Tag Archives: Iona Gaels

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Auburn (NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 97-80 season-ending loss to Auburn on Friday evening in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • What a fun season it’s been. This team really took us on a ride; rounding into form by winning 17 out of 19 games prior to this loss. That streak lead to a shared ACC regular season championship. The only two losses in those 19 games were to fellow one seeds Duke and Virginia.
  • The abrupt and harsh ending that the NCAA Tournament delivers is always jarring. The unexpected loss will put a sour taste in the mouth of Tar Heel fans for some time. Seeing Kenny Williams on the sideline in tears after checking out for the final time is one of the most heartbreaking images you’ll ever see.
  • Who would have thought that the unheralded class of Kenny Williams and Luke Maye would wind up as one of the most accomplished classes in the history of North Carolina basketball? But that’s where we find ourselves. This is a credit to the coaching staff. It’s high time that the college basketball world begins to fully appreciate Roy Williams for the coach that he is.

  • While not as talented as the 2012 team, the external injury circumstances that led to that teams’ demise seem to have struck again this year at just the wrong time in the form of Nassir Little and Cam Johnson’s illness, Coby White’s tweaked ankle, and Kenny Williams’ hamstring.
  • At the same time, those are excuses and take away from Auburn’s three-point barrage in the second half. Fully healthy or not, Carolina simply didn’t have the defensive answers to slow down what the Tigers did after halftime.
  • Going back to the illnesses / injuries, it was clear that Little and Johnson were not themselves on Friday night. Little did not have his usual otherworldly explosion to the rim – he was blocked twice on dunks that would never have happened on a normal night. Johnson, will still tying for the team lead in scoring and having three steals, seemed a step behind all night. After tweaking his ankle five minutes before halftime, Coby White stayed in the game but didn’t possess his usual blow-by capabilities.

  • By hitting two three-pointers in his final game, Cam Johnson finished the season with 96, the second most in a single season in Carolina history. What a pick-up he was for Roy Williams’ club over the previous two years. With all due respect to Pittsburgh and their program, Johnson is a Tar Heel.
  • The Tar Heels finish the season with 312 made three-pointers as a team, the most in program history for a single season.
  • Unfortunately, the story on this night was Auburn’s three-point shooting. After Carolina did a reasonable job guarding deep shots in the first half, the Tigers exploded for 12 threes after halftime (on just 18 attempts).
  • Coming into the game, rebounding appeared to be a plus for the Tar Heels, while three-point shooting was a plus for the Tigers. Curiously, Auburn matched Carolina in rebounds in the first half (21) while Carolina matched Auburn in threes in the first half (five).
  • With many players struggling to make baskets, it was great to see Kenny Williams shoot well in his final collegiate game. The senior finished with 10 points, including hitting two threes. The Tar Heels will struggle to replace his defensive grit and determination next season.
  • Hard to believe but Luke Maye finishes his career with the 10th most rebounds in Carolina history (942). He also recorded 377 rebounds this season, the seventh most in a single season in the Tar Heel record book. Maye is the only player in program history to have two entries in the single-season top 10 rebounding list. Maye finishes his career tied with Kris Lang for 39th on the all-time Carolina scoring list with 1392 points.
  • After dominating their first two NCAA Tournament opponents on the glass, Carolina could not take advantage of a poor rebounding Auburn team, only holding a 40-36 advantage in that category.
  • What contrasting styles between the North Carolina / Auburn game and the Texas Tech / Michigan game from Thursday night. The Heels and Tigers had combined for 14 points just 1:45 into the game. The Red Raiders and Wolverines took 10:39 to achieve the same.
  • Other than back-to-back ill-advised shots around the 6:00 mark, when Carolina seemed poised to make a last push, Brandon Robinson had another solid showing. He finished with nine points, hit two threes, grabbed four rebounds, had three assists, and zero turnovers (against a team build to force them). Robinson’s continued development over the summer will be an important key to Carolina’s success in 2019-20.
  • Carolina didn’t play a great first half, but did enough to put themselves in position to take over in the second half (similar to the Iona game). However, a 14-0 run from Auburn that spanned the end of the first half and beginning of the second half gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. The Heels never again got any closer than six.
  • The part of the game that you hate to see: Auburn’s Chuma Okeke suffered a non-contact injury to his left knee with 8:08 left in the game. Okeke’s knee buckled as he drove to the basket. While he eventually hobbled off the court under his own power, the injury had the appearance of an ACL issue. Best wishes to Okeke in his recovery.

Roy Williams, Kenny Williams, Luke Maye post-game press conference:

While there will sadly be no more Quick Hitters this season, stay tuned throughout the off-season for updates on recruiting decisions, potential transfers, NBA early entry decisions, roster composition for 2019-20, and more.

On a personal note, thanks so much for continuing to read my work. I love getting to write about North Carolina basketball and would do it just for myself, but it’s an honor to do it for others as well. I’m so thankful for everyone who reaches out to say how much they enjoy reading. Your kindness is overwhelming.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Washington (NCAA Tournament – 2nd Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-59 win over Washington on Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • The Tar Heels advance to the Sweet 16 for the 29th time in program history; the most all-time. While a Sweet 16 appearance is not the ultimate goal, let’s keep it in perspective: There are only 16 of the 353 D1 men’s basketball teams still playing and Carolina is one of them. That never gets old. See for yourself:
  • Cameron Johnson made three more three-pointers to run his season total to 94. That ties him with Marcus Paige (2014-15) for the third most in a single season in Carolina history. In second place is Shammond Williams with 95.
  • Luke Maye just keeps piling up career accolades. Against Washington, Maye set NCAA Tournament career highs in both points (20) and rebounds (14). His 20 points move him into 40th on the all-time Carolina scoring list (1379). His 14 rebounds move him into 11th on the all-time Carolina rebounding list (935). If Maye grabs seven rebounds against Auburn, he’ll move past Eric Montross into 10th.
  • Wrap your brain around this: Luke Maye is the only person in program history to have two entries on the Carolina single season top ten rebounding list. Maye now has 370 rebounds this season; ninth-most in a single season for a Tar Heel. The next person Maye would pass on that list is…himself from last season. Depending on how far the Heels go in the NCAA Tournament, Maye has a shot at recording just the second 400 rebound season in Carolina history (Brice Johnson – 416 in 2015-16).
  • The Tar Heels have been dominant on the boards thus far in the NCAA Tournament. Iona? Doubled them up (52-26). Washington? Doubled them up as well (48-24). That’s a total of 100 rebounds for Carolina vs. just 50 for their opponents.
  • A couple scary injury moments in this one. Garrison Brooks took an elbow to the mouth in the first half, which damaged two of his teeth and required stitches. Brooks missed the rest of the first half while being attended to, but came back out and had a solid second half. Not coincidentally, thanks to Brooks’ steady defense, his first half absence was the only point at which it seemed like Washington could potentially make a run.

  • The other injury occurred in the opening moments of the second half when Kenny Williams got a steal on Washington’s first possession. Unfortunately, he appeared to tweak his left hamstring. After being evaluated, Williams eventually returned to the game. Thankfully he has several days to recover before playing Auburn on Friday night.
  • Don’t look now, but Nassir Little is rising (#NassirRising). With 19 points against Iona and 20 against Washington, he has his highest two game scoring output of his Tar Heel career. There was a stretch in the second half when he scored 11 straight for Carolina, including a monster block.
  • Coby White broke out of his shooting slump early and often. He hit 4-for-5 from three in the first 11 minutes of the game. White finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal and several drives to the hoop against a defense geared at “stopping three-pointers and layups”.
  • White wasn’t the only player to shoot better from deep. As a team the Tar Heels shot 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from three, the best percentage since playing Wake Forest on February 16.
  • As per usual, Carolina played great zone offense, sharing the ball and operating out of the opening at the free throw line. Quietly, Cam Johnson had seven assists and zero turnovers. This was the most assists he’s had as a Tar Heel and tied his career high.
  • Once or twice a game, Carolina will execute a picture-perfect fast break. With 11:20 to go before halftime, Nassir Little grabbed a rebound, threw a long outlet pass to Cameron Johnson, who hit Brandon Robinson for the lay-up.
  • This Tar Heel team is really difficult to guard because the scoring comes from so many different players and in so many different ways. In five of the last six games, at least four Tar Heels scored in double figures.
  • Washington scored the first bucket of the second half to cut the Carolina lead to five. From there, the Heels went on a 13-0 run over the next 4:30 to push the lead to 18. Washington would never again get within single digits. That is how an experienced team closes an NCAA Tournament game.

Roy Williams, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament against Auburn on Friday, March 29. Tip is at 7:29ET on TBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Iona (NCAA Tournament – 1st Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-73 win over Iona on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • With Luke Maye’s 16 points tonight, three different Tar Heels have scored 500 points this year (Cam Johnson – 580, Coby White – 530, Maye – 502). That’s happened seven previous times in program history. Those seasons each worked out pretty well: 3 National Championships (1992-93, 2008-09, 2016-17), 1 National Runner-Up (1980-81), 2 Final Fours (1994-95, 1997-98), and 1 Elite Eight (1986-87).
  • Roy Williams is now 29-0 all-time in the 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament.

  • Cam Johnson has made 91 three-pointers this season. He is just the fifth Tar Heel to hit 90 threes in a single season. Justin Jackson (105), Shammond Williams (95), Marcus Paige (94), and Joel Berry (93) are the other four.

  • Coby White now has one or fewer turnovers in four of the last five games. He had achieved this just three times in his 28 games prior.

  • At halftime, both teams had 14 defensive rebounds. The difference was that Carolina also had 14 offensive rebounds to Iona’s two. The Gaels only managed 10 more rebounds the rest of the game, none of which were offensive. Overall, Carolina doubled up Iona on the glass 52-26 and had 25 second chance points to the Gaels’ three.
  • Interestingly, no Tar Heel had double-digit rebounds, but all five starters had between six and nine.
  • This projected to be a high-scoring game with both teams in the top-50 in tempo according to KenPom. However, Iona decided to slow the game down and try to take Carolina out of transition. It worked in the first half with the Heels only scoring two fast break points in that stretch.
  • A big part of why Iona’s plan worked is that they hit 10 three-pointers in the first half while Carolina struggled to run offense against the Gaels’ match-up zone. The second half, however, was a different story. The Gaels hit their second three-pointer of the second half, before missing their next 12 by which point the Heels were up by 18.
  • It’s always a question how freshmen will respond to their first NCAA Tournament game. While most of the team was struggling in the first half, it was Coby White and Nassir Little who led the way offensively. White scored eight of the team’s first 12. Nassir Little picked up his second foul with 8:49 left before halftime, but stayed in the game and proceeded to score Carolina’s next three buckets. Little finished second on the team in scoring with 19 (behind Johnson’s 21) on an efficient 9-for-13 shooting.

  • While being less of a factor than his classmates, Leaky Black saw his first game action since spraining his ankle on January 29 against Georgia Tech. He secured three rebounds in the last four minutes of the first half and played well other than a turnover in the closing seconds before halftime.
  • The seniors were the primary culprits of the first-half woes. The three combined to shoot 6-for-22, including 1-for-8 from three point range. But then the second half happened. After halftime, Carolina went on an 11-3 run to grab a 44-41 lead. All 11 of those points were scored by the senior trio, who shot a combined 10-for-15 (4-for-6 from deep) in the second half. After the 11-3 run, Iona scored the next two points before the Heels reeled off a backbreaking 19-4 run to essentially put the game out of reach.
  • It was another balanced scoring night for the Tar Heels, with five Tar Heels in double figures and Kenny Williams chipping in eight.
  • Speaking of Kenny Williams, keep an eye on his right knee. He checked out of the game with just a couple minutes remaining and had the training staff check him out.

  • The second round will be an interesting match-up against Washington, whose head coach, Mike Hopkins, was a long-time Syracuse assistant and runs Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense. It’s worth noting that since Syracuse came to the ACC, the Tar Heels are 8-1 against the Orange (the only loss coming in the teams’ first ACC match-up). In those games, the Tar Heels have averaged 20 assists per game and assisted on 69.2 percent of made field goals. In the three most recent meetings, those numbers jump to 21.3 assists per game, while assisting on an absurd 81.0 percent of made field goals.

Roy Williams, Nassir Little, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Washington on Sunday, March 24. Tip is approximately 2:40ET (following Iowa/Tennessee) on CBS.

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