- 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.
- Love the senior night tradition of starting the seniors, even the walk-ons. This year was particularly fun because there are exactly five seniors who make up a sensible line-up – Nate Britt, Stilman White, Kanler Coker, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks.
- Heels finish the year undefeated at home – 16-0.
- 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.
The free throw line is the loneliest and most pressure-filled place on a basketball court. Some basketball players thrive on this moment. Others? Weeeeeelllll, not so much.
Two players in NBA history have shot over 90% for their careers (Steve Nash, 90.4% and Mark Price, 90.4%). Stephen Curry (90.4%), though still active, shares the same distinction. Coming in just behind these three is Rick Barry who famously shot his free throws underhanded (and technically rounds up to 90% free throw shooting himself).
On the other side of the coin are the “not-so-much-ers”. We all know about the “Hack-a-Shaq” tactic of fouling an opponent even when he doesn’t have the ball. Why? Because he’s so awful at shooting free throws that the percentages say you are better off giving that player two free shots from 15 feet rather than letting the opposing team run their offense. It’s become so rampant that the NBA has been forced to employ rules discouraging the use of this tactic. As you would imagine, this strategy is so named because teams started doing this to Shaquille O’Neal. While Shaq is a poor free throw shooter, and believe me, he is bad, the Big Aristotle actually more than half of his free throws (52.7%) for his career.
Believe it or not, there are actually several NBA players with worse free throw shooting percentages than Shaq. One of the most famous players of all time – Wilt Chamberlain – shot just 51.1% from the charity stripe. Several NBA players have shot under 50% – Chris Dudley (45.8%), DeAndre Jordan (42.1%), and Ben Wallace (41.4%).
Finally, coming in under 40% free throw shooting is Andre Drummond at 38%.
When it comes to the best free throw shooters in North Carolina basketball history, Shammond Williams leads the way at 84.9% (292-344). As recently as last year, it looked as though that Williams’ career record would fall. Entering his senior year, Marcus Paige had actually eclipsed Williams in career free throw percentage at 86.5% (275-318). Paige, as you might recall, had an “off year” (by his standards) in the 2015-16 season, shooting “just” 77.4% (72-93). When all was said and done, Paige wound up fifth on the all-time list for UNC at 84.4% (347-411), behind Williams, Kim Huband, Marvin Williams, and Danny Green.
Shammond Williams also holds the single-season record for free throw percentage at 91.1% (133-146) in 1997-98; the only Tar Heel to shoot above 90% for an entire season. Marcus Paige holds two of the top nine single season free throw percentage marks. He hit 87.7% (128-146) in 2013-14 (third place) and 86.5% (96-111) in 2014-15 (ninth place).
This brings us to Joel Berry. Berry did not begin his Tar Heel career as a candidate to be one of the best free throw shooters in North Carolina history. During his freshman year, Berry shot 75.7% (28-37). Things changed, though, in his sophomore year when Berry shot 86.7% (91-105), which is the eighth best single-season mark in Tar Heel history. This incredible sophomore year allowed Berry to begin his junior year at 83.8% (119-142) for his career, which is seventh on the all-time list.
Joel Berry entered his junior year with great possibilities of continuing to move up the career free throw percentage list as well as having one of the best single seasons of free throw shooting in UNC history. Right out of the gate, that’s exactly what Berry did. Oddly though, Joel Berry’s free throw shooting in 2016-17 has been a tale of two halves.
Let’s use the natural dividing of non-conference schedule and conference schedule to create those two halves.
First, the good. In non-conference, Berry hit 39 of 42 free throws over the course of 11.5 games (he missed most of the second half against Radford after suffering an ankle injury and the subsequent games against Davidson and Tennesee). That’s a 92.9% clip during roughly the first third of the season. That free throw percentage would give Berry the best single season number in Carolina history; beating Shammond Williams’ 91.1% mark for a single season by almost two percentage points. This hot start also propelled Berry to 85.9% for his career, a full percentage point above Williams’ career record.
As the conference part of the schedule began, everything changed. Let’s call this part the “not-so-good”. The Tar Heels have played 17 conference games (and have one more to go against some team from eight miles down the road). In those games, Joel Berry has shot 35-47 from the free throw line, which is 74.5%; a drop of 18.4 percentage points from the non-conference portion of the schedule. This is a respectable number, but not an “all-time-best-in-program-history” type of number. The worrisome part is that things have continued to get worse. Over the last 11 games, Berry has shot just 68.8% (22-32) from the line. Remember, this is statistically one of the greatest free throw shooters in Carolina history.
Here’s a telling way to look at things. In the non-conference schedule, Berry shot free throws in nine of the 11.5 games he played in. In those nine games, he hit every free throw he took seven times. By contrast, Berry has shot free throws in 11 of the 17 conference games. Of those 11 games, he’s made every free throw he’s taken just twice.
It’s also troubling to notice the discrepancy in the number of free throws Joel Berry has attempted when comparing the non-conference and conference. In his 11.5 non-conference games, Berry shot 42 free throws. In the 17 conference games, he’s shot 47, just five more. That means that in non-conference games, Berry 3.65 free throws a game, which dropped to 2.76 per game during the conference schedule. In the non-conference schedule, there were three games when Berry didn’t shoot any free throws. In conference, there have been six such games.
It’s hard to say exactly what is causing the drop in Joel Berry’s free throw percentage. Perhaps it’s the fatigue of playing point guard for Roy Williams over the course of a grueling season. Perhaps it’s a problem of shot mechanics. Perhaps Berry is in his own head. Perhaps the hot start was an anomaly. Perhaps it’s a lack of focus.
Whatever the reason, while Justin Jackson has been the most consistent scorer this year for North Carolina, Joel Berry is the heart and engine of the team. In order for this year’s version of the Tar Heels to reach, and possibly exceed, what the 2015-16 team achieved, Berry will have to continue to be that driving force as the regular season gives way to postseason tournaments. And it wouldn’t hurt if he hit a couple more free throws along the way.
Quick Hitters from UNC Basketball’s 53-43 road loss to Virginia on Monday night.
- Win or lose (lose, by the way), this game was a tough proposition. Back-to-back road games tipping 55 hours apart is extremely difficult. Add to this that Virginia has been struggling of late and was desperate for a big win.
- My hope was that I could say, “Hey, here’s one nice take-away: Isaiah Hicks became 76th Tar Heel to score 1,000 career points.” Nope. Things were so bad that Hicks, who needed just three points to make it to 1,000, scored how many? You guessed it. Two.
- This game was doomed from the beginning. Carolina’s first shot was a Justin Jackson air ball from three. For just the third time all year Jackson droyidn’t score in double-digits.
- Remember being worried about being outworked and outmuscled by Louisville last week? That happened tonight against Virginia. Prime example? 12 (TWELVE!) first half turnovers for Carolina. If you want to win on the road, you have to be stronger with the ball. A positive sign was that the Heels had only two more turnovers in the second half.
- Another sign of a lack of competing showed up in the rebounding numbers. Sure UNC won the overall rebounding battle 38-35. But this is a team that is leading the nation in rebounding margin by a large berth. This is a team that is winning in large part due to their ability to overwhelm their opponents on the glass. For reference, when these teams played nine days ago, Carolina owned the boards, 44-26.
- Here’s what’s even more befuddling about the rebounding. Virginia elected to start a small line-up that hadn’t started together all season. The Tar Heels could not take advantage of this glaring mismatch.
- In the first meeting, Virginia shot 2-20 from three. Tonight they hit their second three just six-and-a-half minutes in, and the third ninety seconds later. For the game the Cavs were 10-24 from deep. This is what Roy was saying after the first game about wide-open shots just not falling. Well, tonight they did and it really hurt Carolina’s ability to win.
- For Roy Williams run-and-gun fans, playing Virginia is painful. It’s similar to playing Georgia Tech in football. You must stay disciplined for 25+ seconds on nearly every possession on both sides of the ball. Virginia didn’t score until almost four minutes into the game, but they didn’t care. They just kept plugging away and out-competing the Heels.
- While Syracuse’s 2-3 zone tricks you into shooting lots of mid-range jumpers and threes, Virginia’s defense forces you to do the same.
- Call me a whiner (I’m a big boy, I can take it), but the officiating was rough in this game. Virginia’s defense is stellar, but because of the reputation they get away with a lot that other teams would be called for.
- Another missed free throw for Joel Berry. I need to study up on the decline of Berry’s free throw shooting this year and write an article about it. It really is hard to believe the difference from early in the season.
- Well, it never fails, unless something crazy happens with Louisville, Florida State, and Notre Dame this week, Carolina will be playing Duke to earn the outright regular season championship. Just to be clear, Duke cannot win the regular season title; they can only stop Carolina from doing so. Louisville and Notre Dame play this week, so it cannot be a four-way tie. However, we are looking at a possible three-way tie for the regular season ACC championship.
Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 85-67 road win over Pittsburgh:
- This was a big time road win for UNC. It’s always tough to play against a team on their senior day. And don’t forget, the Tar Heels only beat Pitt by two AT HOME earlier in the season. More importantly, the win assured Carolina of at least a share of the regular season ACC title as well as a top two seed in the ACC Tournament. If Duke loses to Miami later today, the Heels will clinch the number one seed in the tournament.
- Pitt’s frontcourt rotation is thin, and Carolina was able to take advantage by drawing two early fouls on Sheldon Jeter. Jeter eventually fouled out in the second half.
- With Jeter on the bench for most of the game (only played seven minutes), the Heels were able to do what they do best: rebound everything. Carolina had 48 total rebounds, half of which were offensive. By comparison, Pittsburgh had 28 total rebounds. As has been the case several times this year, the Tar Heels had more offensive rebounds (24) than their opponent had defensive rebounds (19).
- Here’s a number for you: Carolina was 33-73 on field goals, meaning they missed 40. Of those 40, we’ve already noted that they rebounded 28. That means the Heels rebounded 60% of their misses.
- Pitt got out to a 17-11 lead. This savvy and veteran UNC squad isn’t fazed on the road. They went on a 13-2 run to make the score 24-19. Pitt came back and made it 30-28 with 2:39 to go. Then the Tar Heels went on a 10-0 run to end the half, turning a close game into a 12 point halftime lead.
- In the first half, UNC assisted on nearly every made field goal. The Heels had 12 assists on their first 12 made baskets. They had 13 assists on 14 made baskets. The lone outlier would have actually been an assist, but Kennedy Meeks missed a lay-up, got his own rebound, and scored.
- Carolina only turned the ball over eight times. The first turnover didn’t occur until thirteen minutes into the game.
- Though Isaiah Hicks finished with four fouls, he picked up his first with about six minutes to go in the first half.
- One big lapse early in the second half: North Carolina turned the ball over on three straight possessions. This allowed Pitt to cut the lead to eight. The margin never got any closer though, and the Heels eventually pulled a way.
- Isaiah Hicks is so close to the 1,000 career points mark. He scored eight today and needs three against Virginia on Monday to join Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson, and Joel Berry as the others to do so this year.
- Justin Jackson is very likely going to finish this year holding the UNC mark for most made three-pointers in a single season. He hit five today, giving him 83 for the year. The record is 95, set by Shammond Williams in 1996-97. This also means Jackson could also be the first Tar Heel to reach 100 made three pointers in one year.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 74-63 home win over Louisville.
- I cannot stress enough what a huge win this was, for two reasons. First, with Duke losing to Syracuse earlier in the night, this win over Louisville gave the Tar Heels a two game lead in the ACC with three tough games remaining. It by no means guarantees a conference regular season title, but it sure is nice to have some breathing room. Second, Carolina has struggled with Louisville’s defense and athleticism in the two years they’ve been in the ACC.
- Nearly three minutes before Tar Heels scored to start the game. Carolina opened the game shooting 2-15 with 4 turnovers in the first 6 minutes.
- Stilman White played some meaningful minutes in the first half when Coach Williams put in five brand new players. He even hit a mid-range jumper that put a jolt in the Smith Center crowd.
- We’ve been seeing this all season, but let’s just make sure we say it: Justin Jackson and Joel Berry take (and make) some really deep threes.
- After starting off the season looking like he would set Carolina’s career and single season records for free throw percentage, Joel Berry has really “struggled” (a relative term) in conference play. He missed 2 more free throws last night. Weird.
- This was the second game in a row where an opponent missed an inordinate number of shots in a certain aspect of the game. This time it was both free throws and three-pointers. Louisville’s first made free throw came with 7:41 left in the game. For the game Louisville shot 4-13 while Carolina shot 21-29 on free throws. The final three-point discrepancy was not as substantial, but Louisville didn’t hit their first three until early in the second half.
- This was, unfortunately, a game marked by Isaiah Hicks foul issues. For the Tar Heels to accomplish everything they want to this year, Hicks has to stay out of foul trouble, and on the court.
- Carolina missed opportunities on the offensive glass when tips didn’t fall. That said, Louisville is the one team that can really stay with Carolina on the glass and Heels doubled up the Cardinals, 16-8, on the offensive glass.
- Another 20+ scoring night for Justin Jackson, in another huge game. Look out folks, this man just might bring home ACC Player of the Year.
- A little too tense down the closing minutes. The Tar Heels were up 17 with just under four minutes, but took their foot off the gas too early, which allowed Louisville to cut the lead to 8. However Nate Britt then hit two free throws to push the lead back to 10 and essentially ice the game.
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 Wednesday night’s 97-73 road win over NC State.
- Congrats to Joel Berry for becoming the third Tar Heel this year (along with Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks), and 75th ever, to score 1000 career points. With his 18 points tonight he has 1013 for his career, putting him in 73rd. place. Isaiah Hicks will join soon as the fourth this season. He needs 21 more points.
- I can just hear the classic Queen lyrics – “Another one bites the dust”. We welcomed Isaiah Hicks back to the lineup tonight, but Kenny Williams suffered a right knee injury yesterday at practice and was in street clothes. Apparently he will have surgery next Tuesday. Losing the top perimeter defender hurts an already struggling defense and takes away the Heels’ scrappiest player.
- It took til game 27, but we finally saw the starting line-up that we thought we would see all season long: Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks
- I said all week that this game would be much closer than the 51-point blowout earlier this season, and it certainly was, but uhhhh, yeah. A 24-point ACC road win? Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
- NC State started a small lineup, which allowed Isaiah Hicks to get an easy bucket over Maverick Rowan to start the game. This was a sign of things to come. Carolina led in rebounds 41-25, Carolina had more OFFENSIVE rebounds (18) than State had DEFENSIVE rebounds (16), and Carolina led points in the point 60-22. Don’t get your eyes checked. You read it right: 60-22.
- I think Isaiah Hicks saved up all the fouls he’s not been committing, and poured them into the little time he spent on the court in this game (seven minutes). He picked up three first half fouls and his fourth early in the second half. While Isaiah his been doing a much better job lately staying out of foul trouble, as a senior, he’s got to be smarter. That said, I’m surprised Coach Williams brought Hicks back in the game in the first half even though the Heels had a 17-point lead. Wisely though, Coach kept him out of the rest of the game after the fourth foul. With the tweaked hamstring still on the mend, not need to push it.
- I like Luke Maye more and more all the time. Some great put-backs tonight. Runs the floor well. Because of his lack of size, he’s gotta be more active and gritty and that’s exactly what he does. Maye had a career high in points (13).
- Would really like to see Joel Berry start driving the ball more, rather than settling for threes. The Secondary Break had a great write-up on Berry’s up-and-down season: http://www.thesecondarybreak.us/joel-berrys-up-and-down-season/. Berry did have six assists, three steals, and only one turnover in this game, which is a great sign. The test will be Virginia on Saturday.
- How many lay-ups did Theo Pinson have in this game? Goodness gracious.
- Another balanced scoring night. Five different Heels (Berry, Meeks, Jackson, Maye, and Pinson) scored in double figures.
I know I’m a couple days late in getting this posted. What can I say, it takes awhile to get over a loss to Duke. Anyway, here are Quick Hitters from Thursday night’s 86-78 road loss to Duke.
- Seriously? Isaiah Hicks out with a strained hamstring? What is it going to take to play a game with a fully healthy roster? The good news is that every game the Heels have played this year with the full roster available, they’ve won by 29.5 points.
- That said, Luke Maye did a really nice job sliding into Isaiah Hicks’ starting role. He played controlled and confidently, scored eight points on 4-8 shooting, had two assists, and zero turnovers. The one glaring weakness – only two rebounds in a game the Tar Heels lost the rebounding battle (31-30) for only the third time this year.
- Great to see Theo Pinson back. It sure doesn’t take long for him to fill the stat sheet. First defensive possession: grabbed the rebound and drew an over-the-back foul on Amile Jefferson. First offensive possession: assist to Nate Britt. Second offensive possession: made mid-range jumper. Third defensive possession: rebound. Third offensive possession: aggressive drive to the basket. Missed lay-up, but corralled two offensive rebounds leading to a Joel Berry floater. Pinson finished with six points, seven rebounds, three assists, zero turnovers, and a block in 19 minutes.
- A positive sign: Seventh Woods had his most complete game of the season at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It wasn’t the most points he’s scored (four vs. nine) or the most assists he’s had (four vs. six), but he played under control, with zero turnovers, and had a seemingly better grasp of playing within the offense. On one particular stretch of the first half, over the course of four straight offensive possessions, Woods had a lay-up followed by three assists.
- At the end of the first half, the Heels had one of the strangest line-ups on the court you’ll ever see from Roy Williams: Nate Britt, Joel Berry, Brandon Robinson, Theo Pinson, and Justin Jackson. The line-up came because Duke essentially had one possession left and the goal was to stop the three-point barrage.
- While Isaiah Hicks’ absence certainly hurt, the biggest problem in this game was three-point defense. The Tar Heels seem to have an aversion to guarding the three or running shooters off the line. Too often, a defender will help off a shooter to stop dribble penetration, resulting in a wide-open kick-out three. For the game, Duke hit more threes (13) than Carolina shot (12), and had a higher percentage (48.1% to 33.3%).
- The Heels did a nice job of getting both Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen into foul trouble. It wasn’t enough to affect the outcome, as Allen delivered blow after blow and Jefferson was a defensive stalwart inside. Hopefully, this trend will continue on the return game to Chapel Hill, knowing that Coach K has a shallow bench.
- It gave me perverse joy to see Theo Pinson block Jayson Tatum’s shot a couple possessions after he dunked and postured back down the court.
- Despite the loss, Carolina showed great resolve to fight back on the road after going down by eight early in the second half.
- A troubling trend: poor free throw shooting again in this game, including Joel Berry missing two (including the front end of a 1-and-1). Both misses were within the final five minutes of game time. As a team, Carolina shot 10-18 (to Duke’s 13-16), which won’t cut it in ACC play.
- All-in-all, the Heels played a good game, and had the ability to beat Duke in Cameron without Isaiah Hicks, but the three-point and free throw disparities were ultimately too much to overcome.
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.