Tag Archives: Duke Blue Devils

Quick Hitters – UNC @ Boston College

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-66 road win over Boston College on Tuesday night.

Highlights:

  • Enjoy these games folks. The number of opportunities to see the 2018-19 edition of the Tar Heels is dwindling rapidly.
  • Carolina finishes 9-0 on the road in ACC play. Just the second team to do so in the 18-game conference era (starting in 2012-13). The other team to do it was Virginia, last year.
  • As far as ACC seeding goes, the Heels are still in position to finish anywhere between the one and the three seed. That will all be determined on Saturday.
  • Luke Maye keeps finding new ways to astound us. He grabbed a career high 20 rebounds tonight, to go along with 17 points, five assists, one block and two turnovers. And by the way this double-double, Maye’s 13th on the season – he had it taken care of by halftime with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

  • Meanwhile Cameron Johnson, who seems to have every incredible showing overshadowed by a teammate, turned in his own double with 22 points and 12 rebounds, to go along with five assists, one block, one steal and just one turnover.
  • Three other Tar Heels joined Maye and Johnson in scoring double figures – Coby White (11), Kenny Williams (11), Nassir Little (11). Additionally, five Tar Heels recorded three or more assists – Maye (five), Johnson (five) Williams (four), Brandon Robinson (four) and White (three).
  • Kudos to Coby White for his fewest number of turnovers in an ACC game. Before tonight, the freshman had turned the ball over multiple times in every conference match-up. However in this game he only turned the ball over once. A stat still to be achieved: Zero turnovers. White has at least one turnover in every game this season.

  • The rebounding discrepancy in this game was absurd. Carolina grabbed 60 total rebounds (20 offensive) to Boston College’s 35 for a +25 rebounding margin.
  • Carolina continues to be a sharp passing team. The Heels assisted on 10 of the first 13 made baskets and finished with 22 assists on 32 field goals. Coming into the game, Carolina was second in the country (19.3 assists per game) to only Belmont (20.1).
  • Boston College got off to a hot start behind, you guessed it, hot shooting from Ky Bowman who hit three three-pointers in the first 2:40 to put Carolina in an 11-6 hole. From that moment on, the Heels outscored Boston College 42-14 leading up to halftime.
  • Kenny Williams is off the schneid. After missing 15 straight three-point attempts, he hit two against Boston College. Williams’ ability to find his shooting stroke in March would be a huge boon to Carolina’s success in the postseason.

  • Particularly in the first half, Carolina did a good job defending without fouling. The first foul was committed with 9:47 remaining before halftime and the Heels finished those first 20 minutes with only four team fouls. While Boston College started off shooting hot (6-for-11), they were merely 3-for-26 the rest of the first half for a field goal percentage of 24.3 percent.
  • Scary moment midway through the second half. Nassir Little and Garrison Brooks fell to the court (with Brooks on top of Little) and Little screamed in obvious pain, but limped off the court under his own power. Around 5:00 of game action later he came back in and aggressively drove to the hoop and completed an alley-oop from Coby White on a baseline-out-of-bounds play. Perhaps a new phrase should be coined: the BLOB Lob.

  • The final score doesn’t indicate what a comfortable blowout this was. With 3:26 remaining and the Heels holding a 22-point lead, Roy Williams subbed in his second unit. Then with 1:29 left, Coach Williams brought in the walk-ons. All-the-while Boston College curiously kept their starters on the court. The Eagles sunk two three-pointers in the final 10 seconds of game action for the final 13-point margin.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is Senior Night (and the final regular season game of the year) on Saturday, March 9 against Duke. Tip is at 6:00 on ESPN. Make sure to stay tuned after the game for senior speeches from Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye and Kenny Williams.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Syracuse

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 93-85 home win over Syracuse on Tuesday night.

Highlights:

  • What a three game stretch. In the span of a week, the Heels have beaten three of the top six teams in the ACC by a combined 42 points and have guaranteed themselves a top three spot in the league with still three games to play. With Duke losing tonight, the Heels have a one-game lead over the Blue Devils and a half game lead over Virginia, who has played one fewer league game.
  • If Carolina wins out, they are assured of at least sharing the regular season title. However, due to the loss to Virginia a few weeks ago, should Virginia also win out, the Heels would be the two seed in the ACC Tournament.
  • On a poor shooting night for several players (Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams and Nassir Little were a combined 10-for-39), it was the free throw line that helped put the Heels over the edge. Those same four players were a combined 22-for-25 on freebies. As a team, Carolina shot 34-for-37 (91.9 percent). This season for the Heels, that is the most made free throws, the highest percentage on free throw shooting and tied for the most attempted free throws.
  • Meanwhile, Syracuse put on a three-point shooting clinic in the first half, including five from Elijah Hughes. However, Carolina did a much better job identifying him in the second half and not only held Hughes scoreless but limited him to two shots.
  • Ladies and Gentlemen, Coby White is apparently back. After a couple sub-par games White turned in a career high 34 points, including 6-for-11 from beyond the arc and 10-for-10 at the free throw line.

  • A nit-pick on an otherwise incredible night for the superb freshman – White needs to cut down on turnovers. On a night where Carolina as a team only turned the ball over nine times, he was responsible for four of those. In fact, White has committed multiple turnovers in every ACC game this season and is yet to record a turnover-less game in his young college career.
  • If I’m going to nit-pick I also need to heap praise: Coby White is the only (ONLY!!) freshman in the history of North Carolina men’s basketball to record three games of 30+ points. Please stop whatever it is that you’re currently doing, re-read that statement, think about the history of it, let it sink in, and then you may continue reading Quick Hitters.
  • While Luke Maye didn’t have a great shooting night, he did record 12 rebounds (now 16th on the all-time Carolina list with 844) and dish out a career high six assists while operating from what I’ll call the “Brice-Johnson-honorary-2-3-zone soft spot” near the free throw line. He did all that while only surrendering one turnover. Kenny Williams joined him in the “I’m-not-shooting-well-tonight-so-I’ll-do-other-stuff” club, recording five assists, just one turnover and hauling in six rebounds.
  • The contributions of Maye and Williams, amongst others, led to UNC assisting on 19 of 25 made baskets. The Syracuse zone certainly boggles a lot of teams, but Coach Williams seems to always have his team prepared to carve it up like a Thanksgiving turkey.
  • As is also usually the case against the Orange zone, the Tar Heels enjoyed a sizable lead in the rebounding battle. Carolina outrebounded Syracuse 46-25 and finished with more offensive rebounds (18) than Syracuse had defensive rebounds (17). For frame of reference, the Heels missed a total of 37 shots and rebounded 18 of them.
  • Syracuse got off to a hot start (and truthfully played a great game), shooting 6-for-7 to build a 15-6 lead. The Heels responded with an 8-0 run over 46 seconds to cut the lead to one. After that, the game was played very closely with neither team capable of building a double-digit lead until Carolina momentarily did so with 4:32 remaining and again in the last 30 seconds of the game.

  • As you can imagine, with Carolina shooting 37 free throws, Syracuse found themselves in a good deal of foul trouble. Paschal Chukwu, the big man in the middle, picked up two quick fouls in the first half and only played a total of 18 minutes. Additionally, the Heels fouled out two Syracuse players (Elijah Hughes and Marek Dolezaj) in the second half.
  • When Nassir Little decides to attack, he draws so many fouls. There were at least three in the first half. This version of the freakishly athletic freshman makes Carolina a very difficult team to contend with. Little did receive a pretty serious eye-poke in the closing moments of the game. Hopefully it won’t cause any lasting issues and he’ll be ready to go for Saturday’s game at Clemson.
  • Remember earlier in ACC play when Seventh Woods came in the game and didn’t play very well? It seems he’s turned a corner over the past couple weeks as Coby White has had some struggles. Tonight Woods had three assists, zero turnovers and just two points. But the two points gave Carolina a six-point lead just as Syracuse had made a run to close the gap. Two of the three assists then happened in just over the next minute of game time.

  • While the Heels lived at the free throw line, they did a good job of not fouling Syracuse in the first half. They committed only one through the first twelve minutes of game time. The free throw discrepancy in the first half was 19-for-21 for Carolina versus 2-for-5 for Syracuse.
  • The closing of halves has been important in multiple games lately. Tonight was the same. Syracuse held an eight-point lead with 90 seconds to go before halftime. Carolina cut the lead to three and even had a decent look at a three to tie at the buzzer. From there, the Heels went on a 15-3 run to start the second half and build a 58-49 lead.
  • Just because you need it in your life, here’s an absurd dunk from Caleb Ellis during tonight’s pre-game:

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 Clemson on Saturday, March 2. Tip is at 6:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Florida State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-59 home win over Florida State on Saturday afternoon.

Highlights:

  • Hangover from Duke game? Nah. If anything, the Heels were even more focused. Perhaps they were desperate to prove that Wednesday’s result wasn’t just some aberration due to Zion Williamson’s absence. Besides, in the Roy Williams era, Carolina has never (NEVER) lost the game after the first Duke game. After today’s win the Heels are now 16-0 in those games. So what was there to worry about?
  • It might not seem like it to casual fans, but given the circumstances, this might have been the biggest win of the season. Carolina is coming off the emotions of the Duke game. FSU was on an 8 game winning streak. The stakes were high given the ACC standings and the need to keep pace with Virginia and Duke, while keeping Florida State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Louisville at bay.
  • This is back-to-back Saturdays in which Cam Johnson had a big game coming off an ankle injury. Last week he dropped 27 on Wake Forest, including seven made threes. Today he got his second double-double of the year with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
  • By the way, is there a more underrated player in the country than Cameron Johnson? Is it because of the legend of Luke Maye? Or perhaps the hype given to freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little? Hopefully Johnson will begin to get the national attention he deserves based on the year he’s having.
  • Staying with the theme of working back from ankle injuries, Nassir Little has appeared to still be hampered by his even though he has been playing. Today, however, was a different story. Little attacked from the second he got on the court and wound up making more free throws than anyone else in the game attempted. In fact, Little had two monstrous dunks. One came in the first half when he drove and dunked over one of the Seminole behemoths inside. The other was on a put-back when nobody bothered to box out the most athletic man on the court. Little finished tied with Johnson for a game-high 18 points. Here’s both dunks:
  • Those 18 points, along with production from the rest of the bench were hugely important against a deep Florida State team. You think Roy Williams plays a lot of people? Leonard Hamilton plays a lot of people. Nine Seminoles made it to double-digits in minutes. And although the Seminoles led the bench scoring category, as expected, Carolina kept it to a respectable 33-24.
  • Against Florida State, Carolina often struggles with length and athleticism. And yet today Carolina dominated the interior numbers. After what many considered to be an aberration on Wednesday night due to the Zion Williamson absence, the Heels proved they score in the paint with anyone by leading that category 28-12 over the Seminoles. Additionally, thanks to a strong gang rebounding effort, the Heels topped that category 47-32 (including a 13-6 lead in offensive rebounds).
  • Florida State makes a habit of living at the free throw line. A big question coming into the game was, “Can Carolina stay out of foul trouble and keep the Noles off the line?” By way of answer, the Heels made 18 free throws and FSU attempted 16. Sooooo….”yes”.
  • The three point shooting got off to another sluggish start. Carolina hit two of 11 in the first half, but finished a respectable 7-for-20. Early in the season, the Heels really struggled to win games where they didn’t shoot well. This week they beat the number one and 16 teams in the country while shooting a combined 9-for-40 from three. Good for the Tar Heels. Bad for the rest of the country.
  • After these most recent two wins, the Heels are 7-3 against ranked teams this season. Importantly, after a 2-2 start in those games, Carolina has won five of the last six.

  • Coby White played a sluggish first half but came out and scored six of his 10 points early in the second half to help push the three-point halftime lead out.
  • Thanks to the results of Saturday’s other games, the top three ACC teams (Carolina, Virginia and Duke) are each 12-2 and hold a three game lead over the next closest teams in the standings. Additionally, if Carolina beats Syracuse on Tuesday, they’ll have locked up no worse than the third seed and a double bye in the ACC Tournament.
  • Thanks to yet another strong defensive showing, Carolina’s defensive efficiency is now catching up to the offense. The Heels are just one of five teams nationally in the top ten of both offensive and defensive efficiency in KenPom. They are seventh in offense and tenth in defense. The other four teams are Virginia, Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky.

  • Garrison Brooks continues to grow in his discipline as a player. In other games this season, two first half fouls would have completely taken him out of his game. Today he didn’t commit any other fouls and in fact was responsible for drawing the third fouls on both Seminole big men in the second half.
  • Brandon Robinson didn’t have a huge statistical game, but he did have an important stretch midway through the first half. He also snatched a BIG TIME rebound away from 7’4” Christ Koumadje a couple minutes later in the first half.
  • Florida State hit a three with 10:36 remaining to cut the lead to four. This was as close as the game had been since just after halftime. Over the course of the next 90 seconds Carolina went on an 8-0 run, which included two Luke Maye threes. The run extended out to 16-1 and Florida State didn’t hit another field goal until 1:57 remained in the game.

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 Syracuse on Tuesday, February 26. Tip is at 9:00ET on Raycom and WatchESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-72 road win over Duke on Wednesday night.

Highlights:

  • 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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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Wake Forest

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 95-57 road win over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon.

Highlights:

 

  • There was some legitimate concern heading into this game. Saturday noon starts have not exactly yielded the best version of 2018-19 North Carolina Basketball. Would Cam Johnson’s ankle be okay? Would Nassir Little’s? Would the Tar Heels overlook Wake Forest with a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium looming on Wednesday evening? Forget all that. Carolina came out guns blazing and by the time Wake finally scored with 13:31 left in the first half the Heels were up 18-0 and went on to record the most lopsided victory (38 point margin) in the history of this rivalry.
  • As has been the case of late, this flurry to start the game was fueled on the defensive end of the court.
  • Perhaps Cam Johnson should tweak his ankle more often. He scored the first points of the game (a three-pointer, of course) and went on to hit his first eight shots (six of which were threes). Johnson finished with 27 points on an efficient 10-for-13 shooting including 7-for-10 from deep.
  • Staying with the “ankle injury” theme, Nassir Little seemed to be playing all right, although not as aggressive as usual. He did dive after a loose ball and absorb contact on multiple occasions without showing ill effect.
  • Congratulations to Luke Maye whose seven rebounds give him 805 for his career. He becomes just the 21st Tar Heel to break 800.
  • Carolina out-rebounded Wake, but only 39-36. In fact, the Deacons had more offensive rebounds than Carolina did (18-9). Granted Carolina also had 22 fewer missed shots than their opponents.
  • The Heels shot 62.3 percent (38-61) for the game; the best percentage so far this season. The previous high was 56.1 in the blowout of NC State. In the first half, Carolina shot 74.1 percent (20-27); the best percentage for one half of play this season. The previous high for one half is 64.0 percent in the second half of the Miami comeback last Saturday.
  • Although this was a game with many positives, there were two troublesome stats. The first was turnovers. Carolina finished with 15 turnovers, 11 of which came in the first half. Senior Luke Maye was responsible for five of the turnovers, four of which happened in the first 12:30 of game action.
  • The second troubling stat involved the free throw line. The Heels missed their first six shots and finished just 3-for-11.

  • Carolina is now 6-0 on the road in ACC play.
  • Thanks to this victory and Notre Dame’s loss, the worst seed Carolina can receive in the ACC Tournament is 10. If Boston College loses on Sunday, the worst possible seed changes to nine, which means the Heels will have already clinched a first round bye.
  • One of the best by-products of such a dominant victory is the rest it afforded the starters. Only one player, Cam Johnson, reached the 30 minute mark.
  • It was a good day for the reserves. Seventh Woods scored nine points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting. Brandon Robinson chipped in eight points, Brandon Huffman six, Nassir Little five, and Andrew Platek five. 14 Tar Heels played and 13 scored at least one point. Additionally, 12 recorded at least one rebound.
  • Maybe the craziest stat of the game – EIGHT different Tar Heels connected on a three-pointer.

  • Often times, when teams get out to a hot start, they get lazy and the second half gets ugly. Not true today. The Tar Heels continued to pad the lead in the second half and only turned the ball over four times.
  • This was not an eye-popping performance from Coby White (on his birthday!). However, his stat line was the exact type of balance the Tar Heels need from him – 10 points, six assists, two turnovers, five rebounds, and three steals.
  • Great fast break to stretch lead back to 28 with :30 left before halftime. Andrew Platek got what appeared to be a block (although not credited with one). Coby White picked up the loose ball and threw a long pass to Cam Johnson who found a cutting Luke Maye for the lay-up. Enjoy:

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 Duke on Wednesday, February 20. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN & Raycom.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Louisville

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-69 road win on Saturday afternoon over Louisville.

Highlights:

  • What a huge win for Carolina. In addition to the revenge factor, the victory allows the Heels to keep pace with Duke and Virginia atop the ACC standings.
  • Just eight games into conference play Carolina has already secured a winning road record in ACC games, by achieving a 5-0 start. With five of the first eight conference games being on the road, this also means that six of the remaining 10 are at home.
  • In the previous match-up in Chapel Hill, the Heels played uninspired and uninterested. That was not the case today as the boys in baby blue were the aggressors from tip to final horn. This was most evident on the defensive end of the court. For example, Steven Enoch, who abused Carolina inside in the first game for 17 points and 11 rebounds, finished with zero points on 0-1 shooting and four rebounds.
  • The 10 turnovers today tied for the second-fewest committed by Carolina all season. No single player had more than two. Most importantly, Coby White had four assists against two turnovers, while Seventh Woods also had four assists and zero turnovers. Coach Williams will be pleased with an 8:2 assist-to-turnover ratio from his two primary ballhandlers.
  • There will be games where the freshmen dominate the headlines. Then there will be games like today when the seniors combined for 49 of the team’s 79 points.
  • Louisville outrebounded Carolina in the first game (40-31). Not today. The Heels went from the -9 of the first game to +17 today (49-32). In fact, the Cardinals didn’t corral a single offensive rebound until after halftime. On the other hand Carolina tied their second-highest offensive rebound output of the season with 18.

  • Nine players saw time on the court for Carolina. Nine players scored. Nine players recorded a rebound. Seven players recorded an assist.
  • Luke Maye finished the Georgia Tech game with a meager four points. He responded today with 20 points and 11 rebounds. It wasn’t a great shooting day (7-for-18), but what a great response from the senior. Here’s Maye talking about the game:
  • Louisville typically makes a living at the line. Today, they only took nine free throws. So not only were the Tar Heels the aggressors, but they did so without fouling. Meanwhile, Carolina made more free throws (15), than the nine that Louisville took.
  • Louisville made push after push in the second half to try and get back in the game. Carolina had an answer every time. Kenny Williams, in particular, had two important threes in these situations. Williams also had a monster defensive rebound in the first half which resulted in a Cam Johnson three and the first double-digit lead of the day.
  • After the first game against Louisville, one of the storylines was that Carolina would have to shoot better than 3-for-22 from deep. The Tar Heels did shoot better, but only marginally so (6-for-24). It’s been said of this team that they have to find a way to win when the outside shots aren’t falling, and today they did.
  • Another stat that needed to be remedied from game one was Coby White’s minutes (and points). Due to foul trouble, he only played 19 in the first match-up and scored four points. Today he played 30 minutes, but shot 3-for-14 and finished with eight points. It’s also been said of this team that they have to find a way to win when Coby White doesn’t shoot well, and today they did.
  • Part of the reason the Heels were able to do so was the steady hand of Seventh Woods. Woods has struggled recently, but had to do well today because there was no Leaky Black to play third-string point guard. Here’s Woods talking about his play today:
  • Brandon Huffman played some important minutes in the first half after Garrison Brooks picked up his second foul. Huffman played solid interior defense and scored a bucket off a post-up.
  • Despite the two first half fouls, Garrison Brooks played a really solid game. He scored 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He scored two interior buckets early in the second half and a few minutes later had a dunk in transition.
  • The first four minutes of each half are always important, but especially on the road. At the first media timeout of the game the Heels led 10-9. The halftime lead was 16 and at the first media timeout of the second half Louisville was only able to knock the lead down one to 15.
  • Nassir Little just continues to make ridiculous athletic plays. He had a tip-in in the closing minutes of the first half that had no business going in. He also had this block on a really nice defensive play:
  • Cameron Johnson posted another double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He didn’t miss a shot in the first half – 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting, 2-for-2 from deep, 2-for-2 from the line.

 

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 NC State on Tuesday, February 5. Tip is at 8:00ET on Raycom.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Elon

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 116-67 road win on Friday night over Elon.

Highlights:

  • Let’s not bury the lead: rebounding was the story of the game. 60 rebounds for Carolina. First time to haul in 60 boards since grabbing 64 against Duke on March 5, 2016. Additionally, the Heels had more offensive boards (24) than Elon had defensive boards (21). And those offensive rebounds led to:

  • A point of concern has been turnovers. That number continued to shrink tonight, with Carolina only surrendering 11. Most importantly, the point guards combined for only one of those 11.
  • Garrison Brooks did not have the same numbers as he did against Wofford, but was solid. Seven points on 3-for-5 shooting, six rebounds, and three steals in 16 minutes. Sterling Manley had a much more productive night: 11 points and eight boards in 15 minutes. A combined 18 points & 14 boards in 31 minutes is great production from the center position.
  • Remember last year when Cam Johnson only shot 34% from deep? Two games is an admittedly small sample size, but he is 7-for-10 so far this year. Additionally he hasn’t missed a free throw yet and is leading the team in scoring. Impressively, as well as Johnson is shooting, he’s still looking for his teammates. Against Wofford, a lob in the lane to Garrison Brooks. Against Elon, a kick out to Coby White for a three in transition. In both instances, Johnson could have taken the shot and no one would have batted an eye. But in both instances he found a better shot. Here’s Johnson talking about his shot:
  • Last year, Carolina had to rely heavily on the starters for consistent offensive production. While tonight’s game was admittedly against Elon, the bench contributed 65 points.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Tar Heel guards will need to do better at stopping dribble penetration (which leads to wide open threes) going forward. After allowing the Phoenix to shoot 57% from the field in the first half, Carolina buckled down in the last 20 minutes and allowed a paltry 16% field goal percentage.
  • Leaky Black is the type of guy that might wind up with a triple-double on his résumé before he leaves Chapel Hill. The rangy freshman finished tonight with eight points, six boards, five assists, zero turnovers and a steal in just 15 minutes.
  • 10 different Tar Heels scored…in the FIRST HALF. All 15 available players scored a point in the game (Walker Miller was out with an injury).

  • Poor Kenny Williams can’t buy a basket right now. He still hasn’t made a field goal and his only point in the first two games is one made free throw. As has been documented, Williams is impacting the games in multiple other ways. His shot will come around (unless his shoulder injury from the other night is worse than we know).
  • More on the point guards: Coby White (14 points, three boards, two assists, a turnover and a steal), traditionally a score-first point guard, is still learning how to balance when to hunt his shot and when to distribute. He is young, relentlessly fast, can light it up and will have a long leash. Be patient with him Tar Heel fans. Remember than playing point guard for Roy Williams is one of the most difficult things in college basketball. Seventh Woods (three points, three boards, five assists, one block and zero turnovers) looked the most comfortable I’ve ever seen him. He is in control, setting others up and making good play for himself. Here’s White talking about adjusting to the point guard role:
  • Having more offensive firepower this year is allowing Luke Maye to somehow fly under the radar. He scored 24 points against Wofford and it was an afterthought. He had a near double-double tonight (eight points, 10 boards) and it’s just business as usual. He’s a career below 60% free throw shooter who is shooting 91% so far this year. The lack of attention will hopefully allow Maye to be more fresh as the season wears on.
  • Is it time to talk about Nassir Little now? This guy can do a little bit of everything. Hit threes. Block shots. Dunk ferociously. Play defense. Despite an authoritative tip-dunk at the end of first half, Little’s first huge highlight reel dunk came with just under 14:00 left in the game after stealing an Elon pass and finding himself alone on the break. Little is beautifully not forcing anything at this point, just playing within the flow of the team. He is very “North Carolina”.

Roy Williams post-game press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is Carolina’s home opener against Stanford on Monday, November 12. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN2.

The Road Less Traveled

As you look at North Carolina’s 2018-19 men’s basketball schedule, something curious jumps off the page about the first two games. The Tar Heels are beginning their season by playing back-to-back true non-conference road games – against Wofford (who won in the Smith Center last year) and Elon.

“What is Roy Williams thinking?” you ask yourself. “Major programs like Carolina don’t have to take road games. They can get anyone they want to come to Chapel Hill.”

Here’s the thing: playing away from home in the non-conference part of the schedule actually isn’t a strange phenomenon or outlier for Coach Williams and the Tar Heels.

But just how does Carolina’s scheduling stack up against programs of a similar ilk?

Why go on the road?

Of the country’s historically successful major college basketball programs, most only venture away from home when they absolutely have to. Some coaches will argue that conference and NCAA Tournament games are all played on a neutral court, so it’s pointless to schedule true non-conference road games.

To only look ahead to postseason tournaments, however, is to miss the mark. Half of the regular season conference match-ups are true road games. The results of these games play a huge factor in conference seeding, which ultimately helps determine a team’s seed in the NCAA Tournament. To fail to test your team on the road in the non-conference portion of the schedule is to set them up for failure when they go on the road in conference games.

Criteria

To determine how the Tar Heels compare to other programs in this metric, I examined the 10 winningest programs of all time. I looked at the past 10 schedules for each of these programs (from the 2009-2010 season through the upcoming 2018-2019 season) to determine which teams were willing to go prove themselves outside the friendly confines of their home gym. To be included, a team had to have been in a BCS / Power 5 conference for each of those 10 seasons. This stipulation ruled out Temple (#5), St. John’s (#9), BYU (#12) and Utah (#14).

The list is therefore whittled down to these 10 (in order of all-time wins):

  • Kentucky (#1 | 2,263 wins)
  • Kansas (#2 | 2,248)
  • UNC (#3 | 2,232)
  • Duke (#4 | 2,144)
  • Syracuse (#6 | 1,884)
  • UCLA (#7 | 1,870)
  • Notre Dame (#8 | 1,866)
  • Louisville (#10 | 1,825)
  • Indiana (#11 | 1,817)
  • Arizona (#14 | 1,796)

Which teams are willing to consistently schedule true regular season non-conference road games?

What do the schedules reveal?

After studying each program, one team stands out above the rest. Below is the total number of true non-conference road games each of the programs scheduled during the 10-year period evaluated (from most to least):

  • North Carolina – 24
  • Arizona – 19
  • Louisville – 17
  • Kansas – 16
  • Kentucky – 13
  • Indiana – 11
  • Syracuse – 10
  • Duke – 9
  • UCLA – 9
  • Notre Dame – 7

Additionally, there are interesting takeaways concerning these blue-bloods and their scheduling of true non-conference road games (or lack thereof) strewn throughout the research.

In the 10-year span…

  • Carolina is the only team of the 10 to have multiple true non-conference road games in each of the 10 seasons.
  • Carolina is the only team to amass more than 20 true non-conference road games.
  • Carolina has four seasons (including each of the last three) with three true non-conference road games. No other team on the list has more than one.
  • In five of the 10 seasons evaluated, Duke and Notre Dame have scheduled precisely 0 (ZERO!!) true non-conference road games.
  • For the past eight years, Duke has only voluntarily scheduled two true non-conference road games. Those were both at Madison Square Garden, which only technically counts as St. John’s second home arena.
  • Notre Dame has by far the most putrid total of true non-conference road games with seven. Of those seven, only four were voluntary. The other three are all Big 10 / ACC road games.

Take Aways

Last season, I wrote a piece about Carolina’s road success in conference games over the previous seven years. Prior to last year’s 4-5 conference road record, the Heels had recorded seven straight seasons of a winning conference road record. Meanwhile, the rest of the conference fell miserably short of that level of success.

Think that type of achievement is pure happenstance? Think again. The road to success in conference road games is paved in the non-conference portion of the schedule. By exposing his team to hostile road environments early in the season, Roy Williams is preparing them to succeed away from home when it matters most – on the road in the country’s most difficult conference. The road to success is a road less traveled.

For reference, below is a table with each team’s true non-conference road games over the past 10 years:

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina‘s 90-83 win over Duke:

  1. I wrote this down with about four minutes left in the game: “Win or lose, these two regular season games between North Carolina and Duke have been incredible.” I stand by it. Even though the final margins were eight and seven, both games were played at such a high level. Tonight’s game had 18 (EIGHTEEN!) lead changes in the first half.
  2. Love the senior night tradition of starting the seniors, even the walk-ons. This year was particularly fun because there are exactly five seniors who make up a sensible line-up – Nate BrittStilman WhiteKanler CokerIsaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks.
  3. Heels finish the year undefeated at home – 16-0.
  4. I did not like hearing the crowd chanting “overrated” at Harry Giles. The poor kid has struggled with knee injuries and surgeries. Not classy. Sorry, Duke fans.
  5. You might recall that the Tar Heels scored just 43 points Monday night against Virginia, a Roy Williams-era low. When did they hit 43 in this game? With 2:55 left in the first half. In fact, it was a huge basket of a pretty cut by Brandon Robinson to put Carolina back in the lead.
  6. There are many things to point to as the “main factor” in this game. One of them was Isaiah Hicks, who missed the first Duke game with an injury, and has not played well of late. Can’t overstate how huge it was to have him back on the floor this time. On Hicks’ senior night, he scored 21 points, had nine rebounds, shot 7-8 from the free throw line, and, most importantly, only had two fouls. He picked up both fouls in the first half but then did a fantastic job in the second half of moving his feet and not fouling. He needs to learn, as Jay Bilas said tonight, that “you can get a basket back, but you can’t get a foul back.” Also, let’s just never talk about that missed dunk. Okay? Okay, great.
  7. Congrats also to Isaiah Hicks for becoming the fourth Tar Heel this year to reach 1,000 points for his career. Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson, and Joel Berry also hit that mark this year.
  8. As well as Hicks played, Joel Berry is the MVP of this game. 28 points on 5-5 from deep. Several huge shots down the stretch. His performance, particularly in the first half, was very reminiscent of the National Championship.
  9. As hot as Berry was, Justin Jackson really struggled with his shot in this game. He started off 0-6 from deep before getting his seventh to fall. However, following that made three-pointer he had several nice assists and finished with four assists and no turnovers.
  10. As good a year as Jackson has had, I’ve got to give the Conference Player of the Year to Luke Kennard. He matched Joel Berry’s 28 points and hit tough shot after tough shot, often with really good defense in his face. In a year of inconsistency for Duke, Kennard has brought consistency and is the most indispensible player on that team.
  11. The Tar Heels were much better at running Duke off the three-point line tonight than in the first game. The Blue Devils had 13 made threes in the first game and seven tonight. That’s a big deal.
  12. Another key in this game was the free throw line. The numbers heavily favored Duke for most of the game, and indeed they outscored Carolina 28-16 from the line. However, after starting off 25-28 from the free throw line, the Blue Devils shot 3-7 after the under 4:00 media timeout.

Does Duke Dominate the ACC?

As I sat in the discouraging aftermath of Villanova’s 2016 National Championship, not only was the loss hard, but the impending personnel loss weighed heavy as well. This was the end of an era. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, the players responsible for 35 of Carolina’s 74 points that night, including the final 10, would never again don a University of North Carolina Tar Heel uniform.

As the offseason unfolded, things got worse as I realized how loaded Duke’s roster would be in the 2016-17 season. Just days after Marcus Paige’s miraculous three-pointer, Grayson Allen announced he was coming back to school for his junior year. A few weeks later, big man Amile Jefferson was granted another year of eligibility after a foot injury held him out most of the 2015-16 season. Duke had already signed three of the top 10 recruits in the class (depending on which recruiting site you go by), but then another top 20 recruit (Marques Bolden) picked the Blue Devils over Kentucky. Once again, Duke was picked to run away with not only the ACC Championship, but also the National Championship.

I realized I was beginning to have this fear that Duke was dominating the ACC year after year after year and that no one else could keep up with their talent, recruiting, and on-court victories. My perception was that the Blue Devils were in a class of their own of late, winning all sorts of regular season and conference championships.

So I decided to actually look at the results to help confirm my suspicions.

This is Roy Williams’ 14th season coaching the Tar Heels. Here are the ACC regular season conference champions during that span:

  • 2004 – Duke
  • 2005 – North Carolina
  • 2006 – Duke
  • *2007 – North Carolina, Virginia
  • 2008 – North Carolina
  • 2009 – North Carolina
  • *2010 – Duke, Maryland
  • 2011 – North Carolina
  • 2012 – North Carolina
  • 2013 – Miami
  • 2014 – Virginia
  • 2015 – Virginia
  • 2016 – North Carolina
  • *2017 – North Carolina (Notre Dame can share the championship if they win and North Carolina loses today)

*the ACC allows co-champions when teams tie, regardless of head-to-head results. Notre Dame can tie North Carolina this year if the Irish beat Louisville today AND the Heels lose to Duke.

Looking at the results, North Carolina actually has eight regular season championships, compared to Duke’s three. Virginia also has three, but no other school has more than one. Okay, I guess I can breathe a little easier.

If it isn’t regular season championships, perhaps my feelings of Duke’s domination of the ACC are based on ACC Tournament championships. Here are the results of the championship game for the past ten years:

  • 2007 – North Carolina 89 – NC State 80
  • 2008 – North Carolina 86 – Clemson 81
  • 2009 – Duke 79 – Florida State 69
  • 2010 – Duke 65 – Georgia Tech 61
  • 2011 – Duke 75 – North Carolina 58
  • 2012 – Florida State 85 – North Carolina 82
  • 2013 – Miami 87 – North Carolina 77
  • 2014 – Virginia 72 – Duke 63
  • 2015 – Notre Dame 90 – North Carolina 82
  • 2016 – North Carolina 61 – Virginia 57

So that’s not it either. North Carolina and Duke have each won three ACC Tournament championships in the past ten years. In fact, during that ten-year span, the Tar Heels have made the ACC Championship game seven times while the Blue Devils have only advanced to the final four times. Interestingly, a different team has won the ACC Tournament each of the past six years.

Taking a deeper look, Duke has actually not won an ACC regular season or tournament championship since the conference expanded to 15 teams in the 2013-14 season.

Maybe if we expand the scope further, we can uncover my fears of Duke supremacy. Perhaps my worries are due to the fact that Duke has had more success that Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Here are the NCAA Tournament results for both teams in the Roy Williams era:

  • 2004 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Final Four
  • 2005 – UNC: National Champions; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2006 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2007 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: First Round
  • 2008 – UNC: Final Four; Duke: Second Round
  • 2009 – UNC: National Champions; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2010 – UNC: NIT Finalist; Duke: National Champions
  • 2011 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2012 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: First Round
  • 2013 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Elite Eight
  • 2014 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: First Round
  • 2015 – UNC: Sweet Sixteen; Duke: National Champions
  • 2016 – UNC: Finalist; Duke: Sweet Sixteen

North Carolina:

  • National Champion – 2
  • Finalist – 1
  • Final Four – 1
  • Elite Eights – 3
  • Sweet Sixteen – 1
  • Second Round – 4
  • First Round – 0
  • NIT Finalist – 1

Duke:

  • National Champion – 2
  • Finalist – 0
  • Final Four – 1
  • Elite Eight – 1
  • Sweet Sixteen – 5
  • Second Round – 1
  • First Round – 3
  • NIT – 0

These results don’t point to Duke dominance either. In the 13 NCAA Tournaments of the Roy Williams era at North Carolina, both teams have two National Championships to their name. The Tar Heels were relegated to the NIT the year after the 2009 championship, while the Blue Devils have made the NCAA Tournament each year. Carolina has never lost in the first round (the REAL first round) of the NCAA Tournament in the Williams era, while Duke has been knocked out three times at that level. Carolina’s biggest advantage in NCAA Tournament success is that they have made it to the Elite Eight or beyond in seven of the 13 years, while Duke has advanced that far four times. Needless to say, NCAA Tournament results also do not explain my fear of Duke dominance.

Perhaps my worries are unfounded? Maybe my fears are irrational and Duke hasn’t actually dominated the ACC?

Then it hit me. I needed to narrow my scope, not broaden it. Here is Carolina’s record against Duke each year of the Roy Williams era:

  • 2003-04 – 0-2
  • 2004-05 – 1-1
  • 2005-06 – 1-1
  • 2006-07 – 2-0
  • 2007-08 – 1-1
  • 2008-09 – 2-0
  • 2009-10 – 0-2
  • 2010-11 – 1-2
  • 2011-12 – 1-1
  • 2012-13 – 0-2
  • 2013-14 – 1-1
  • 2014-15 – 0-2
  • 2015-16 – 1-1
  • 2016-17 – 0-1

In the Roy Williams era at North Carolina, the Tar Heels have a total record of 11-17 against Duke. Duke holds a comfortable lead in the series during this time span, but since Carolina’s 2009 championship, the Blue Devils have absolutely dominated. From the 2010-11 season through the present, the Tar Heels have a 4-12 record against Duke.

Mystery solved. My fears of Duke ACC dominance are actually based on the fact that they have absolutely owned North Carolina head-to-head in the Roy Williams era. It is always nice to beat your rival, but, at the end of the day, give me the championships every time!

 

 

Will tonight’s regular season finale be a turning point in the series for the Tar Heels? Or will it be a step in the right direction for a Duke team that was supposed to run away with the 2016-17 season?