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