Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 97-69 home win on Wednesday night over UNC-Wilmington.
There are scoring runs and then there are scoring runs. Luke Maye picked up his fourth foul with 17:16 remaining in the game and the Heels up 48-41. You might have been concerned. I was concerned. Should we have been? Nope. The Heels immediately went on a 16-0 run, which extended to an absurd 30-3 run. When Maye checked back in with 9:12 remaining the lead had ballooned from seven to 31 (75-44). Here’s Kenny Williams talking about the 53-point second half explosion:
The big concern of late has been the Tar Heels’ (lack of) defense. For the game, Carolina held UNC-Wilmington to 35.5 percent shooting, forced them into 25 turnovers, and scored 34 points off of those turnovers. It remains to be seen whether the defense was legitimately better, or just a product of playing (with apologies to UNC-Wilmington) an inferior team. We’ll get quick answers with the next two games being against Gonzaga and Kentucky.
After exploding out of the gate, Cameron Johnson’s scoring has tapered off the last couple games. He rebounded nicely tonight, leading all scorers with 21 points (ties his season high). Here’s Johnson talking about the game:
Coby White and Brandon Robinson both sat out the game with injuries. Despite missing those two regulars, nine different players played double-digit minutes. As has often been the case this season, no player played 30 minutes or more.
With Coby White out tonight, a reminder the only player in the Roy Williams era to start every game as a freshman is . . .
Seventh Woods earned his first career start in White’s absence. He had three assists and three turnovers, a wash. Woods’ biggest contribution was his aggressive play to help grow the lead immediately after Maye went to the bench with his fourth foul.
In addition to Woods’ three turnovers, Kenny Williams, Luke Maye, and Nassir Little each also had three. These key players will need to curtail their sloppiness with the ball. The good news is that after nine first half turnovers, the first turnover of the second half didn’t occur until six minutes in.
With White out, Leaky Black also played more than usual. He quietly had a rather effective showing – four points (on 2-for-3 shooting), three assists, zero turnovers and two steals. That type of steady play will be important for Carolina throughout the season.
Kenny Williams really has become an assist machine. Despite his three turnovers, the senior racked up eight assists. He is averaging 4.9 assists per game this season. For reference to a recent non-point guard playmaker, Theo Pinson averaged 5.1 assists per game last season. As a team, Carolina assisted on 23 of their 37 made baskets tonight.
Devontae Cacok is Wilmington’s leading scorer (15.9) and the nation’s leading rebounder (12.3). As you are aware, the Heels pride themselves on rebounding as well. Carolina held Cacok to just six points and six rebounds, as well as just 21 minutes of game action due to foul trouble. It was a classic case of the Heels working to get an opponent’s dominant big man in foul trouble. Overall Carolina won the rebounding battle 49-36.
The Tar Heels enjoyed a lopsided 50-16 advantage on points in the paint. Big men Garrison Brooks (seven), Sterling Manley (eight), and Brandon Huffman (seven) each had a meaningful contribution to that tally. Manley also came away with double-digit rebounds (10).
Brooks and Manley have combined for 15 points and 15 rebounds tonight (including some long stints paired together in the frontcourt). Could have been an even better night for the sophomore bigs if not for 3-of-9 shooting from the line.
Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 84-67 road loss on Wednesday to Michigan in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge.
Two years ago the Heels played in a similarly tough road environment at Indiana during the ACC / Big Ten challenge. Things didn’t go well in that game either. However, as you’ll recall that season turned out just fine. Patience. Roy doesn’t play for November. Roy builds for March.
Coming into the game, the main story line was Carolina’s top-notch offense against Michigan’s stingy defense. Unfortunately it was the Tar Heels’ defense (or lack thereof) that received top billing. Never doubt Coach Williams’ ability to rally the troops, but defense is currently an area of serious concern. Pick-and-roll and back door cuts, in particular, yielded several wide open lay-ups for Michigan.
Michigan handles Carolina 84-67
Wolverines effective field goal percentage of 68% is 5th highest ever by an opponent in Roy Williams era
Pitt – 71.9% in 2015 NC State – 69.8% in 2007 Florida State – 68.8% in 2012 Boston College – 68.5% in 2006
Kenny Williams appears to be heating back up. In the past two games he’s shot 9-for-15 from the field and 5-for-9 from three while averaging 13 points. He’s done this while maintaining his defensive prowess and dishing out nine assists with just one turnover. Here’s Williams talking about tonight’s game:
Similar to the Texas game, Carolina started off hot, hitting four of its first five shots and amassing a quick 10 point lead in the first eight minutes. The Heels hung with Michigan the entire first half, but Michigan pushed the lead to 12 before the first media timeout of the second half and never looked back.
Luke Maye recorded his second double-double of the season, grabbing 15 rebounds to go with 11 points. The other starting big man, Garrison Brooks had a sneakily solid 10 points and seven rebounds.
Michigan’s style of defense forces a lot of one-on-one basketball. The Heels didn’t do a great job of moving the ball tonight and wound up assisting on only half of their made baskets (13 of 26).
On the plus side, while Michigan’s defense is tough, Carolina had its second-lowest turnover output of the season (10). In a true road environment, that’s an encouraging number. Over the past two games the Heels are averaging eight turnovers. That’s a number Coach Williams can live with.
While the total score of 67 was a season low, Carolina’s 35 first half points is the most Michigan has given up in the first half all year. The Tar Heels are going to be able to score all year, but some nights that shots won’t fall as frequently and the defense will have to be ready to pick up the slack.
Great to have Seventh Woods back from injury. He completed an and-one within his first two minutes of returning to action. His years of experience provide a steadying hand at the point guard position. Woods didn’t move the ball as well as he had been doing prior to his concussion, but he’ll get back there quickly.
Michigan’s unheralded (and ambidextrous) freshman Ignas Brazdeikis is impressive. He led all scorers with 24 points. Brazdeikis seems to genuinely enjoy the game and is fun to watch. Michigan has already slaughtered Villanova at Villanova. This Wolverines team might be better than last year’s national runner-up.
It was a tough offensive night for Cam Johnson and Nassir Little. The first and fourth leading scorers on the team finished with a combined nine points. Johnson didn’t score his first point until 13 minutes into the second half.
As per usual, 11 different Tar Heels entered the game in the first half. As early as the first media timeout, the entire second unit (Seventh Woods, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, Nassir Little and Sterling Manley) was in the game. It should be noted that Michigan took its first lead with this group of five on the court. 13 different players were used in the meaningful minutes of the game, including Brandon Huffman and KJ Smith. As often happens when he’s unhappy, Coach Williams benched all five starters for a four-minute stretch of the second half. I’ll say it again: ROY IS COACHING FOR MARCH. BE PATIENT.
Believe it or not, the starting 5 led 36-34 as a unit tonight. The Heels were -19 with at least 1 reserve on the floor, though (and -14 with 5 reserves on the court). Starters were bad in the second half, too, but competitive for the most part.
Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: Michigan came into the game shooting 33 percent on three-pointers for the year. They drilled 11 of 22 for 50 percent shooting against Carolina. Texas just had a similar shooting performance against Carolina on Thanksgiving.
The Tar Heels are averaging 14.29 offensive rebounds per game, but had just one at halftime. A strong second-half effort got them to 13 for the game and overall out-rebounded Michigan 43-34.
In a hostile road environment, a lot of teams would pack it in after a poor performance and falling behind by as many as 22. However, an 11-0 Tar Heel run cut the lead to 11 with 5:30 remaining. Andrew Platek missed a lay-up to further cut the deficit to nine. After that, Michigan pushed the lead back to 18. The good news: these Heels have fight in them. They just need to show it from the tip and show it on defense.
In case you care: The ACC tied the Big Ten 7-7 in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge. The Big Ten has 14 teams so one ACC teams sits out each year. Also, it’s time for a name change Big Ten. Because you have 14 teams.
Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-78 victory on Friday afternoon over UCLA in the Las Vegas Invitational.
I must be honest, during the first half I was prepared to say that this game was essentially just a continuation of all the same issues from the Texas game (and the first half was). I could have said, “I don’t need to write Quick Hitters tonight, just re-read last night’s.” I had the early season tournament cliché all lined up: “It’s always said of these mini tournaments that a really good team is going to leave 0-2. Unfortunately in this instance, that team was Carolina.” But then the second half happened and I had to scratch all of that.
I was curious to see how Coby White would follow up his big night. Was the 33-point explosion just a foreshadowing of things that would come later in the season or the new normal? White responded by scoring 10 of Carolina’s first 17 and finished with 19 total points on 6-for-11 shooting, including 4-for-7 from three. While 19 is certainly less than 33, this was a more impressive performance because he didn’t just create for himself but also dished out eight assists to teammates (against only two turnovers). This balance of scoring and assisting is exactly what Coach Williams will be looking for. All-in-all a great two game stretch from the freshman point guard.
Coby White scored 52 points on 28 shots in the last 2 games
White made 11 of 17 3PT shots, and 5 of 11 2PT shots
The one thing White struggled with was foul trouble. Seventh Woods was still out with a concussion, so Leaky Black once again handled the back-up point guard minutes. Thursday night, the offense severely bogged down with Black running the show. While his stat line wasn’t gaudy against UCLA, he didn’t turn the ball over, had two assists and scored five points on 2-for-3 shooting. Black is gaining valuable experience and looking more comfortable running the team. His best play came early in the second half. With UNC up 55-54, Black blocked a shot (the ball hit the backboard first; it was an obvious goal tend…shhhhh don’t tell anyone), corralled the loose ball and threw a court length bounce pass to Kenny Williams for the fast break layup. Here’s that sequence:
Carolina has committed double-digit turnovers in every game thus far, including 18 and 17 in the previous two games. White turned the ball over on the first possession of the game and we appeared to be headed for more of the same. However the Heels committed only four more the rest of the half and just one in the second half for a season low of six.
The senior trio of Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, and Cam Johnson struggled mightily shooting against Texas. Those woes carried over into the first half of the UCLA game. However in the second half they shot a combined 10-for-12, totaling 30 of Carolina’s 53 points.
It’s been well documented that Kenny Williams has been struggling with his shot this year (although had a great shooting performance against UCLA). Rather than sulking, he’s found a new way to contribute offense by turning himself into Theo Pinson-type play maker. Prior to this year, Williams averaged 1.6 assists per game. This year he’s averaging a career-high 4.7 assists per game and 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. Here’s to hoping there will be a lot of Tar Heels pointing at Kenny Williams throughout this season.
With 6 assists and 1 turnover against UCLA, Kenny Williams moved past Theo Pinson into 4th place on UNC's all-time A:TO list at 2.26.
Johnson was on fire after halftime, scoring the Heels’ first nine points. The most impressive of which was his second bucket. After burying a three on the previous possession, he could have easily decided to hoist another, but wisely chose to drive baseline for a lay-up. He followed up that play with a steal on UCLA’s next possession, which he quickly returned to Carolina’s basket for two more points. Here’s all three of those plays:
UCLA’s 7’1” freshman Moses Brown has had an impressive start to his college career. There was some concern how Carolina’s bigs would handle Brown’s presence. Cutting to the chase, Brown fouled out with 7:40 remaining having only played eight minutes.
Garrison Brooks had two under-the-radar-but-very-important plays that you might have missed. One showed up in the box score, the other didn’t. First, UCLA had the ball, up seven, with about 5:30 left before halftime. Brandon Robinson got a steal and Brooks somehow slapped the ball ahead to Coby White for a fast break dunk. No box score assist to Brooks (that went to Robinson for some reason), but a huge play and UCLA never pushed their lead back to double-digits. The other notable play was Brooks’ only two points of the night. The Bruins had cut Carolina’s lead down to seven and fouled Brooks with 7:40 remaining. He stepped to the line, a career 59.5 percent free throw shooter, and calmly sunk both free throws to push the lead back to nine. Here’s the “slap-ahead”:
Defense still needs to be cleaned up. The Heels allowed UCLA to hit their first seven shots and nine of their first 11 shots. The Bruins’ first miss came almost five minutes into the game. Once again, staying in front of the ball is of the utmost importance. Carolina played much tougher and attentive defense in the second half, even securing a shot clock violation at 12:19.
Nassir Little was in much more intentional attack mode this game; not settling for jump shots. The highlight of the game was his go-ahead dunk at the 12:00 minute mark of the second half, after which the Heels never again trailed. Here’s the dunk:
A stat it would be easy to miss, part 1: Brandon Robinson had four assists and zero turnovers.
A stat it would be easy to miss, part 2: reserve KJ Smith has scored in every game in which he’s played so far this season.
The Las Vegas Invitational promised to teach us a lot about this team. And it did. But there’s still a lot to learn. How would these games have looked with Seventh Woods in the mix? How will the freshmen respond to a true road environment against a strong defensive opponent (Michigan)? Stay tuned because games against Michigan, Gonzaga and Kentucky over the next several weeks will be revelatory.
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 Michigan in the ACC / Big Ten Championship. Tip is on Wednesday, November 28 at 9:00ET on ESPN.
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Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 92-89 loss on Thanksgiving evening to Texas in the Las Vegas Invitational.
First off: Happy Thanksgiving. Hoping you had a wonderful day with family and friends and ate way too much good food.
Same story, different chapter of the series versus Texas: Opposing guard goes off (Kerwin Roach, 32 points on 12-for-15 shooting). Texas out-physicals Carolina. Texas out-hustles Carolina. Texas out-toughs Carolina. Texas uses the dribble to get in the lane at will. The Tar Heels have now lost eight of their last nine to the Longhorns. Here’s Kenny Williams providing some senior prospective:
You might think that the absence of a back-up point guard isn’t a big deal. You’d be wrong. When Coby White checked out with 14:27 left in the first half, Carolina lead 17-5. Typically Seventh Woods would enter the game at that point and run the team seamlessly. Leaky Black just isn’t ready to do that yet and when White checked back in the lead was down to 23-18. Black projects to be an incredible player for this team, but the offense severely bogged down with the changing of the guard.
Turnovers were *yet again* a major issue, at least in the first half. The Heels coughed the ball up 17 total times; 14 of which were in the first 20 minutes. Literally all 10 players that stepped on the floor for Carolina had at least one turnover.
Okay, let’s talk about something positive. Coby White knows how to put the ball in the bucket and we caught our first glimpse of just how prolific he can be. White poured in 33 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including 7-for-10 from deep and 6-for7 from the free throw line. Here’s a look at all his scoring:
As out-of-sync as the Heels looked most of the night, they fought to stay in the game and had their chances. Down 80-70 with just under 7:00 remaining, Carolina went on an 8-0 run in under a minute to close the gap to 2. Later, down three with 30 seconds left, Luke Maye had a great look at a three to tie the game, but the ball just wouldn’t stay down. Unfortunately the closest the Heels could get was two.
Need a reminder of how every play matters? With 3:30 remaining in the first half and the Heels up seven, Sterling Manley grabbed a rebound and threw his outlet pass to Kerwin Roach who took one dribble and buried a three. Final deficit? Three points. Here’s the play:
It wasn’t all bad for Manley. He had two really nice assists to Cam Johnson.
As well as Coby White shot, the senior trio of Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, and Cam Johnson were a combined 12-for-33 from the field, including just 2-for-13 from three.
After the St. Francis game, I mentioned that Carolina’s bench was outscoring the opponents 194-66. The bench only contributed 18 tonight.
Defense has been something of an issue all season. However against inferior competition, the problems have been masked. In the second half, Texas shot 62.5 percent from the field and from three. To put it bluntly, that just won’t cut it against either the rest of the non-conference schedule or the ACC gauntlet.
Despite winning the total rebound battle 41-32 and the offensive rebound battle 15-9, the small line-up surrendered some ill-timed offensive boards to Texas.
A final positive note: Congrats to Cam Johnson for reaching 1,000 career points combined between Pittsburgh & Carolina.
2ndmost painful part of the night? We’re going to the Texas football game on Friday where I will be cheering for the Longhorns.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the consolation game of the Las Vegas Invitational against the loser of UCLA/ Michigan State on Friday afternoon. Tip is at 4:00ET on FOX.
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Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 101-76 home win on Monday night against St. Francis.
Just like Carolina, St. Francis prides themselves on rebounding. Carolina still held a solid margin leading the battle of the boards 46-37. St. Francis, however, won the offensive rebounding battle 13-11.
18 turnovers. The most in a game this year for the Heels. Coby White and Leaky Black were responsible for four apiece (but only one assist each). Keep in mind – these guys are freshmen and will have games like that sometimes.
On the other hand, Kenny Williams and Seventh Woods picked up the assist slack, while turning the ball over only once and twice respectively. Williams had a career-high nine assists while Woods had seven.
Speaking of Williams, just a few days removed from hurting his ankle, his status for this game was in question. Not only did he play, but Williams started and immediately threw his body into the mix as he always does. By night’s end Williams had drawn two offensive fouls (somehow his first two of the year). That’s the senior leadership you need to have a successful and long season.
Cameron Johnson once again led the team in scoring (20). The combination of his health and his second year in the Carolina system have allowed him to be a much more active and attacking player. Four other Tar Heels scored in double figures.
Remember last year when you fretted every time Coach Williams substituted because the bench struggled so mightily? In the first five games of the 2018-19 season, the Carolina bench is outscoring the opponents’ bench 194-66.
If you haven’t noticed, Coby White is blazing fast. He’s still learning to harness that speed, but it did cause a funny moment in the second half. White led a fast break and stopped suddenly for a pull-up near the free throw line. As he did so the St. Francis defender literally came out of his shoe. Here’s video of the play:
Despite the sloppy play, Carolina scored 100+ points for the third time in the last four games.
This was yet another game where no Tar Heel hit 30 minutes of playing time. Through five games, only two players have had to play 30+ minutes in any game (Luke Maye and Cam Johnson against Wofford).
Knew Roy Williams had been doing an excellent job of keeping his starters fresh, but didn't realize the Heels were 10th nationally in bench minutes. Starters playing just 57.5 percent of available minutes.
Nassir Little had an impressive game. 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting and seven rebounds. Perhaps the most remarkable moment was his back-to-back three point plays. Little has shown a capability to finish strong through contact. This will be important in ACC play. Here’s a tasty dunk for you:
Luke Maye finally secured a double-double (11 points | 10 rebounds). He’ll get his if and when he needs to, but as referenced earlier, this teams’ depth doesn’t need him to do as much every night out. And that’s a good thing. Incidentally, Maye now has 931 career points. If his averages hold, he should eclipse 1,000 on December 15 against Gonzaga.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first game of the Las Vegas Invitational against Texason Thanksgiving Day. Tip is at 7:30ET on FS1.
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Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 108-58 home win on Friday night over Tennessee Tech.
Let’s first address what we’re all most concerned about: Kenny Williams’ ankle. All reports are that it appears to be a minor injury. Coach Williams indicated he could be ready for Monday’s game against St. Francis. However, in a game the Heels should win, expect the coaching staff to proceed with caution. Here’s the injury:
Speaking of Kenny Williams, with just over 13:00 left in the second half and the, he missed a three but sprinted back on defense to thwart an ally-oop. By the way, Carolina was up 35 points when that happened. That’s Kenny Williams being Kenny Williams and the reason why everyone was so concerned about an injury for a player shooting 29.6 percent and 12.5 percent from three. Here’s the play:
Kenny Williams hustles back to deflect the alley oop
In half the games this season Seventh Woods has five or more assists and zero turnovers. The tally for this game was eight assists (a career high) against zero turnovers, bringing his assist-to-turnover ratio for the season to 5:1. Woods has already equaled his total number of assists from last season (20), while only surrendering one-third of last season’s turnovers (4 vs. 12). Woods also hit a three pointer; just the third of his career after sinking two in the first four games of his freshman year. Here’s Woods talking about his performance on Friday night:
Woods and Coby White combined for 12 assists and just two turnovers. If the Tar Heel point guards can maintain this level of production, the 2018-19 season will be special. Additionally, Leaky Black, who will also shoulder meaningful point guard minutes has seven assists with only two turnovers.
Luke Maye hasn’t recorded a double-double yet this season. And that’s a great thing. Hear me out: It’s because he hasn’t had to. Two reasons why. First, this team has more depth and balance than last year. Against Tennessee Tech six different players had double-digit points and 10 had six or more points. The other reason is minutes played. Only twice this season has a player had to play 30 minutes or more (Maye and Cameron Johnson against Wofford).
And yet, don’t be confused about Maye’s level of play or efficiency. In just 20 minutes against Tennessee Tech he scored 15 points and hauled in eight rebounds. For the season he is averaging 15.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in just 26.5 minutes. Also, I’m not going to tell Tennessee Tech how to play defense, but in the future they might want to guard a preseason All-American rather than leave him continuously wide open under the basket.
Different night, same rebounding story. The Tar Heels outrebounded Tennessee Tech 54-24 (+30) and had more offensive rebounds (18) than the Golden Eagles had defensive rebounds (15). Because this is a regular occurrence, Carolina fans might not appreciate how impressive this stat actually is.
With several freshmen getting meaningful minutes, there will be a fair share of freshman mistakes early in the season. Just before halftime, Carolina got a turnover with 20 seconds remaining. Instead of holding for the last shot, Coby White took (and missed) a three pointer with 12 seconds left. Those 12 seconds were enough time for Tennessee Tech to hit a three of their own. The result didn’t matter much in this game, but those three points could be the different between a win and a loss in an important ACC game.
The Tar Heels have scored 50+ points in five of the last six halves they’ve played and are averaging 98.0 points per game. After a sub-par defensive showing against Stanford on Monday, a higher level of defensive attention and buy-in was evident. If the defensive intensity can match the offensive output throughout the season, Roy Williams will be a happy man.
Sure, Tennessee Tech isn’t good, but Carolina did a much better job than against Stanford of putting the opponent away in the second half. They extended a 24-point halftime lead to 50 by game’s end.
Carolina recorded 16 steals. That’s the most since taking 17 in the 107-56 drubbing of NC State in the 2016-17 National Championship season. Here’s a steal from Leaky Black leading to a Kenny Williams lay-up:
Several positive signs from Sterling Manley. He hit two mid-range jumpers (and looked smooth doing so). Another was around the 2:00 mark of the first half when he chased down a rebound well out of his area and slithered in for the put-back. On the subsequent defensive possession he dove after a loose ball to secure a jump ball. Here’s one of the jump shots:
This team has a chance to shoot a high percentage from the free throw line. The current team average is 73 percent. Coby White and Cam Johnson are both shooting over 90 percent and Leaky Black is at 85 percent. Luke Maye (who will have the most free throw opportunities on the team) is shooting 78.3 percent after previously shooting 59.8 percent for his career.
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 St. Francis on Monday, November 19. Tip is at 8:00ET on ACC Network Extra.
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Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 90-72 victory over Stanford on Monday night in the Tar Heels’ home opener.
Let’s start with a crazy stat: Cameron Johnson is shooting 71.4 percent…on THREE POINTERS. WHAT?! No, that can’t be real. Wake up, Susan. It’s real. Johnson has hit 10 of 14 from deep and his shot is so smooth and squared up it looks like it’s going in every time he pulls the trigger. The law of averages says there’s no way he’ll maintain that pace, so let’s enjoy it while it lasts. Additionally, Cam is currently second on the team in rebounding behind only Luke Maye.
Seventh Woods threw a beautiful lob to Nassir Little from the top of the key for a thunderous alley-oop. While Little’s dunks are something to behold, the best part of this play is Seventh’s reaction before Little even catches the ball:
This was a tale of two different halves. In the first 20 minutes, Carolina doubled up Stanford in the scoring column 52-26, outrebounded them 24-11 and allowed zero free throws. Stanford didn’t get to double-digit points until 10:08 remaining in the first half. If the Tar Heels can find this gear consistently through the season, we’re in for a fun ride.
After halftime, no combination of players on the court brought the cohesion exhibited in the first half. To Stanford’s credit they settled into the game and played much better while the Heels at times looked lethargic. Admittedly, Coach Williams was clearly tinkering with different lineup combinations due to the lopsided score.
In the post-Hansbrough years, many Tar Heel teams have been labeled “soft” and allowed opponents back into games. The current batch had the opportunity to put a team away tonight. Instead of building on the 26 point halftime lead, the Heels allowed Stanford to get as close as 85-70 with 3:12 remaining. The jury is still out on what kind of fight the 2018-19 crew will display.
Turnovers from the point guard position reared its ugly head this evening. Coby White and Seventh Woods each had three, including White giving the ball away on each of the first two possessions of the game. The team finished with 12.
Let’s get back to good news. Kenny Williams is off the scoring schneid. The senior had one point in the first two games. He quickly changed that tonight with a nice steal and coast-to-coast bucket just 90 seconds into the game. Williams totaled 12 points including shooting 2-for-3 on three pointers. Importantly, he also dished out four assists against only one turnover. Here’s Williams talking about his performance:
In very Roy Williams fashion, nine different players played in the first 6:30 and that number rose to 10 when Leaky Black entered with 11:12 left in the first half.
Speaking of depth and balance, these have been the themes of the first three games. Even with Kenny Williams’ rough start to the season scoring-wise, five players are averaging double-digits in scoring (Johnson, Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks, Little and White). Only twice this season has an individual player played more than 30 minutes (Maye and Johnson against Wofford). Nine players are averaging double-digit minutes played (with Brandon Robinson just behind at 9).
Black played his first meaningful minutes as the sole point guard on the floor for a four-minute stretch in the first half. Black, the most unheralded of the freshmen, is a lot of fun to watch. On two different occasions his length disrupted a sideline out-of-bounds play for Stanford. One resulted in a tie-up, the other with a breakaway dunk. Black is shooting 60 percent (including 4-for-4 tonight) from the field and has six assists with just one turnover. Here’s Black talking about his transition to college and playing multiple positions for the Tar Heels:
North Carolina teams typically assist on a high number of made baskets. That propensity has not held true early this season. The numbers are 58 assists on 109 made baskets, totaling 53.2 percent. The low number could be a product of young and inexperienced point guard play. It could just be a statistical anomaly. We’ll have to keep our eyes on it.
Sterling Manley had this ridiculous block midway through the first half. I offer no commentary. It’s just fun to watch:
Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 116-67 road win on Friday night over Elon.
Let’s not bury the lead: rebounding was the story of the game. 60 rebounds for Carolina. First time to haul in 60 boards since grabbing 64 against Duke on March 5, 2016. Additionally, the Heels had more offensive boards (24) than Elon had defensive boards (21). And those offensive rebounds led to:
A point of concern has been turnovers. That number continued to shrink tonight, with Carolina only surrendering 11. Most importantly, the point guards combined for only one of those 11.
Garrison Brooks did not have the same numbers as he did against Wofford, but was solid. Seven points on 3-for-5 shooting, six rebounds, and three steals in 16 minutes. Sterling Manley had a much more productive night: 11 points and eight boards in 15 minutes. A combined 18 points & 14 boards in 31 minutes is great production from the center position.
Remember last year when Cam Johnson only shot 34% from deep? Two games is an admittedly small sample size, but he is 7-for-10 so far this year. Additionally he hasn’t missed a free throw yet and is leading the team in scoring. Impressively, as well as Johnson is shooting, he’s still looking for his teammates. Against Wofford, a lob in the lane to Garrison Brooks. Against Elon, a kick out to Coby White for a three in transition. In both instances, Johnson could have taken the shot and no one would have batted an eye. But in both instances he found a better shot. Here’s Johnson talking about his shot:
Last year, Carolina had to rely heavily on the starters for consistent offensive production. While tonight’s game was admittedly against Elon, the bench contributed 65 points.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Tar Heel guards will need to do better at stopping dribble penetration (which leads to wide open threes) going forward. After allowing the Phoenix to shoot 57% from the field in the first half, Carolina buckled down in the last 20 minutes and allowed a paltry 16% field goal percentage.
Leaky Black is the type of guy that might wind up with a triple-double on his résumé before he leaves Chapel Hill. The rangy freshman finished tonight with eight points, six boards, five assists, zero turnovers and a steal in just 15 minutes.
10 different Tar Heels scored…in the FIRST HALF. All 15 available players scored a point in the game (Walker Miller was out with an injury).
1⃣1⃣6⃣pts at Elon
🐏 Equals the most points scored by a Roy Williams UNC team 🐏 Held opponent to the lowest shooting %age half ever of a Roy Williams UNC team pic.twitter.com/D42iNku1o2
Poor Kenny Williams can’t buy a basket right now. He still hasn’t made a field goal and his only point in the first two games is one made free throw. As has been documented, Williams is impacting the games in multiple other ways. His shot will come around (unless his shoulder injury from the other night is worse than we know).
More on the point guards: Coby White (14 points, three boards, two assists, a turnover and a steal), traditionally a score-first point guard, is still learning how to balance when to hunt his shot and when to distribute. He is young, relentlessly fast, can light it up and will have a long leash. Be patient with him Tar Heel fans. Remember than playing point guard for Roy Williams is one of the most difficult things in college basketball. Seventh Woods (three points, three boards, five assists, one block and zero turnovers) looked the most comfortable I’ve ever seen him. He is in control, setting others up and making good play for himself. Here’s White talking about adjusting to the point guard role:
Having more offensive firepower this year is allowing Luke Maye to somehow fly under the radar. He scored 24 points against Wofford and it was an afterthought. He had a near double-double tonight (eight points, 10 boards) and it’s just business as usual. He’s a career below 60% free throw shooter who is shooting 91% so far this year. The lack of attention will hopefully allow Maye to be more fresh as the season wears on.
Is it time to talk about Nassir Little now? This guy can do a little bit of everything. Hit threes. Block shots. Dunk ferociously. Play defense. Despite an authoritative tip-dunk at the end of first half, Little’s first huge highlight reel dunk came with just under 14:00 left in the game after stealing an Elon pass and finding himself alone on the break. Little is beautifully not forcing anything at this point, just playing within the flow of the team. He is very “North Carolina”.
Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-67 road win on Tuesday night over Wofford.
First off, kudos to Coach Roy Williams for scheduling back-to-back true road games to start the season. The first of which was tonight’s rematch against essentially the same Wofford team that beat Carolina in the Smith Center last season. Click hereto read how the Tar Heels’ true road non-conference scheduling compares to other blue blood programs.
Turnovers (22 of them) were an issue in Carolina’s exhibition game against Mt. Olive. The Heels started off in the same mode, committing four before the first media timeout, finishing with 15 total. While starting point guard Coby White was responsible for two, Seventh Woods kept his miscues to one.
Speaking of White, he unfortunately had a rough first game. Whether it was nerves or something else, the team looked smoother with Woods at the helm. In addition to White’s three turnovers, he took several ill-advised, early shot clock threes. The kind you can get at any point in a possession. The good news is that White played a much better final five minutes, hitting a couple shots and making some solid passes. The electric freshman should settle in to his role and run the team with aplomb.
"I was real nervous. Probably the most nervous I have been on a basketball court."
On the flip side of the point guard equation, Woods turned in a solid effort. He made several hustle plays, had a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and nabbed two steals. This is a foundation that Woods can hopefully build on as he continues learning to trust his body again.
Wofford’s Fletcher Magee, one of the best shooters in the country, had a rough shooting night. He didn’t hit a field goal for the first 16 minutes of the game. His first three didn’t come until six minutes into the second half. Though he finished with 21 points, it took 23 shots to get there.
Coach Williams started the same five in each half: White, Kenny Williams, Cam Johnson, Luke Maye and Garrison Brooks.
Offensive rebounding numbers were of concern on Tuesday night. While the Tar Heels won the overall rebounding battle 35-27, they won the offensive rebound category only 10-9. Although against a team that shoots a lot of threes, leading to unpredictable long rebounds, Coach Williams will not be happy surrendering that many to the undersized Wofford team.
Garrison Brooks had a big game against Mt. Olive and several questioned if it was a one-off or if that level of performance would transfer to the regular season. A career high 20 points and five rebounds later, it appears the answer is “yes”. If Brooks can consistently provide that level of production from the center position, the Tar Heels will be in good shape.
On the flip side of the sophomore big equation, Sterling Manley was wholly ineffective. He missed his only field goal attempt and both free throws he took. The Tar Heels will need Manley to step up in the future. History suggests he will.
Sticking with big men, Luke Maye led all scorers with 24 points, scoring in a variety of ways as usual. With everything Maye did extraordinarily well last year, the free throw line was a chief area of needed improvement (59.8% career). Maye went 8-for-9 from the line tonight, the most he’s ever made in a single game.
Coach Williams has consistently praised the shooting of his team and it showed on Tuesday night as the Heels shot 9-for-22 from deep. Cam Johnson was the key contributor, personally going 5-for-7 from three. Johnson also (importantly) led the team in rebounds with eight, five of which were offensive.
Kenny Williams didn’t score a point, but affected the game in a multitude of other ways. Williams played strong individual defense against Wofford’s backcourt, hauled in six rebounds and passed out a team high five assists. Of concern is that Williams appeared to hurt his shoulder diving after a loose ball late in the game. He came back in later, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
Hard to quantify but Kenny Williams may have played one of the best games a Tar Heel has played without scoring in almost 30 minutes. Helped limit SoCon Preseason Player of the Year Fletcher Magee to 7-23 FG, 3-16 3 FG.
Though he had a quiet Tar Heel debut, Nassir Little hit a confident three to push the cushion back to six after back-to-back threes from Magee cut the Tar Heel to three. His athleticism is obvious, and it will be fun for Tar Heel fans to watch him develop throughout the year.
Roy Williams post-game press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Elon on Friday, November 9. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPNU.
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.