Tag Archives: Kenny Williams

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 69-61 home loss to Virginia on Monday night.

Highlights:

 

  • I wrote this during the game and so I have to stick to it: Regardless of what the final result is (and you would obviously like to win), great resolve from the Heels to push back in second half and grab the lead. And what I’ll add to it now after the game: Man that’s a tough game to lose.
  • Carolina held a 55-48 lead with 7:50 remaining. From that point, Virginia outscored the Heels 21-6 for the rest of the game.
  • Granted, four of those minutes were with Cam Johnson’s ankle being tended to in the locker room. Make no mistake, his absence down the stretch allowed Virginia to exploit some defensive match-ups and hurt Carolina’s offensive attack. I’ll say it: If Johnson doesn’t miss those four minutes, Carolina wins tonight. Post-game Johnson said his ankle was actually already bothering him, so it will be important to monitor his health going forward.
  • Speaking of hurt ankles, Happy Birthday Nassir Little! Your present is a sprained ankle. With 12:06 remaining in the first half, Little stepped on Braxton Key’s foot and immediately went to the locker room. Little never even came back to the bench. With Leaky Black’s ankle injury, Sterling Manley’s continued absence, plus Little and Johnson, the Carolina depth will be tested over the coming weeks.

  • The lack of depth led to three Tar Heels (Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, Coby White) playing 36+ minutes. That fatigue appeared to play a factor in the closing minutes. However, Virginia’s Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and DeAndre Hunter all did the same with seemingly fewer ill effects. In fact, it was Guy who hit the two dagger threes for Virginia in the closing minutes.
  • I hesitate to be a “ref-blamer”, but there were several clearly inaccurate calls tonight. With 9:30 left in the first half, the refs rewarded Virginia the ball after replays showed it clearly tipping off of Cavalier Jay Huff’s fingers. At the exact same point of the second half, Virginia committed a shot-clock violation that wasn’t called. Replays showed the ball definitely in Braxton Key’s hands. There were other questionable calls, but these were the two most blatant.
  • On the other side of shot clock sadness were two calls that also went against Carolina. With two seconds remaining before halftime, Virginia’s shot clock ran out before Coby White could possess the ball for a breakaway lay-up. Then, on what would have been a miraculous shot with 3:30 remaining in the game, Coby White knocked in a three as the shot clock expired for a 62-59 lead. Unfortunately, the refs stopped the game to check this one, and it was determined the ball was still on his fingertips. At the time, it felt like the type of shot that meant Carolina was destined to win this one. Oh well. Here’s the play, followed by a second angle with a view of the shot clock:

  • This is just the sixth time all season Virginia has given up 60+ points.
  • Albeit on fewer possessions than normal, Carolina only turned the ball over eight times. This is the second lowest total of the season (six against UCLA).
  • Much better job rebounding tonight after the clunker against Miami on Saturday. Carolina out-rebounded Virginia 38-27, 16 of which were offensive. The Cavs, who admittedly don’t make much of an effort for offensive rebounds, only had three of that variety.
  • Carolina had 17 assists on 23 baskets.

  • Thanks to the mobility of Garrison Brooks, Carolina elected to switch a majority of ball screens when he was in the game. While it felt like Virginia could have exploited this possession after possession, they rarely did.
  • Virginia shot over 50 percent from three (11-for-20). It’s difficult to overcome the methodical nature of the Cavs in any game, but especially when you allow that level of field goal percentage.
  • Great hustle from Brandon Robinson on this play:

  • Tar Heel alums were everywhere. Most notably, Michael Jordan was in the house. Beyond that, players in attendance included Antawn Jamison, Billy Cunningham, Lennie Rosenbluth, Mitch Kupchak, Phil Ford, Nate Britt, George Lynch, Buzz Peterson, and likely a host of others.

  • Carolina led 11-8 early before Virginia went on a 10-0 run. The Heels kept it close most of the half although dropped behind by seven at halftime. From 40-32 early in the second half, Carolina went on an impressive 17-3 run to make the score 49-43.
  • Unfortunately, as previously stated, it just wasn’t meant to be tonight. The Heels need to take some time to get healthy and ready for the final seven game push of the regular season. So chin up Tar Heel fans, there’s still a lot of good basketball ahead.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Wake Forest on Saturday, February 16. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Miami

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-85 home win over Miami on Saturday afternoon.

Highlights:

 

  • Hard to believe, but 9-1 is Carolina’s best ACC start under Roy Williams. This is the best start for the Heels since the 2000-01 team lead by Brendan Haywood and Joseph Forte started 11-0.
  • The end of regulation felt very similar to last year’s home loss to Miami. A Tar Heel senior hit a game-tying three pointer in the closing seconds. The difference is that last year Miami hit a miraculous shot to win, while they missed the game-winner this year and the game went on to overtime.
  • Roy Williams made a brilliant play call for Luke Maye’s game-tying three. Coby White had been so hot that both Miami players went with him off the Maye screen. White made the mature decision to throw the ball to a wide open Maye who tied the game. Here’s the shot:

  • With just over 7:00 remaining in the game Miami held a seven-point lead (61-54). Then Coby White happened. Over the final 7:03 of the second half, he shot 5-for-5 from three and assisted Luke Maye on the game-tying three with 0:12 left in regulation. He then went on to assist or score on seven of Carolina’s 11 points in overtime. For the game, White tied his career-high of 33 points (11-16 FG, 7-10 3FG) and had six assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block. Here’s a glimpse of White’s day:
  • Carolina had just 10 turnovers today. Four of those 10 were in the first 5:30 of the game. Three of those four were credited to Coby White, but he didn’t turn the ball over the rest of the game.
  • Of all the unusual stats today, Miami out-rebounded Carolina 39-32. Only twice previously this season was Carolina out-rebounded. The first two were the losses to Kentucky and Louisville.
  • The first half was a string of runs. Carolina had three separate runs of 7-0. Miami mixed in their own run of 9-0.
  • It was a quiet offensive game for Kenny Williams, who finished with just five points on two made baskets. However, each of the five were important. His first bucket came off a steal and fast break layup. The second bucket was a three pointer in overtime, which gave the Heels their first lead of the extra period. Williams also added his usual defensive impact including a block, two steals, and a drawn charge.
  • Once again, Brandon Huffman scored a first half bucket and played solid defense on a post entry pass in the final minutes of the first half.
  • Carolina had a great sequence in the last minute of the first half. Cam Johnson knocked the ball away on defense. The ball wound up in Nassir Little’s hands who threw ahead to Johnson. Johnson found a slashing Luke Maye for a dunk in traffic with an and-one tacked onto the back end. Here’s the play:
  • Speaking of Luke Maye free throws, he had hit 15 in a row before missing two with 11:01 left in the second half.
  • Carolina started off shooting lights out in the second half. They hit their first six shots, including two threes and two completed and-ones. The problem is that Miami was also shooting really well. After missing their first two shots, they hit seven of their next eight (plus two free throws). On the back end of the Hurricane’s hot shooting, they went on a 13-0 run to take control of the game. They wouldn’t relinquish that lead until the teams traded blows in the final 3:30.
  • Here’s an example of the hot shooting for both teams in the final 25 minutes of game time. Miami shot a blistering 12-for-20 (60 percent) from three in the second half and overtime. However, Carolina shot an even better percentage, knocking in 10 of 15 (67 percent) during that same portion of the game.
  • Not sure why Miami waited so long to foul at the end of overtime. After a made three with 28 seconds left, they were down by a point and had to foul or Carolina could just run out the clock. Finally, with 12 seconds remaining they fouled. And with all that time to foul whomever they wanted, they fouled Cam Johnson. Advantage Tar Heels.
  • It was important that Miami wasn’t in the bonus at the end of OT when Carolina held a three-point lead. Rather than just giving the fouls, the Tar Heels aggressively went for steals and Miami never got a shot off. Curiously, Miami elected not to foul Carolina at the end of regulation, and Maye was able to tie the game.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

 

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Virginia on Monday, February 11. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. NC State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 113-96 home win over NC Stateon Tuesday night.

Highlights:

  • What an offensive showing. Carolina hit 50 points with 2:04 left in the first half. Carolina’s season scoring average is 88 points. They hit that number with 9:54 left in the game and then eclipsed 100 with 5:36 left. The Tar Heels’ 113 points is the second most NC State has ever allowed.
  • Luke Maye eats NC State for breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. And his midnight snack. Maye finished with 31 points (a season high), 12 rebounds, and shot 10-for-10 from the free throw line. This is the first time all season he’s had back-to-back games of 20+ points.
  • With his two made three pointers, Kenny Williams is now number 20 all-time at Carolina in made threes. His 128 takes him past PJ Hairston’s 127. Who would have thought that the kid who hit one three-pointer his freshman year would find himself in this position.
  • After only four first half turnovers, the Tar Heels got sloppy with the ball and finished the game with 17.
  • Another strong rebounding game. Carolina outrebounded the Wolfpack 41-27.
  • One of best parts of the night was when NC State passed the 24 point barrier (their total score from their game Saturday) with around 6:00 minutes remaining in the first half. The Dean Dome crowd let out a sarcastic cheer.
  • Carolina was aggressive all night, but particularly in the first half. At halftime they held a 13-16 to 1-5 advantage at the free throw line. In the second half the Heels were in the bonus with 12:51 remaining.
  • What a stat line for Garrison Brooks: Eight points on 4-for-4 shooting. 10 rebounds. Six assists (led team). Zero turnovers.
  • Three Tar Heels had hit double-figure scoring by halftime and five total players by the time the game was over. Four of those five had at least 17 points.
  • Update on Coby White: he is very fast. That is all.
  • Nassir Little grabbed a rebound in the last couple minutes before halftime that he had no business getting. The man is a freak.
  • Incredible save from Kenny Williams with 1:00 left before halftime as he flew out of bounds. Passed the ball directly to Coby White for a wide open three.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Miamion Saturday, February 9. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Louisville

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-69 road win on Saturday afternoon over Louisville.

Highlights:

  • What a huge win for Carolina. In addition to the revenge factor, the victory allows the Heels to keep pace with Duke and Virginia atop the ACC standings.
  • Just eight games into conference play Carolina has already secured a winning road record in ACC games, by achieving a 5-0 start. With five of the first eight conference games being on the road, this also means that six of the remaining 10 are at home.
  • In the previous match-up in Chapel Hill, the Heels played uninspired and uninterested. That was not the case today as the boys in baby blue were the aggressors from tip to final horn. This was most evident on the defensive end of the court. For example, Steven Enoch, who abused Carolina inside in the first game for 17 points and 11 rebounds, finished with zero points on 0-1 shooting and four rebounds.
  • The 10 turnovers today tied for the second-fewest committed by Carolina all season. No single player had more than two. Most importantly, Coby White had four assists against two turnovers, while Seventh Woods also had four assists and zero turnovers. Coach Williams will be pleased with an 8:2 assist-to-turnover ratio from his two primary ballhandlers.
  • There will be games where the freshmen dominate the headlines. Then there will be games like today when the seniors combined for 49 of the team’s 79 points.
  • Louisville outrebounded Carolina in the first game (40-31). Not today. The Heels went from the -9 of the first game to +17 today (49-32). In fact, the Cardinals didn’t corral a single offensive rebound until after halftime. On the other hand Carolina tied their second-highest offensive rebound output of the season with 18.

  • Nine players saw time on the court for Carolina. Nine players scored. Nine players recorded a rebound. Seven players recorded an assist.
  • Luke Maye finished the Georgia Tech game with a meager four points. He responded today with 20 points and 11 rebounds. It wasn’t a great shooting day (7-for-18), but what a great response from the senior. Here’s Maye talking about the game:
  • Louisville typically makes a living at the line. Today, they only took nine free throws. So not only were the Tar Heels the aggressors, but they did so without fouling. Meanwhile, Carolina made more free throws (15), than the nine that Louisville took.
  • Louisville made push after push in the second half to try and get back in the game. Carolina had an answer every time. Kenny Williams, in particular, had two important threes in these situations. Williams also had a monster defensive rebound in the first half which resulted in a Cam Johnson three and the first double-digit lead of the day.
  • After the first game against Louisville, one of the storylines was that Carolina would have to shoot better than 3-for-22 from deep. The Tar Heels did shoot better, but only marginally so (6-for-24). It’s been said of this team that they have to find a way to win when the outside shots aren’t falling, and today they did.
  • Another stat that needed to be remedied from game one was Coby White’s minutes (and points). Due to foul trouble, he only played 19 in the first match-up and scored four points. Today he played 30 minutes, but shot 3-for-14 and finished with eight points. It’s also been said of this team that they have to find a way to win when Coby White doesn’t shoot well, and today they did.
  • Part of the reason the Heels were able to do so was the steady hand of Seventh Woods. Woods has struggled recently, but had to do well today because there was no Leaky Black to play third-string point guard. Here’s Woods talking about his play today:
  • Brandon Huffman played some important minutes in the first half after Garrison Brooks picked up his second foul. Huffman played solid interior defense and scored a bucket off a post-up.
  • Despite the two first half fouls, Garrison Brooks played a really solid game. He scored 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting. He scored two interior buckets early in the second half and a few minutes later had a dunk in transition.
  • The first four minutes of each half are always important, but especially on the road. At the first media timeout of the game the Heels led 10-9. The halftime lead was 16 and at the first media timeout of the second half Louisville was only able to knock the lead down one to 15.
  • Nassir Little just continues to make ridiculous athletic plays. He had a tip-in in the closing minutes of the first half that had no business going in. He also had this block on a really nice defensive play:
  • Cameron Johnson posted another double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He didn’t miss a shot in the first half – 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting, 2-for-2 from deep, 2-for-2 from the line.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against NC State on Tuesday, February 5. Tip is at 8:00ET on Raycom.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia Tech

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 103-82 home win on Monday night over Virginia Tech.

Highlights:

  • For those who didn’t watch the game, they will look at the box score and say, “Wow what a blow out over a top-10 team!” But as those of us who watched the game know, that would be a completely incorrect assumption. This game began nearly identically to the Louisville game. But instead of folding, the resilient Heels showed what they learned from that previous shellacking, and provided a shellacking of their own.
  • And that shellacking began on the defensive side of the ball with three reserves in the game. The under-16:00 media timeout didn’t come until 13:21 of the first half, with the Hokies leading 19-13. At that point, Nassir Little, Brandon Robinson, and Seventh Woods all checked in. Virginia Tech hit another three for a 22-13 lead, but after that, Carolina began to chip away thanks to defensive pressure mostly provided by Woods. The Heels went on to outscore the Hokies 32-9 in the final 12:30 of the half. Here’s a prime example of turning defense into offense:
  • Virginia Tech had two separate five minute scoring droughts in the first half. Carolina scored 20 straight points during the second of those droughts and forced Virginia Tech into 12 first half turnovers.
  • Coming into the game, Carolina was fifth in the nation in scoring offense (87.3) while Virginia Tech was fifth in scoring defense (59.5). Something had to give. The Heels hit 60 to eclipse Tech’s season average with 15:31 still remaining. The 103 total points was 43.5 over the Virginia Tech season average.
  • Roy Williams has said all season what a great shooting team this is. They have shown that ability in spurts, but tonight was the night the dam broke. The Heels shot 1-for-their-first-12 from deep and it seemed that it would be another dismal shooting night. But then something happened and Carolina hit 14 of their next 18 threes and finished 16-for-34. The 16 made threes is one shy of a UNC record.
  • What a performance from Coby White. He led the team in points (27), rebounds (7), assists (6), steals (4), and blocks (1 – tied with Luke Maye).
  • Nassir Little continues to make strides. He scored a career high 23 points, including two three-pointers. This is the third game in a row in which he’s scored double digits. He was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line. He grabbed six rebounds and had three assists. Oh, and did all of that in just 20 minutes.
  • Potentially lost in the three-point barrage: while Virginia Tech was busy hitting six of their first seven three-pointers en route to building a 22-13 lead, Garrison Brooks scored eight of those 13 points on 4-for-4 shooting.
  • Two of Virginia Tech’s best players, Justin Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker both picked up three fouls in the first half. Their absence really contributed to Carolina’s ability to not only get the lead, but extend it in the first half.

  • The play that encapsulated the game: with just under 3:00 to go and Carolina up 19, Coby White dove for a loose ball, passed to Luke Maye, who found Kenny Williams, who passed back to Maye, who promptly threw a beautiful lob to Nassir Little for a dunk and his career high 23rd point. Here it is:

  • Another highlight play was Brandon Robinson’s threading of the needle to Kenny Williams with just under 10:00 remaining in the game. Robinson went down hard under the basket in the final minute of the game. Keep your eyes on his status. Thankfully, Carolina has eight days before it takes the court again.

  • Part of Carolina’s ability to climb back into the game in the first half was that they only turned the ball over four times. Nine turnovers in the second half is less appealing, but understandable given a lead of as many as 27 points.
  • Carolina came into the game third in the nation with 19.4 assists per game and dished out 25 more on 36 made baskets.
  • This might seem backwards, but what an encouraging sign that on a night when Carolina scored 103 points, the team’s leading scorer, Cam Johnson, only had eight.
  • Curiously, UNC only outrebounded Virginia Tech 35-32. The Tar Heels entered the game second in the nation with 43.89 per game while the Hokies are 320th in the nation with just 32.59 per game.
  • ESPN commentators have shown a growing disturbing habit during games of talking about anything other than the game. The “Which Williams?” segment in the middle of game action tonight was a new low.
  • Finally, this is the exuberance you love to see of five players having a great time playing together:

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game over a week away against Georgia Tech on Tuesday, January 29. Tip is at 8:00ET on RSN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Miami

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 85-76 road win on Saturday afternoon over Miami.

Highlights:

  • Don’t overlook what a big deal a 3-0 start on the road in the league is. The Heelswill have six more road games and need just two wins in those games to ensure a winning record on the road in conference.
  • Welcome back Cam Johnson’s shot. After not hitting a three for the past two games, Johnson shot 5-for-7 from deep.

  • Carolina had 26 assists on 33 made field goals. Hopefully James Harden is paying attention. Coby White contributed eight assists, Kenny Williams seven, and Brandon Robinson and Luke Maye each had four.
  • The Heels are tops in the ACC in rebound margin while Miami is dead last. It showed today with Carolina holding a 38-23 margin, including 13 offensive rebounds.
  • In a rotation change, Nassir Little was the first sub off the bench. In his second offensive possession, he corralled a rebound, got fouled and made both free throws. The next possession he found Cam Johnson for a three. The next possession he scored off a Luke Maye assist in the lane.
  • Still no Sterling Manley, for the sixth game in a row. It’s time to start wondering if he will play again this season.
  • Carolina surrendered seven threes to Miami in the first half, but held the Canes to just two in the second 20 minutes. On the flip side, after Miami cut the lead to one in the second half, the Heels hit three-pointers on four out of their next five possessions (two each from Johnson and Williams) to push lead back to eight.
  • Refs missed a shot clock violation on Miami with 11:29 left in the first half and no one seemed to react to it. From still pictures, the ball was clearly still in the shooter’s hand when the shot clock is at zero.

  • Nassir Little had a thunderous dunk driving down the lane four minutes into the second half. Take a look:
  • A balanced scoring attack today for Carolina. Five players were in double-digits led by Cam Johnson’s 22. Most encouraging was a season high 16 points for Kenny Williams, including 6-for-9 shooting and 3-for-5 from deep.
  • This was a tight game throughout, with the only double-digit lead coming for Carolina with less than a minute to go.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Virginia Tech on Monday, January 21. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ NC State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 90-82 road victory on Tuesday night over NC State.

Highlights:

  • What a start to conference play. The Heels are 2-0 in the ACC. Both road wins. This one over an upstart NC State team ranked 15thin the nation. The Tar Heels never trailed against the Wolfpack and responded each time the home team made a run. That’s the start you want to the conference portion of your schedule. Carolina finally gets a home conference game Saturday against Louisville before hosting a struggling Notre Dame team after that.
  • With 12:19 remaining Cam Johnson dove after a loose ball and crumpled into a heap on the floor while clutching his inner right knee. I (and likely a multitude of others) feared the worst: torn ACL. Poor Cam Johnson has worked so hard to get to where he is as the match-up-nightmare-sniper-who-can-also-drive-you-to-the-hole leading scorer of the 2018-19 Tar Heels. Thankfully the report turned out to be cramps and Johnson returned to the bench with just a little bit of time left on the clock. Coach Williams reported that he didn’t want to put Johnson back in the game for fear of the cramps returning in a crucial moment. Brandon Robinson and Leaky Black both filled Johnson’s minutes admirably down the stretch. Here’s Cam in the locker room postgame, discussing the incident:
  • Much has been made of Luke Maye’s consistent growth at the free throw line, but don’t miss Garrison Brooks’ numbers in the same department. In his freshman year, he shot 58.7 percent (37-63). Through 15 games this season, Brooks is up to 72.1 percent (31-43), a change of +13.4 percentage points. Checking in on Maye’s free throw numbers, he’s shooting 80.6 percent this year, up 18.2 percent from last year (62.4 percent) and 37.7 percent from his freshman year (42.9 percent).
  • Staying with Brooks, he has now tallied five assists and zero turnovers in back-to-back games. He led the team in assists in both games (Cam Johnson also had five against NC State). Brooks and Maye have developed some good big-to-big passing chemistry.

  • Luke Maye recorded a double-double (21 points, 11 boards). You’ve heard that before. But what will surprise you is that Kenny Williams (15 points, 10 boards) and Cam Johnson (15 points, 11 boards) joined him in the double-double club. Three Tar Heel double-doubles in one game! The feat was the first of Williams’ career, and the first time he’s reached double-digits rebounds. For Johnson, it was his first of the season and fourth of his career. Here’s Kenny Williams talking about being 4-0 in Raleigh during his tenure as a Tar Heel:
  • Those double-doubles helped contribute to a 51-33 advantage on the boards for the Heels. After a recent concerning trend down in rebounding dominance for Carolina (a stat they rely on heavily), this reversal was a welcome sight. Particularly because NC State has also rebounded the ball well this year.
  • The Tar Heels shot well on frees and threes. Carolina was 22-for-26 (84.6 percent) from the free throw line and 10-for-25 (40 percent) from deep. This is the second game in a row the team has shot 40 percent or better from three-point range.
  • Roy Williams loves when his teams make more free throws than the opponents attempt. Carolina made 22 free throws. NC State attempted 17.
  • Oh the turnovers. 23 of them. Luke Maye was the main culprit with seven, followed by Coby White with five. In fairness, NC State makes a living by forcing turnovers, but Carolina has to be tougher with the ball. After back-to-back games of trending in the right direction with just 11 giveaways in each, 23 is worrisome.
  • Leaky Black picked up his third foul with 4:26 remaining before halftime. Play resumed before Coach Williams could sub him out. How did Black respond? A block on the next possession. Challenging a shot on the possession after that while staying straight up and down so as to not draw a foul. That’s a freshman making important defensive plays on back-to-back possessions right after drawing a third foul in the first half.
  • Out of context, allowing 82 points sounds like it was a poor defensive night. However Carolina held NC State to under one point per possession. In fact, don’t look now, but this is the fifth game in a row the Heels have held their opponent under one point per possession.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first ACC home game, against Louisville. Tip is Saturday, January 12 at Noon ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Pittsburgh

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 85-60 road win on Saturday over Pittsburgh.

Highlights:

  • This was the start the Tar Heels needed in conference play. During the 2016-17 season Carolina had a similar start to the ACC schedule: back-to-back road games with the first against one of the presumptive bottom dwellers in the conference. That year, Carolina went to Atlanta and lost to Georgia Tech by 12. The current iteration of the Tar Heels would not suffer the same fate, by securing a dominant victory in Pittsburgh.
  • This game was Cam Johnson’s first return game to Pitt (Carolina played the Panthers only at home last year). Not a single player remaining on Pitt’s roster was one of Johnson’s teammates. Lots of players in that position of returning home try too hard or get too amped up. Not Johnson, who had another great game. He, along with Coby White, paced Carolina’s scoring in the first half. Johnson also tallied a season-high nine rebounds, had four assists and zero turnovers. Here’s Johnson talking about his homecoming:
  • This game was tied at 12. Carolina then went on an extended 26-5 run (including a 16-0 spurt) to essentially put the game out of reach.
  • Last season, Johnson fell well short of his three-point shooting expectations (34.1 percent). This year he’s up nearly 15 percent (48.6 percent), hitting 35 of 72 shots thus far. Literally one more made three would have him at 50 percent from deep on the season.
  • Garrison Brooks did a better job managing his fouls than he has of late. He didn’t pick up a second foul until just before halftime. This self-control allowed him to play 28 minutes, up from a 19.5 season average. The extra court time afforded Brooks the opportunity to have arguably his most productive game of the season – nine points on 4-for-8 shooting, eight rebounds, five assists, zero turnovers, two blocks and two steals. In fact, he was the leading assist man on the team.
  • Carolina has now committed just 11 turnovers in back-to-back games. While any number of turnovers is undesirable, 11 is a palatable number for Coach Williams and his up-tempo style of play.
  • The Heels racked up 24 assists on 32 made buckets (75 percent). At halftime, Carolina has 11 assists and Pitt had precisely zero.
  • For the third game in a row, Carolina held their opponent to 60 points or less and under 40 percent shooting. Pitt only scored 23 points and shot 20.7 percent in the first half. Here’s an example of that solid defense turning into an assist from White to Maye:

  • Carolina hauled in 51 rebounds (17 offensive), led by Luke Maye’s 11. However, they allowed 46 rebounds to Pittsburgh. So the rebounding total is where it needs to be, but the rebound margin is less than the advantage the Heels usually enjoy.

  • Coby White’s shot might be back. He led the team in scoring with 22. He and Johnson each hit three first-half three pointers en route to the team shooting 10-for-24 (41.7 percent) from deep. Pitt, on the other hand, only buried two three pointers. Here’s White discussing his first ever ACC game:
  • Kenny Williams had a rough, foul-plagued game. He picked up his third foul with just over 8:00 before halftime and his fourth less than two minutes into the second half. Williams shot 1-for-5 from the floor, including 0-for-3 from deep. You have to feel for the senior.
  • Carolina employed a zone in the first defensive possession after the under 12:00 media timeout of the first half. They played six total zone possessions in the first half as well as several more in the second.
  • An area Carolina needs to continue to grow: the Heels let Pitt get into the bonus with 14:22 left in the first half.
  • It seems like at least once a game Nassir Little comes up with some type of highlight. He had a monster block with around 12:00 left in the first half and had a huge dunk later in the game.

  • The three freshmen (Nassir Little, Coby White, Leaky Black) were on the court together quite a bit throughout the game. Roy Williams’ willingness to trust his three freshmen in a line-up together in their first ACC road game says a lot about his faith in them.
  • The Heels had really active hands against Pitt; particularly from Brandon Robinson who finished with three steals.
  • It seems like more often than not, Carolina has a lapse just before halftime. Not so today. The first half ended with a wonderfully executed fast break. Leaky Black grabbed a rebound and pitched ahead to Cam Johnson who passed to Coby White for a lay-up as the buzzer expired. Here’s the play:

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against NC State on Tuesday, January 8. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Harvard

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-57 home victory on Wednesday night over Harvard.

Highlights:

  • Tonight was the final tune-up for the Tar Heels before ACC play commences on Saturday at Pittsburgh. It was a sluggish win for Carolina, but a win all the same. At the same time, the ugly win will not do much to inspire confidence heading into conference play. The 2018-19 Tar Heels are very much still a work in progress.
  • For the 13thseason in a row, Carolina has amassed 10+ non-conference wins.
  • Sterling Manley was out tonight with left knee discomfort. There is no current timetable for his return.
  • The Tar Heels only had four first half turnovers and finished with 11. Curiously, Cam Johnson was responsible for five of those. Harvard finished with 22 turnovers.

  • Carolina only out-rebounded Harvard 38-34 and had just eight offensive rebounds.
  • Garrison Brooks had another strong start but picked up two fouls before the first media timeout. This is the third game in a row he’s had two fouls in the first five minutes. Particularly with a thin front line further thinned with Sterling Manley’s absence, Brooks has to find ways to stay on the court longer.

  • Admittedly it has been against back-to-back mid-major teams, but the defense is trending in the right direction. Purely based off of shooting numbers, Carolina has held their last two opponents (Davidson and Harvard) to 33.9 percent (41-for-121) on field goals. Anecdotally, the team appears to be playing with more urgency, activity and cohesion on defense. Of course, there is still room to grow on defense. Here is Kenny Williams talking about that need for growth:
  • This defense uptick is fortunate because the Heels are struggling in half court offense and need the defense to turn into fast-break offense. A great example of the defense turning into offense came just before the under 4:00 media timeout of the first half. Kenny Williams grabbed a steal and pitched ahead to Leaky Black who assisted Nassir Little on an explosive dunk.

  • Sluggish and sloppy start to second half. Harvard cut the lead down to as little as 5.
  • If something seemed different defensively in the second half, that’s because Carolina started switching all their screens instead of the usual hedging out.
  • 19-22 from the free throw line for the Heels. Those are numbers you’ll take any night.

  • 5 different players hit double-digit scoring, led by Luke Maye’s 14.
  • For the first time all season, Kenny Williams didn’t record an assist.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the ACC conference opener on the road against Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 5. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom. Here’s former Pittsburgh Panther Cam Johnson talking about tonight’s game, but also the impending match-up in Pennsylvania:

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Davidson

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 82-60 home win on Saturday over Davidson.

Highlights:

  • With 6:45 remaining in the first half, Davidson was in the midst of a 9-0 run and held a 24-19 edge over the sluggish Tar Heels. Sparked by a Garrison Brooks and-1, Carolina went on a 20-4 run to end the half up 39-28. The Tar Heels pushed the margin out to as many as 26 points nine minutes into the second half before landing on a 22-point victory.
  • Speaking of Brooks, he picked up two fouls and three turnovers less than four minutes into the game and appeared to be headed for a non-factor type of day. To his credit, Brooks regrouped and didn’t commit another foul or turnover, while finishing with 11 points and three rebounds in his 16 minutes of action.
  • Luke Maye recorded his third double-double in the past five games after tallying only one in the first seven. Maye had already corralled 10 boards by halftime and totaled 14 for the game to go with 11 points, three assists, one block and just one turnover.
  • Coby White (who was called “Cody” by one of the announcers prior to the opening tip) had a goose egg in the score column at halftime but had already recorded six assists and had just one turnover. Curiously, White finished with seven each of points, rebounds and assists. His height at the point guard position makes him a nightly triple-double threat.

  • Cameron Johnson didn’t score until nearly 14 minutes of game time had gone by. He then poured in eight of the 20 points in the closing stretch of the first half and finished with a game high 17, right on his season average. Here’s Johnson talking about the game:
  • 20 assists on 26 made baskets. Assisting on 77 percent of made field goals is a really good day.
  • Turnovers. They are a theme every game. Carolina coughed up four turnovers in the first four minutes, but then only five the rest of the first half and only five total in the second half. These numbers seem to point in the right direction, but the team needs to continue to make improvements in valuing the basketball heading into ACC play.
  • Nassir Little’s biggest contributions at this point in his career are when he goes out and let the athlete in him take over. Here’s an example on both sides of the court:

  • Carolina got back to where they wanted to be in rebounding margin, holding a 49-33 (+16) advantage over Davidson. However, a closer look reveals that only nine of those rebounds were offensive. Davidson had eight. Coach Williams will want his team to grab a higher percentage of offensive rebound opportunities going forward.
  • While it wasn’t a full-game defensive showcase, Carolina did hold Davidson to 29.9 percent shooting and 26.3 percent from three. As per usual, Kenny Williams led the way in setting a defensive tone for his teammates to follow. A shot clock violation on Davidson’s first possession was a rather auspicious start.
  • Five Tar Heels scored in double-digits (Johnson, Williams, Maye, Brooks, Little).
  • Congrats to Carolina alum Theo Pinson who recorded his first triple-double in the G-League on Friday (27 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds) and then played his first NBA minutes (28) on Saturday for the Nets against the Bucks. He scored his first NBA points and finished with six points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one turnover.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Harvard on Wednesday, January 2. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN2.

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