Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 83-76 home-ish win over Notre Dame. Every win down the stretch, in which the Heels face a crazy gauntlet of opponents, is big. After a crazy week of college basketball, this win solidified the Heels alone in first atop the ACC at 9-2, with a whole slew of teams bunched together right behind them.
First, a note. I didn’t have the opportunity to post Quick Hitters after the Pittsburgh game, but wanted to make sure to say congrats to Kennedy Meeks for becoming just the 11th player in UNC history for amassing 900 career rebounds.
I don’t like to criticize the refs, so I won’t.
This was the second time this season the Heels have had a game delayed. Last time was the 51-point NC State blow out. This one was indeed closer, but the Heels are 2-0 in delayed games.
It was really nice to see a team come out and play man-to-man after a streak of majority zone defenses. Notre Dame did, however, sprinkle in 2-3 zone on several inbounds plays and other half-court possessions throughout the game.
After several games of lackadaisical defense, this game featured a more aggressive and locked-in defense effort from the Tar Heels. Most notably, the there was an apparent renewed effort to stop dribble penetration.
Kennedy Meeks had four rebounds before the first media timeout and finished the game with 8. He would have had more, were it not for second half foul trouble, including fouling out with 5:14 remaining in the game.
Poor FT shooting – 4-10 to start the game. Including 0-2 from Justin Jackson, 1-2 from Tony Bradley, and 3-6 from Kennedy Meeks. Joel Berry, the potential all-time leader at UNC for FT%, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 6:48 left in the game. You can’t do that against the #2 team in the nation in FT percentage. For the game, Carolina shot 17-28 (60.7%) and Notre Dame was 17-20 (85%).
This was another game in which the Heels obliterated their opponents on the boards. The margin in this game was 19 (44-25). In fact, Carolina almost had more offensive rebounds (17) than Notre Dame did defensive rebounds (18). Perhaps the best stat of the day is that all 10 players that saw time on the court day had at least one rebound.
Justin Jackson and Joel Berry a combined 1-9 from three in the first half. Started 0-8 before Jackson connected.
While Berry and Jackson were struggling, it was Kenny Williams who picked up the slack. He shot 3-4 from deep and had 11 total points. In fact, it was Williams (as per usual) who was the spark plug in this game. He had 3 assists and zero turnovers. Perhaps his best play of the day however, came with 10:35 remaining in the game. UNC was up 65-53 and Notre Dame had gained a good deal of momentum. Williams stepped into the lane and drew a charge from Steve Vasturia.
Though Joel Berry and Nate Britt didn’t score in the first half, they had 8 assists combined.
Great scoring balance. 6 different Heels scored in double figures (Jackson – 16, Hicks – 14, Berry and Bradley – 12, Meeks and Williams – 11) in a game where the team had 83.
Theo Pinson missed his 3rd game in a row, however he was out on the court before the game going through drills and looked to be in good form. This is a (hopefully) good sign for him suiting up on Thursday night against Duke. I thought his absence today might be the Tar Heels’ undoing because of Notre Dame’s desire to spread the floor and drive, which would necessitate a good deal of small ball.
Though this version of the Tar Heels are not known for their shot-blocking prowess, the team had 6 (including 3 from Tony Bradley) today.
Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 77-62 road loss to Miami
This is one of those games where you wish you could burn the tape and never speak of it again. In all reality, you could see this coming: The Tar Heels were on the road, less than 48 hours after their last game, against an athletic Miami team, and without the spark plug known as Theo Pinson. The ACC is so deep and so tough to win on the road.
Think the absence of Pinson matters? Similar to the Indiana and Kentucky games, the length and athleticism of the Miami guards really caused problems.
I’ll say this now: North Carolina does not win the ACC OR make the Final Four without a healthy Theo Pinson.
Pinson’s absence alone isn’t too much to overcome on most nights;but that, coupled with Joel Berry’s forgettable game, spelled trouble for Carolina. Berry finished with two points, zero made field goals, one rebound, and two turnovers. On the bright side, Berry did have four assists and a steal.
After 22 first half points, it was safe to say that the streak of seven straight games of scoring 85+ points was not going to extend to eight. Indeed, the Tar Heels finished with 62 points – the lowest point total of the season.
At some point in the season, for this UNC team to put it all together, there will have to be a re-dedication to the defensive tenacity shown in the first couple games of the season. Today, the Heels really struggled to guard the dribble drive. Typically, this happens down the stretch (the ’09 championship comes to mind). This team has the capability to be lights out defensively (especially with Pinson on the floor), and I would imagine we will see that tenacity come out down the wire.
It was a hot start to the game. The Heels jumped out to an 11-2 lead, including the first nine points being spread amongst four players (Berry, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Justin Jackson). However…
Miami took a timeout at 16:27 after UNC went up 11-2. They switched to a suffocating 2-3 zone and outscored Carolina 37-11 the rest of the half. This game showed the difference between when shots are falling against the zone (Virginia Tech) and when they aren’t (Georgia Tech, Miami). Since the shots were going down on Thursday night against the zone, it wasn’t a big deal. Today it was.
UNC first half FGs before Miami switched to zone (Miami timeout at 16:27): 3-5. After the switch to zone: 3-24.
More first half numbers: Carolina had more turnovers (nine) than made field goals (six). The last field goal of the half for UNC was an Isaiah Hicks lay-up with 8:39 left. The next field goal come at 17:44 of second half on a Justin Jackson three-pointer. If you’re keeping track at home that’s 10:55 of game time between field goals, which is more than 1/4th of the game.
A big question out of this game: When Berry or Jackson is off, who becomes that consistent third scorer? Neither Meeks or Hicks fulfilled that role today.
At halftime, my question was not, “Can Carolina win this game?”, but rather, “Does Carolina have the fight to get back into the game on the road?” They certainly did fight, but there just weren’t enough punches to ever get the game back into that magical single digit-range where a comeback feels possible. The classic example of this was when…
Heels had the ball, down 11, with just under two minutes to play. Kenny Williams, having a cold shooting day, should have moved the ball to Jackson for a shot or probed the defense, but missed a three. This effectively ended any hope of a comeback.
Best thing I can say is that Miami out-Carolina-d Carolina in this game. Miami won the rebounding battle 41-36, points off turnovers 14-8, points in the paint 28-22, and, most glaringly, fast break points 11-ZERO.
I beg you to forgive my tardiness in getting this published. Computer issues over the weekend and the nearest Apple Store is two hours away. Technology is awesome. Until it isn’t. Anyway, to quote the immortal Derek Zoolander, without much further ado, here are Quick hitters from Saturday’s 90-82 road win over Boston College.
While on paper, the Tar Heels should have maybe handled Boston College with more ease, as hard as road wins in the ACC have been to come by this season for all 15 teams, a win is a win. And a win keeps Carolina tied atop the ACC standings with Florida State and Notre Dame.
UNC only had six fouls in the first half, and only one of those was on Isaiah Hicks who was only whistled twice in this game. Only Kenny Williams and Tony Bradley had two fouls in the first half, but both were within the last eight minutes of the half and allowed Roy to maintain his desired substitution pattern.
Justin Jackson hit a ¾ court shot, but it was a fraction after the horn sounded to end the first half. It was beautiful. But didn’t count.
Carolina scored just 34 points in the first half on 38.7% shooting. 34 points wouldn’t be “just” for a lot of teams, but for a team averaging just shy of 90 a game, 34 is “just”. The second half was a different story – 56 points on 54.5% shooting.
Is it just meet or does Luke Maye miss a lot of point blank tip-ins? I don’t have any stats to back it up, just an observation.
This was a quietly dominant game from Kennedy Meeks and Jackson who had 20 and 22 points respectively.
There were two different occasions where Boston College beat UNC on a baseline inbounds play. Roy will not be happy about that.
Newsflash: Joel Berry is human from the free throw line. He has missed one in three of the last four games, going 10-13 (77%) in that stretch. Though he is still currently the career leader in free throw percentage, Berry has relinquished the single season lead to Shammond Williams (91.1%-89.8%). Of course, this is complete nitpicking. The man is an incredible free throw shooter.
Speaking of free throws, Isaiah Hicks is shooting 82.5% this year. He’s gone from 57.9% to 62.1% to 75.6% to this year’s 82.5% mark. If that’s not marked improvement I don’t know what is. Hicks’ number goes up to 86.5% in just ACC play and 91.1% in ACC wins (removing the Georgia Tech game).
Quick Hitters from Monday night’s 85-68 home win against Syracuse.
Congrats to Coach Roy Williams for his 800th career victory. 2nd fastest all time to that mark, behind only legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. Williams did it in 1,012 games. Rupp in 972.
The Tar Heels are now exactly 1/3 of the way into the conference schedule. Despite the early loss to Georgia Tech (who, by the way, currently has a better conference record than Duke), the Heels find themselves right where they want to be. 5-1 and currently in second place in the ACC. The remaining schedule is certainly daunting, but precisely at the time of year where you want to be playing your best basketball.
At the half, Syracuse had 10 total rebounds. UNC had 13 OFFENSIVE rebounds. The final rebounding totals were 44-24, a +20 margin for the Tar Heels.
Tar Heels came out sloppy in the second half and allowed Syracuse a 12-0 run to cut the lead to three. It’s these types of lapses that need to be eliminated.
My favorite stat of the night? Isaiah Hicks had a zero in his stat line. Under the column for “fouls”. I had to look two or three times to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Well done sir.
Another stat for Isaiah Hicks tonight was 20 points. That’s the first time in his career he’s had back-to-back 20+ point games. The aggressiveness he’s shown in the past two games is encouraging.
How about one more Isaiah Hicks stat? He came into the season a career 69% free throw shooter. This year he’s hit 60-73, good for 82.2%. This will be invaluable in the close games down the stretch. No need to sub him out when the opposition is looking to foul.
Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to have Theo Pinson back? In just 14 minutes, he had seven points, five rebounds, five assists, and zero turnovers.
Justin Jackson (19 pts. / 10 reb.) and Kennedy Meeks (15 pts. / 12 reb.) both recorded double-doubles in this game. Isaiah Hicks was two rebounds shy of joining them. I would imagine there haven’t been many games in the history of UNC Basketball where three players have tallied double-doubles.
Another encouraging stat: The Tar Heels only had nine turnovers in this game. This is especially impressive when you consider the opponent and the turnover problems that the team had just a few weeks ago. Interestingly, all nine turnovers were committed by just four players (Meeks, Hicks, Jackson, Berry).
Quick Hitters from Wednesday nights 93-87 road win against Wake Forest.
For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels were able to get the opponent’s best player (John Collins in this instance) on the bench in foul trouble early in the first half. Collins then picked up his third foul eight seconds into the second half and never really got into the rhythm of the game.
Also for the second game in a row, the Tar Heels stayed under their season average for turnovers. There were 11 total. Two specifically encouraging points: (1) No player had more than two turnovers. (2) Joel Berry, who has been uncharacteristically struggling with turnovers of late, only had one but had seven assists.
Stop the presses, JOEL BERRY MISSED A FREE THROW! Not to fear though, he’s still shooting 91.8% for the season (45-49).
There was a weird play late in the first half where Tony Bradley essentially head-butted the midsection of a Wake Forest player. Bradley walked off the court under his own power but seemed to be rather wobbly. He did not return in the second half, and will be evaluated back in Chapel Hill. His absence was noticeable on the court, particularly in a game where the other three front court players each had four fouls.
Great find from Theo Pinson right before halftime on the pitch-ahead to a wide-open Kennedy Meeks.
Pinson scores his first point of the season with 12:03 left in the second half on a free throw. The shots will start falling.
Wake Forest trimmed a 19-point lead down to one with 9:43 left in the game. The Tar Heels pushed the lead back to as many as nine, but never got the margin back to double digits. It’s extremely difficult to win on the road in the ACC.
All five starters scored in double figures.
It felt like everyone on the court made some type of winning play down the stretch, whether it was knocking down free throws in a 1-and-1 situation, hitting clutch shots, or grabbing important rebounds.
What a luxury to have Isaiah Hicks shooting so well from the free throw line that he doesn’t have to be subbed out in late game free throw situations.
Have you looked at the ACC standings? 12 of the 15 teams have at least two conferences losses already.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 102-74 home win against Monmouth.
Congrats to Kennedy Meeks for becoming the 20th Tar Heel to break the 800 career rebound mark. He’s currently at 803 rebounds. Jason Capel is 19th on the list with 807 career rebounds.
Though Monmouth is not a sexy opponent, this was Carolina’s fourth game against a team picked to win their conference in the preseason. These types of games against veteran mid-major squads are invaluable.
Joel Berry took what appeared to be a knee to the thigh in the first ten minutes of the game. Thankfully, this was not a re-injury to his ankle. After briefly leaving the bench, he came back into the game. With the beginning of ACC play pending, and three games over the course of seven days (including the Monmouth game), this will hopefully not be a deep bruise that causes Berry to miss time. How important is Berry? In the two games he missed, UNC averaged 78.0 points, while they have averaged 90.6 points in the games he’s played (not including Monmouth).
Justin Jackson is absolutely on fire from deep. He hit five threes in the first half and tacked on one more in the second. The great thing is that the shots are in the flow of the offense, he’s still looking to get teammates involved, and he didn’t need a ton of shots (nine) to get his six threes. For the season, the Heels three most prolific three-point shooters (Jackson, Berry, Kenny Williams) are all shooting 40% or more from deep.
Tony Bradley has done a lot really well this year. One thing he hasn’t done as much of as you would expect is record blocks. Coming into this game he had eight on the season (0.6 BPG). He recorded three in the first half of this game. Obviously, Monmouth has shorter interior players than a lot of teams UNC will face, but this is still a good sign.
Speaking of Tony Bradley, he sometimes seems skittish finishing around the rim. He has the athleticism to finish dominantly and needs to begin to do so.
Isaiah Hicks sported a new hair-do in this game. It was suspect. However, he scored 15 points and, more importantly, grabbed nine rebounds. If Isaiah is going to continue rebounding like that, he can sport whatever hair style he wants to.
Justin Robinson for Monmouth had a great first half – 16 points. The Heels shut him down in the second half, however, and he finished the game with those same 16 points.
Poor end to the first half for the Heels. A 19-point lead was whittled down to nine. This was reminiscent of several games in recent years when the Heels failed to close out the first half – most notably, last year’s national championship game.
Three technicals on Monmouth within the first three minutes of the second half, over the course of 55 seconds. Six free throws for Joel Berry? Yes please. Those six free points ballooned the lead to 20 points
Speaking of Joel Berry, he finished the game with no field goals. His only points were the six free throws off the technicals. However, on a night when everyone else wanted to turn the ball over, Berry had five assists and no turnovers.
Ugh, turnovers. There were 17 turnovers in this game, a season high. Gotta clean this up.
There were wholesale substitutions on three separate occasions in the second half.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 85-42 home win against Northern Iowa
Don’t be alarmed – for the second year in a row, Marcus Paige did not play against Northern Iowa.
Northern Iowa is tough. We learned that last year both in their victory over UNC and their showing in the NCAA Tournament (despite the meltdown against Texas A&M). Despite losing a lot of talent, the Panthers have the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Player of the Year, and once again played tough. There was just too much North Carolina in the second half after a close first 20 minutes.
Despite a somewhat slow first half, there was no visible letdown from the emotion of Saturday’s Kentucky game. The Heels didn’t get in a hole early again. They also took care of business in the second half, making sure there was no opportunity for an upset.
Northern Iowa was committed to getting back on defense and not attacking the offensive glass. Consequently it was difficult to get any transition game going, but the Heels still wound up with 11 transition points (to UNI’s zero). For the game, UNI had only three offensive rebounds. The final rebounding totals were 42 (UNC) – 24 (UNI)
We’re starting to see Isaiah Hicks’ foul trouble rear its ugly head. He had two fouls in the first 12 minutes, limiting him to eight first half minutes. In the second half however, Hicks did a good job of staying straight up. Though he allowed a couple baskets, you’ll trade a couple points to keep Hicks on the floor.
Jeremy Morgan, the aforementioned MVC Preseason Player of the Year, came into this game averaging 18 PPG. He had just scored 36 against North Dakota. Given what Malik Monk just did, this was a scary proposition. In this game, he had only six points, which came on two three-pointers in the last four minutes of the first half. That means he didn’t score for the first 15½ minutes of the game or the entire second half.
UNI was also dedicated to doubling the post. This lead to many great possessions of Meeks and Hicks passing well out of the double team.
Nate Britt’s shooting woes continue. Dating back to the Wisconsin game, Britt is shooting just 11 for his last 49 (22.4%).
This was a close game for a long time and before you knew it, the lead had quietly ballooned to 18. The final margin was an astounding 43 points.
Only five turnovers in the entire game for the Tar Heels. This is impressive in any game, but especially against a team that ranks fifth in Ken Pomeroy’s percentage of defensive possessions resulting in a turnover.
Dunk of the season candidate from Isaiah Hicks in the second half. Thanks to the aforementioned post passing (and really the passing of the whole team), Kennedy Meeks, after being doubled found a cutting Hicks for a monstrous jam.
Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 103-100 neutral site loss to Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic.
First off, you never like to lose, and especially not to Kentucky, but this looked like the team that was playing in Maui, not the team we’ve seen in the four games since – an encouraging sign. The trick now is becoming that team always. This game had the feeling of a game in March or April and will pay dividends for both teams throughout the season.
I think Joel Berry is going to be all right. With a player coming back from a lower body injury, you always wonder what their first game back will be like. Berry’s return was reminiscent of Marcus Paige’s first game last season against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. The key is not having the let down that Paige had after that. Berry’s line from Saturday: 23 points on 9-15 shooting, 3-5 on 3s, 2-2 FTs, 5 R, 7 A, 3 TO, 2 S in 34 minutes. Also, Berry fell to the court after getting his shot blocked less than two minutes into the game. While you hate to see him fall, it’s nice that he was able to get right back up.
The pace of this game was incredibly fun to watch. Two deep and athletic teams who like to run. And yet they take care of the ball really well – both teams finished with single digit turnovers.
Speaking of pace, both teams scored 50+ points in the first half. Kentucky had 56, which is the most given up in the Roy Williams era in the first half. In the end, both teams finished with over 100.
Justin Jackson missed more free throw in this game (five) than he had the rest of the season combined (four). Coming into the game he was 25-29 (86.2%). On the other side of the coin, Tony Bradley, who was shooting 30-50 (60%), went 6-6 in this game to balance out Jackson’s misses.
Speaking of Justin Jackson, he’s getting to the line so much because he is attacking and aggressive. This is a good sign. Jackson finished the game with a career-high 34 points.
Great close to the first half. The Heels closed the lead to as little as four after being down 12, and finished the half down five.
Understatement of the season: Malik Monk is good at basketball. A couple of great defensive possessions against him in the closing minutes of the first half were what helped Carolina close the gap.
That said, you know who would’ve done a great job guarding Monk in this game? Theo Pinson. Not saying Pinson would have completely shut Monk down, because he was hitting everything in sight. However, his lankiness and athleticism certainly would’ve bothered Monk and lowered his point total. Thanks to my man Carter Gilchrist for pointing this out!
Speaking of Pinson, the Heels only got two points from the 2-guard spot today, and you’ve got to think that Pinson would’ve contributed more.
Luke Maye had some important contributions. He had to HUGE 3s down the stretch as the Heels were fighting back. He also had a big time tap out on a missed Justin Jackson free throw that gave the Heels a chance to go up two possessions with under one minute left. Unfortunately, Joel Berry missed a shot and we know what happened next. Maye finished with a career high 11 points.
Foul trouble hurt the Heels in this game. Berry, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks each were playing with four fouls down the stretch. Meeks fouled out, but both Hicks and Berry played smart to stay on the court down the stretch and impact the game in big ways. (Berry did ultimately foul out, but it was on the last meaningful play of the game).
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 76-67 loss to Indiana in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge
This was Roy Williams’ 1,000 game coaching in college. He’s won 799 of them. Remarkable. I’m glad he’s the coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Listen, I want to win every game and go 40-0, but that’s unrealistic. If you told me going into the game that Joel Berry would shoot 3-for-12 and Isaiah Hicks would shoot 2-4, I would imagine the margin of victory would have been greater than nine. This is a good learning lesson in a hostile environment that will pay huge dividends on Thursday, February 9 in Durham, North Carolina.
There are many things that we could point to as the reason for the loss. One of these is fast-break points, a Carolina staple. The Heels scored exactly two fast-break points in the entire game. Not a recipe for victory.
Another culprit was the free-throw line. In the first half, the Heels collectively missed the front end of three 1-and-1’s. Collectively the team shot 5-for-11 on free throws in the first half and 13-22 for the game. I’m not saying they have to hit every one of those, but the team missed nine free throws and lost the game by nine points (and don’t forget the missed 1-and-1’s).
This was the third true road game of the season and sixth (out of eight total games) away from home. This was certainly the toughest road environment to play in so far. It’s extremely hard to win on the road when you get down early and let the crowd stay in the game. With that said, Carolina missed eleven of their first thirteen field goals and had a huge hole to climb out of.
A positive sign was the methodical fight displayed. No, the Heels did not win the game, but after being down 17 points in the first half, the lead was cut to as few as four points with 4:29 to go. I use “methodical” because there was no huge run or spurt; the team just settled down in the second half and worked themselves back into the game. Credit Indiana for making big shot after big shot every time the Heels cut into the lead.
The tide really started to turn when Kennedy Meeks scored inside with 3:51 left in the first half and then again less than a minute later. This momentum carried over into the second half as Meeks continued to get position inside.
After being down by double digit rebounds early, the teams ended up tied with 37 rebounds apiece.
The Joel Berry didn’t have a great shooting night (3-for-13), he did have eight assists and only two turnovers. Justin Jackson was the leading scorer with 21 points.
Though UNC didn’t win the game, the ACC won the ACC / Big Ten Challenge for the first time since 2008.
Quick Hitters from Tuesday night’s 93-67 over Long Beach State in the Dean Dome.
With the win, Coach Williams moves into a tie with the legendary coach Lefty Driesell for 9th (786) all-time in Division 1 wins.
This was the second straight dominant win against a team predicted to win their conference.
Long Beach State didn’t score until the 12:21 mark of the 1st This is in large part due to the fact that…
The Carolina defense is already in mid-season form. Moving feet. Hustling. Activity. Diving after balls. They’re playing a brand of defense that last year’s squad took a long time to develop. This is the type of playing that will keep you in games even when the shots aren’t falling.
This Carolina team is unselfish. It shows in the aforementioned defense, but also in assists. Tonight, there were 20 assists on 32 made baskets.
Joel Berry is more than living up to his Preseason All-ACC First Team Nomination. He looks like one of the best players in the country.
For comparison’s sake, I’ll say another word about Joel Berry. I said it several times last year and I’ll say it again: the progression of Joel Berry reminds me a lot of Ty Lawson. The improvement on the outside shot. The pace with which he pushes the ball. The comprehension of how to run Coach Williams’ offense. The understanding of when to use his strength and speed to penetrate and score. The difference is the drive and determination – Berry has a fire in his eyes that I never saw from Lawson.
Good to see UNC playing with intensity for 40 minutes no matter the opponent or score.
Freshman Tony Bradley has reached double figure scoring in all three games to begin his Tar Heel career.
A welcome sight: the Heels have scored 90+ points in all three games this season. It sounds like a broken record, but this scoring output starts with the defense opening things up for the offense.