shot 21-29 on free throws. The final three-point discrepancy was not as substantial, but Louisville didn’t hit their first three until early in the second half.
This was, unfortunately, a game marked by Isaiah Hicks foul issues. For the Tar Heels to accomplish everything they want to this year, Hicks has to stay out of foul trouble, and on the court.
Carolina missed opportunities on the offensive glass when tips didn’t fall. That said, Louisville is the one team that can really stay with Carolina on the glass and Heels doubled up the Cardinals, 16-8, on the offensive glass.
Another 20+ scoring night for Justin Jackson, in another huge game. Look out folks, this man just might bring home ACC Player of the Year.
A little too tense down the closing minutes. The Tar Heels were up 17 with just under four minutes, but took their foot off the gas too early, which allowed Louisville to cut the lead to 8. However Nate Britt then hit two free throws to push the lead back to 10 and essentially ice the game.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 97-73 road win over NC State.
Congrats to Joel Berry for becoming the third Tar Heel this year (along with Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks), and 75th ever, to score 1000 career points. With his 18 points tonight he has 1013 for his career, putting him in 73rd. place. Isaiah Hicks will join soon as the fourth this season. He needs 21 more points.
I can just hear the classic Queen lyrics – “Another one bites the dust”. We welcomed Isaiah Hicks back to the lineup tonight, but Kenny Williams suffered a right knee injury yesterday at practice and was in street clothes. Apparently he will have surgery next Tuesday. Losing the top perimeter defender hurts an already struggling defense and takes away the Heels’ scrappiest player.
It took til game 27, but we finally saw the starting line-up that we thought we would see all season long: Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks
I said all week that this game would be much closer than the 51-point blowout earlier this season, and it certainly was, but uhhhh, yeah. A 24-point ACC road win? Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
NC State started a small lineup, which allowed Isaiah Hicks to get an easy bucket over Maverick Rowan to start the game. This was a sign of things to come. Carolina led in rebounds 41-25, Carolina had more OFFENSIVE rebounds (18) than State had DEFENSIVE rebounds (16), and Carolina led points in the point 60-22. Don’t get your eyes checked. You read it right: 60-22.
I think Isaiah Hicks saved up all the fouls he’s not been committing, and poured them into the little time he spent on the court in this game (seven minutes). He picked up three first half fouls and his fourth early in the second half. While Isaiah his been doing a much better job lately staying out of foul trouble, as a senior, he’s got to be smarter. That said, I’m surprised Coach Williams brought Hicks back in the game in the first half even though the Heels had a 17-point lead. Wisely though, Coach kept him out of the rest of the game after the fourth foul. With the tweaked hamstring still on the mend, not need to push it.
I like Luke Maye more and more all the time. Some great put-backs tonight. Runs the floor well. Because of his lack of size, he’s gotta be more active and gritty and that’s exactly what he does. Maye had a career high in points (13).
Would really like to see Joel Berry start driving the ball more, rather than settling for threes. The Secondary Break had a great write-up on Berry’s up-and-down season: http://www.thesecondarybreak.us/joel-berrys-up-and-down-season/. Berry did have six assists, three steals, and only one turnover in this game, which is a great sign. The test will be Virginia on Saturday.
How many lay-ups did Theo Pinson have in this game? Goodness gracious.
Another balanced scoring night. Five different Heels (Berry, Meeks, Jackson, Maye, and Pinson) scored in double figures.
Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 96-83 home victory over Florida State.
Biggest win of the season for UNC to this point. FSU came into the game undefeated in ACC play and on a 12-game winning streak. The Tar Heels’ other three ACC victories had come against three of the four bottom teams in the conference standings, so to get a win against one of the two remaining undefeated teams is huge.
Quick start for the Heels, led by Isaiah Hicks. At the first media timeout, the Heels led 14-5. At that point, Hicks had six of the 14 points, three rebounds, one assist, and, most importantly, no fouls yet. Hicks was aggressive, taking his man off the dribble on several occasions. He eventually had 10 of UNC’s first 20 points.
Time to rejoice Tar Heel fans – Xavier Rathan-Mayes (the “Carolina Killer” as I refer to him) only scored six points!
Much more disciplined defense in this game after major issues against Wake Forest.
Tony Bradley’s absence was noticeable in the first half as the rest of the front line (Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Luke Maye) each picked up two fouls by the time there was 7:12 left in the half and Coach Williams had to continue to rotate all three guys into the game hoping that none of them would pick up their third. To their credit, none did. However, because of this…
The last 2:57 of the first half was played by a combination of Brandon Robinson (6’5”), Theo Pinson (6’6”), Justin Jackson (6’8”), Nate Britt (6’1”), Joel Berry (6’0”), and Kenny Williams (6’4”, who subbed in for Robinson with 1:21 left). This means Jackson played Center against the likes of FSU’s Michael Ojo who is 7’1”. In that span, the Heels were actually +3 in scoring.
13-21 on free throws in the first half was a bad sign, although, thankfully, FSU also missed eight free throws in the first 20 minutes. The Heels shot much better (13-16) in the second half, the Seminoles (6-12) did not.
Going back to foul problems, Hicks and Meeks both picked up their third fouls in the first four minutes of the second half. Then Justin Jackson picked up his third with 14:20. My reaction? “Uh-oh.” But Roy Williams coached a heck of a game managed the foul problems brilliantly.
Joel Berry missed another free throw. Is something wrong? Just kidding, nothing to worry about. He was 7-8 for the game and is still shooting 91.2% this season (#1 all-time for the Heels) and 85.9% for his career (also #1 all-time for the Heels)
Isaiah Hicks had one of the greatest and most athletic saves I’ve ever seen in a basketball game with 8:29 Resulted in two free throws for Joel Berry.
Theo Pinson’s first basket of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. Justin Jackson had just picked up his fourth foul with 5:53 to go. Kennedy Meeks was already on the bench with four. Xavier Rathan-Mayes made the first free throw. He missed the second, Pinson rebounded it, ran his own fast break, and then this happened:
Pinson later delivered a three to push the lead to 11 with 2:16 left. Pinson finished the game with his first career double-double (12 pts / 10 reb).
If it felt like Luke Maye was coming down with an inordinate amount of rebounds, it’s because he was – 15. Maye had never before finished with double-digit rebounds. This was a heck of a time to change that. As a team, the Heels outrebounded the monstrously tall and lengthy Seminoles 56-34. Five different players had at least six rebounds.
We’ve been waiting on that third scorer. Today it was Isaiah Hicks who had a career high 22. In fact, he, Justin Jackson (22), and Joel Berry (26) each had over 20 points.
Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 73-71 home win against Tennessee:
Let’s get this out of the way: this was not a pretty game, but it was a win. A game in which the Tar Heels were missing two starters, shot 2-17 from 3, and shot 13-24 from the free throw line.
Since returning from Maui (Indiana, Radford, Davidson, Tennessee), the fire, intensity, and urgency that was present to that point of the season appears to be gone. Joel Berry being out for the last 2.5 games doesn’t help matters. It could get really ugly next Saturday against Kentucky if the team can’t recapture the fire they played with in Maui.
After going down 30-15 with 7:35 left in the first half, there was a steal from Nate Britt, a steal by Kenny Williams, a forced 3-second violation and, less than two minutes later (5:40), the Heels are only down 9. All keyed by defense.
After cutting the lead to 8 just before halftime (on Justin Jackson’s first two points), the Heels had the lead down to two within the first two minutes of the second half. Another run keyed by defense.
Nate Britt (similar to most of his teammates) did not shoot the ball well, but he did have FIVE steals.
Hicks and Meeks each had 3 fouls by 2:30 into the second half and were rather ineffective.. They have to dominate games for this team to accomplish the goals it wants to. Thankfully, Tony Bradley played really well.
Too many mid-range, contested jumpers. In particular from Justin Jackson, who was struggling with his shot (3-for-15 FG, 0-for-6 3P). When the shots aren’t falling you have to get the ball to the rim.
Elevator screen on two straight plays in the second half. The first time, Kenny Williams couldn’t quite get through so the usual look at a 3 wasn’t there. The second time, Tony Bradley slipped the screen for a wide-open dunk when his man anticipated the screen and overplayed it to the top side. This was a thing of beauty.
Who hit the shot to tie the game at 50? None other than Stilman White. He’s filling a similar role to what Jackson Simmons did in recent years. The less-talented, but savvy veteran who comes in and gives a few solid minutes to help settle his team.
Great end-of-game substitution by Coach Williams. He subbed out Kennedy Meeks for the longer Tony Bradley, who promptly rewarded his coach’s decision by blocking Tennessee’s last shot.
Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 95-50 home win against Radford.
Kenny Williams scored 14 of the first 18 points, including 4-4 from three-point range. He had reached his career high in points five minutes into the game. Williams finished the game with 19 points, leading the way for the Heels.
Too many offensive rebounds in the first half for Radford. In fact, Isaiah Hicks found a seat on the bench after a couple missed block-outs.
After a hot start, there was a lull between the under-8:00 and under-4:00 media timeout of the first half. A couple missed bunnies inside, an early shot clock three from Joel Berry, a turnover by Berry before crossing half court.
After beginning the scoring, Kenny Williams beat the halftime buzzer to put the Heels over 50 for the first half.
With 17:36 left in the game, Joel Berry stepped on the foot of a Radford defender while driving and went down in a heap. Thankfully this was a game where Berry didn’t need to come back in. Coach Williams said the team will take precautionary X-rays to confirm a sprain, but that he is encouraged by the current assessment.
I wrote this before Joel Berry’s injury: Seventh Woods is extremely athletic, but often looks lost when he gives Joel Berry a breather. Hopefully this stretch of games leading up to ACC play will give him a chance to settle in more.
This is a completely different team with Joel Berry out. Hopefully it’s not a long-term injury. However, if there was a good time for Berry to be out, it’s this stretch of games before ACC play.
At this point in his development as a point guard, Seventh Woods is calling his own number too much.
After shooting well on free throws for the first seven games, this is the second game in a row where the Tar Heels struggled from the line. The team was a combined 18-29 (62.1%) against Radford. The main culprits were Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley, who shot a combined 5-13 (38.5%). Taking away those two players, the rest of the team was 13-16 (81.3%)
It seemed like Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Bradley each had rather pedestrian days, yet they wound up with a combined 35 points and 23 rebounds, with all three players scoring in double-digits.