Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-79 road win over Clemson on Saturday night.
- See what happened on that last play was…well…and then…okay, so…ummm….yeah. In all seriousness, you never expect to get a favorable call on the road in an end-of-game scenario, but that’s what happened. While it seemed like perhaps Garrison Brooks fouled Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell as he drove to the bucket in the waning seconds, the refs didn’t call it, so it wasn’t a foul and Carolina won by two. Coby White made a heads’ up play on that Clemson drive to save the ensuing loose ball to Garrison Brooks, who got the ball ahead to Kenny Williams. Williams wisely threw the ball ahead to the other end of the court where the clock ran out before Clemson could recover the ball and get a shot off.
- Yes, the clock was still running when Clemson recovered and the player got the shot off before the clock said zero. However, the clock had stopped for approximately 1.8 seconds during the scrum on the other end and Clemson’s Hail Mary was released with 0.2 remaining. So the shot wouldn’t have counted if it had gone; thusly Williams’ play was brilliant.
- While we all care a great deal about the results of a basketball game, the more important concern on Saturday was the health of Roy Williams. Just before halftime, Coach Williams went down with one of his bouts of vertigo that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from time to time. Unfortunately, this episode wasn’t one where he just popped back up and was fine. Coach was escorted to the locker room by Doug Halverson and Eric Hoots and did not return to the court for the rest of the game. Steve Robinson filled in admirably and helped guide the Heels to victory.
- With the win, Carolina is 8-0 on the road in ACC games. This means that a win at Boston College on Tuesday would be just the second time since the ACC expanded to 18 games in 2012-13 that a team has finished 9-0 on the road in conference play (Virginia achieved that feat last season).
- Coby White started the game on fire. In the first eight minutes, he had 14 points including four three-pointers. He finished with a game high 28 points, to go along with six rebounds, five assists, two steals, but unfortunately five turnovers. White now has 70 threes on the season, the second-most ever by a Tar Heel freshman. Rashad McCants holds the record with 72.
- Just another ho-hum double-double for Luke Maye (13 points, 10 rebounds), his twelfth of the year. Maye is tied for 15th all-time at Carolina with 854 rebounds and is 49th in points with 1286.
- Clemson big man Elijah Thomas is precisely the type of player the Heels have struggled with the past two seasons. He exploded for 10 points, nine rebounds, and two assists in the first half. However, a third foul early in the second half limited his production to just three more points, two more rebounds, and one assist.
- Welcome back Sterling Manley, now shoot two free throws with nobody standing on the lane. With 54 seconds remaining before halftime, Manley checked in for the first time since the Davidson game back on December 29 and immediately took an elbow to the face from Elijah Thomas. Thomas was assessed a Flagrant 1. Manley made one of two free throws and Cam Johnson hit a three on the ensuing possession.
- Speaking of Cam Johnson, he scored 19 points, 18 of which came from six three-pointers (on just eight attempts). The efficient shooting brought his season percentage from deep up to a ridiculous 48.1 percent. His 78 made threes so far this season is already tied for 15th in a single season in Carolina history.
- On the flip side of three-point shooting is Kenny Williams. He hasn’t hit from deep in four straight games and is 0-for-14 in that stretch. But as Kenny Williams does, he’s found other ways to contribute. In that same stretch he has 13 assists and just five turnovers. He has multiple drawn charges. It was Williams who huddled the team together to rally the troops and settle everyone down after Coach Williams’ vertigo episode. It was Williams who hit a couple mid-range shots down the stretch. It was Williams who grabbed Coby White to assure him after White prematurely fouled in the closing moments. It was Williams who hit three of four free throws to help seal the win. I’ll say it til I’m blue in the face: Senior. Leadership. Matters.
- There were some interesting line-up combinations on Saturday. For a stretch in both halves, Coby White and Seventh Woods were both on the floor, seemingly in an effort to get White some off-the-ball scoring opportunities. It will be interesting to see if Coach Williams utilizes this combination more going forward.
- Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks, and Coby White each finished the game with four fouls. Maye and Brooks played the last three minutes and change saddled with four. This is when the depth that Coach Williams develops each year becomes important. You never know when a similar scenario will happen going forward and the Heels will need to call on Brandon Huffman (& hopefully Sterling Manley) to provide some key minutes.
- Huffman and Manley both helped down the stretch of the first half. Huffman in particular showed great tenacity on the offensive boards leading to a Nassir Little put-back and and-one.
- To that end, 11 different players saw the court in the first half for Carolina. Keep in mind, this is with Leaky Black still on the bench in street clothes.
- A takeaway from this game will be end-of-game awareness. After a Cam Johnson three gave Carolina a seven-point lead with 1:15 to go, Coby White turned the ball over near mid-court. So instead of a seven point lead with under one minute remaining, Clemson cut the lead to five with still more than a minute. This was not the only issue, but the one that stands out the most as causing more end-of-game pressure than was necessary. That said, the Heels did what they needed to do from the free throw line to escape with a win, including making the front end of several 1-and-1s.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the final road game of the season against Boston College on Tuesday, March 5. Tip is at 8:00ET on Raycom and WatchESPN.
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