Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 89-76 road loss to Duke on Saturday night.
Carolina fought valiantly to maintain proximity to Duke tonight, but it was not meant to be. The Heels weathered an early Blue Devil storm and eventually tied the game at 28, before finding themselves down by eight at halftime. Again the Heels clawed back to within one point twice in the second half, but couldn’t make the plays to get over the hump and the lead ballooned to the final margin of 13 points.
With apologies to Garrison Brooks, can we just pause and appreciate what a rough season Brandon Robinson’s body has endured? He has suffered countless ankle injuries and re-aggravations, a car accident, and tonight a head injury. The official word came out that Robinson would not play in the second half after taking an elbow to the face in the closing minutes of the first half. And yet he came back into the game early in the second half and wound up playing 13:51 and connecting on two three-pointers.
Garrison Brooks is having one of the more impressive offensive stretches in recent memory. Tonight’s 26 points give him six straight games of scoring 20-plus points and four straight games of scoring 25-plus points. His ups and downs at the free throw line have been well documented, but in this four game stretch Brooks is shooting 82.2 percent (37-for-45). Tonight’s double-double is his’ 12th on the year. Nine of Brooks’ 13 rebounds were offensive.
Six straight games with 20+ points for Garrison Brooks.
That had not been done by a North Carolina player since Tyler Hansbrough in his senior year of 2008-09.
There was question whether Armando Bacot would be able to play tonight. He not only started, but had one of his most efficient outings of the season. Foul trouble and the lingering ankle injury limited Bacot to 23:2j3 of playing time, but in that time scored 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting and had 12 rebounds (including six offensive). Bacot’s double-double gives him 10 this season, the second most ever by a Carolina freshman (Antawn Jamison had 13).
Tonight was just the second game all season in which Cole Anthony didn’t achieve double-digits in the scoring column. Anthony had a bit of a rough night, due in large part to Duke’s defense. After multiple strong performances in a row, Anthony tried to win the game too much on his own tonight rather than involving his teammates. Such has been the case for many freshmen in their first game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
By no means should Anthony get all the blame. As a team, Carolina only achieved seven assists, the second lowest total this season. Far too often in the first half, the Heels let Duke goad them into taking jump shots rather than taking advantage of opportunities inside the paint.
Christian Keeling’s streak of nine straight games of scoring nine-plus points ended tonight as the grad transfer was only able to connect on one of his six shot attempts.
It was a strange rebounding night. Carolina won the overall battle 38-37, but exactly half of their rebounds were offensive. As you would imagine, the offensive glass kept Carolina close for much of the game.
After shooting over 40 percent from three each of the past two games, the Heels cooled off to just 33.3 percent (4-for-12) tonight. Conversely, Duke’s hot shooting from deep (10-for-21) provided a big advantage for the home team.
Each team’s first possession provided an inauspicious outlook for the rest of the game. On Duke’s first possession, Cole Anthony fouled Tre Jones just 16 seconds into the game. On Carolina’s first possession, Anthony turned the ball over after driving too far into traffic.
Duke outscored Carolina 19-to-5 in fast break points, several of which came on plays where the Blue Devils just plain outran the last line of Tar Heel defense for an easy lay-up.
For all the good things ESPN does, some of their production decisions are confounding. For example, why are we seeing a split screen of “94 Feet With Jay Bilas” during game action? This occurred from 11:59-11:18 of game action plus two Bacot free throws at the end of that time. People are tuned in to see the game, not hear a recap of a filler segment. It’s fine to show things like this, but don’t move away from game action for this.
Along a similar line (and it’s hard to say if this is a Jay Bilas issue, a referee issue, or some of both), on two different occasions in the game, Bilas said, “I don’t think that would have been a foul if the shot had gone in.” I get the humanity of officials, but it’s either a foul or it isn’t and officials should adjudicate the game as such.
The final 3:50 of the first half was an exercise in “don’t-let-Duke-build-too-much-of-a-lead-with-all-five-starters-on-the-bench”. At 3:50, Leaky Black picked up his second foul so he and Bacot (who already had two fouls) checked out. At 2:26, Brooks picked up his second foul and headed to the bench. At 1:42, Robinson got hurt and went straight to the locker room. Finally, with 0:56 left, Anthony picked up his second foul. So with four starters on the bench with two fouls and the fifth in the locker room injured, the lineup of Jeremiah Francis, Christian Keeling, Andrew Platek, Justin Pierce, and Walker Miller finished the first half. They played those 56 seconds to a 2-2 tie.
Justin Pierce drew another offensive foul tonight. Those types of hustle plays have been his biggest contribution to the 2019-20 Tar Heels.
We now turn our attention to do-or-die time in the ACC Tournament. We are to that strange part of every season where the next game could be the last.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first round of the ACC Tournament. Carolina has the 14 seed and will play Virginia Tech on Tuesday, March 10. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ACC Network.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With a 65-41 win at home on over Virginia, UNC stays undefeated at home on the season, and, more importantly, atop the ACC standings with an 11-3 conference record. With a brutal end of the regular season stretch, Carolina HAD to hold court at home, and they did. Here are Quick Hitters from the match-up:
This was a special night for North Carolina as both Brice Jackson and Marcus Paige were on hand to be honored at halftime for having their jerseys hung in the rafters.
Congrats to Kennedy Meeks. His seven rebounds in the game give him 929 for his career, good enough to tie him with Rusty Clark for 10th all-time in Carolina basketball history.
An important development early: Jack Salt, Virginia’s starting center, picked up his second foul with 16:35 left in the first half. He eventually picked up his third before halftime, opening the inside for the Tar Heels.
Justin Jackson was absolutely on fire in the first half, including shooting 4-6 from three. In fact, he nearly outscored Virginia in the first 20 minutes: Virginia 22, Justin Jackson – 18.
It feels like London Perrantes has been in school forever. He’s an opponent who you can’t help but have a lot of respect for. He plays the game right, doesn’t showboat, and is the consummate teammate.
I get scared every time I see Virginia on the schedule, and today was no different. That’s the Tony Bennett effect. That said, this was just a bad night for the Cavaliers; one of those days where the shots just don’t fall. On the Carolina side of things, the Tar Heels played with the patient discipline needed in order to beat Virginia. They minimized their fouls on the defensive end and were (mostly) patient on the offensive side.
Virginia started off 0-17 from three. In fact, their first connection from deep came with 5:32 left in the game. The Cavs finished 2-20 for the game.
Virginia shot 27.8% for the game – the first time this year Carolina had held a team under 30% shooting.
Virginia’s 19 second-half points were the second fewest points Carolina has allowed in a half this year.
I appreciate Jay Bilas’ ability to love the game, but still call officials, the NCAA, and programs to higher standards. The prime example tonight was late in the first half when the officials called a double foul. Bilas, who was doing commentary for ESPN, spoke about the use of the double foul as a cop-out. He said that someone committed the first foul and it needs to be called as such.
Quick Hitters from Tuesday night’s 107-75 win over Oklahoma State in the Maui Invitational semifinal.
Let’s get this out of the way: I know not every game will be this dominant a victory (and there are certainly pieces to clean up from this game), but I really enjoyed this one. Wednesday’s Maui Invitational Championship game against #16 Wisconsin, and their traditionally stingy defense, will be the next measuring stick for where this team is at.
Great job offensive rebounding within the first three minutes of the game. As of the first media timeout, the Heels had rebounded literally every shot they took.
All five starters scored before the first media timeout. Six players ended up scoring in double figures.
Joel Berry had his right arm run into by an Oklahoma State player chasing down a rebound early in the game. He seemed to be favoring his right shoulder and stretching his arm afterwards. Curious to see how it affects him. Update: Berry’s next shot was a three that he sank and looked great for the rest of the game. Hopefully there will be no lingering effects.
Oklahoma State’s man-to-man defense is stifling. The Heels had several lazy passes on the perimeter that were either picked off or nearly picked off. That must be tightened up.
Joel Berry did a better job getting to the rim in this game; something he didn’t do well against Hawaii or Chaminade.
The thing that has impressed me most about Tony Bradley thus far is his ability to move his feet and stay in front of his man when he gets switched onto a guard.
This was the most aggressive I’ve ever seen Justin Jackson. If he continues to drive the ball and use a combination of his deadly floater and finishing at the rim, he will become one of the most unguardable players in the country. His stat line for the night: 22 points on 7-12 shooting (including 7-7 on FTs), eight rebounds, six assists, one steal, and zero turnovers. Those are the numbers Jackson needs to continue to turn in to make this a national championship caliber team.
Quote of the night: “I don’t know how long Tony Bradley’s arms are…but they’re long.” – Jay Bilas
A bit of a scare late as Kenny Williams left the game after bumping heads with an Oklahoma State player and went straight to the locker room. Williams was cleared to return to action and seemed to be in good shape.
This Tar Heel team continues to look locked in defensively. Cowboy sharp shooter Phil Forte was held to two points (free throws) and shot 0-3 from the field.