Tag Archives: KJ Smith

Quick Hitters: UNC @ Louisville

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 72-54 road loss to Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • With 4:09 remaining in the first half, Cole Anthony made two free throws (the first free throws of the game for either team) to bring Carolina within four (25-21). Louisville outscored Carolina 11-2 over the remaining four minutes before halftime and 11-0 in the first five-and-a-half minutes of the second half. That 22-2 run essentially ended the game and the Heels would get no closer than 14 points.
  • At one point in that 22-2 run, Carolina missed 11 straight shots (last two shots of the first half, first nine shots of second half.
  • Carolina knew they would be short-handed in the front court before the game even started, with both Garrison Brooks (illness) and Justin Pierce (ankle) out. With apologies to senior Brandon Robinson and star Cole Anthony, Brooks is the heart and soul of this team and his absence leaves a huge hole.
  • With Brooks out, the starting five were Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black, and Armando Bacot. That quintet had literally not shared a single second of court time prior to today. This was the ninth different starting line-up the Tar Heels have used this year, the most of the Roy Williams era.
  • By the time the first media timeout occurred, neither team had attempted a two-point shot. At that point both teams were 1-for-4, all from the three-point line.
  • For the second time this season, only one Tar Heel (Cole Anthony – 18) scored in double-digits. The other instance was against Ohio State when Cole Anthony was also the only double-digit scorer.
  • For three straight games, Cole Anthony has shot 7-for-16 from the field. He has shot under 50 percent in every game this season, other than one, the first game of the season against Notre Dame when he shot exactly 50 percent (12-for-24).
  • Staying with Cole Anthony, part of the reason for his low field goal percentage is shot selection. He seems to have two or three head-scratchers per game. He will certainly grow in this area as his game continues to evolve and mature.
  • Just two Tar Heels had more assists than turnovers. One was Brandon Robinson, with three assists and two turnovers. The other was KJ Smith who had one assist and no turnovers in mop-up duty.
  • Carolina assisted on fewer than 50 percent of their made baskets (10 assists on 21 buckets) and had nearly double as many turnovers as assists (17 to 10).
  • Carolina’s side of the court appeared to have issues with moisture in the first half. Four different Tar Heels slipped in the first 20 minutes.
  • With Brooks and Pierce out, both Walker Miller (8:16) and Brandon Huffman (3:57) saw more playing time than they ordinarily do.
  • It was encouraging to see Andrew Platek hit a couple three-pointers and have a solid all-around shooting day (3-for-5 FG, 2-for-3 3FG, 1-for-1 FT).
  • Carolina played three possessions of zone late in the first half. The results were a wide-open lay-up, a three-pointer, and a dunk. Needless to say the zone didn’t come back out in the second half.
  • The Tar Heels bungled multiple fast break opportunities today. Not enough that it would have changed the outcome of the game, but would have perhaps put game pressure on Louisville.
  • In a season where the walk-ons haven’t received as much playing time as they normally would, it was encouraging to see them get a couple minutes including a great pass from KJ Smith to a cutting Caleb Ellis for a lay-up.

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 25. Tip is at 9:00pm ET on ESPN.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Miami

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-71 home win over Miami on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Congratulations to Coach Roy Williams who, with today’s victory, passed Coach Dean Smith for fourth in all-time Division 1 career coaching victories (880 to 879). Feels good to have that out of the way, doesn’t it? Hopefully with that monkey off the back, Carolina can get things going. If you didn’t have a chance to read my article about Coach Williams and Coach Smith, you can do so here.
  • Happy birthday to me! I turned 36 today and Carolina broke their five game losing streak (and six game ACC losing streak). Perhaps, for good luck, I should celebrate my birthday every day the Tar Heels play.
  • As weird as it sounds to say, this was Carolina’s first win in the month of January 2020. The Heels’ last win was against Yale on December 30.
  • The big Tar Heel lead allowed Coach Williams to limit the minutes of some of the starters, Garrison Brooks in particular. Brooks played 27:19 today, marking the first time he’s been under 30:00 since game eight of the season against Ohio State. The reason minute-reduction was so important is that Carolina turns around and plays at NC State on Monday.
  • Brooks’ double-double streak ends at six games. At first blush, this is a disappointing statement. However, I would suggest to you that this is good news, because it means his teammates are helping carry the load. It’s nice for Brooks to not have to shoulder so much.
  • His frontcourt partner, Armando Bacot, on the other hand did record a double-double. In fact, Bacot’s line was very nearly a triple-double as he finished with 19 points (on efficient 8-for-11 shooting), 12 rebounds, and seven assists. For good measure, Bacot added two blocks and had just one turnover. Here’s one of the seven assists:

  • After missing the previous game with soreness from his car accident, Brandon Robinson returned to action today and scored a career high 29 points. He did so on just 16 shots, including an impressive 6-for-10 from three. Here’s highlights of Robinson’s performance:
  • Finally! For the first time all season (this was game number 19), the Tar Heels shot 50% or more for the entire game. The 55.0% (22-40) shooting in the first half was a great mark, but the 62.1% (18-29) in the second half brought the final tally for the game up to 58.0% (40-69). The individual half percentages clock in as the second and third highest numbers of the season, behind only the 64.3% (18-28) Carolina shot in the second against Notre Dame in the season opener.
  • If you shoot that strong a field goal percentage you also probably score a whole truckload of points. That conjecture turned out to be factually correct. Carolina obliterated their previous season high (83 vs. GT) by finishing with 94 points. The Heels passed the previous mark on a Justin Pierce three-pointer with 6:01 left in the game. Today was just the third time Carolina has eclipsed 80 points this season, but the first time to do in a victory. Here’s Pierce’s three that set the new season mark:

  • Over the course of the last four games, Andrew Platek has moved into the starting line-up and amassed 17 assists against just four turnovers in those games. For the season, his assist-to-turnover ratio is an absurd 3:1.
  • Bacot’s free throw shooting has grown dramatically through the season. Through the first 12 games of the season, he was shooting 54.2% (26-48). In the seven games since he has shot 78.6% (22-28) to bring his season average to 63.2% (48-76).
  • If you watch enough North Carolina basketball, you’ll learn that Roy Williams teams typically move the ball rather adroitly against zone defense (which the depleted Miami roster employed for most of the game). Today was no different. Carolina assisted on 17 of 22 made baskets in the first half and finished with a season high 32 assists on 40 made baskets. For the game, nine different players recorded an assist. 32 assists is also tied for the most ever in a game in the Roy Williams era.
  • The Carolina “missed-games-due-to-injury” meter is now up to 61 missed games through 19 games played. Jeremiah Francis was once again in street clothes today. The Heels got no sympathy from Miami though, as the Canes are going through similar woes and only had six scholarship players available on Saturday. One of those missing-in-action was Chris Lykes who has wreaked havoc the past couple years against the boys in baby blue.
  • The Tar Heels dominated the glass 41-21. They were also efficient at getting offensive rebounds and turning them into second chance points (17 points on 10 offensive rebounds). Miami only had two offensive rebounds, the first of which came with 13:07 left in the game.
  • Justin Pierce followed up his strong performance against Virginia Tech by chipping in nine points, five rebounds, and four assists. Fellow grad transfer Christian Keeling also had nine points, and looked more confident today. Both players were just one point away from joining Robinson, Brooks, and Bacot on the double-digit list.
  • Carolina has struggled to hold onto leads of late (lost three of last four after having a double-digit lead at some point in the game). That double-digit lead threshold was reached early today as the Heels jumped out to a 15-4 lead. The encouraging fact is that that lead did not stay stagnant, but rather ballooned to 24 by halftime (the largest lead of the season to that point). Carolina showed good resolve in growing the margin to as much as 34 with around seven minutes remaining.
  • This might be painful to hear, but if Carolina had hung onto two of those losses (Clemson and Virginia Tech, for example), they would be 4-4 in the conference and sitting in 7th place rather than tied for 12th with Notre Dame and Wake Forest.
  • Although the Heels finished the game with 12 turnovers, 10 of those came in the second half with the game well in hand. That means Carolina committed just two turnovers in the opening frame.
  • Three-point shooting was a plus today. Five different players connected from deep (Platek, Keeling, Black, and Pierce each had one; Robinson had six). The final percentage was 43.5% (10-23) and at the point when Robinson hit his sixth three, Carolina was shooting 50% from outside the arc.
  • Leaky Black is starting to hunt for and find his outside shot more and has connected on seven threes in the past five games. It might not seem like much volume, but even the threat of him pulling the trigger creates more space for Carolina’s strongest current assets (Brooks & Bacot) to operate inside.
  • Good to see KJ Smith get back on the court after not playing in the previous two games.

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 Monday, January 27. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Pittsburgh

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 66-52 road loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Carolina has now dropped four straight to start the main body of ACC play. After losing 10 days ago to Pitt in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels once again fell victim to the Panthers and Coach Williams stays frozen at 879 victories.
  • Garrison Brooks is doing everything he can to put Carolina on his back. He now has five straight double-doubles (16 points, 13 rebounds in this one). On the season, Brooks is close to averaging a double-double: 14.4 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game.
  • Holding it down with Brooks in the front court, Armando Bacot also turned in a strong performance today. He totaled 12 points and 11 assists.
  • Two glaring statistical issues tell the story of the day; the first of which is turnovers. In the first half, the Heels committed 11 turnovers while making just eight field goals in the same time frame. Five of those turnovers came on five straight possessions midway through the first half. For the game, Carolina had more turnovers (16) than assists (11).
  • The second statistical issue is not a new story: free throw shooting. While difficult to believe, it’s true, Carolina shot UNDER 50 percent from the free throw line today (10-for-21, 47.6 percent). In a season where the team struggles offensively, leaving free points at the free throw line makes it even more difficult to win. Even Garrison Brooks fell victim, shooting just 2-for-8 from the charity stripe.
  • Andrew Platek has now started the past two games and has shown a real penchant for putting his teammates in position to succeed. In the two games he has totaled 10 assists versus just two turnovers, good for an absurd 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • An already depleted team had to finish without Brandon Robinson and Armando Bacot, who both fouled out.
  • The highlight of the day came just over a minute into the game. It was an unbelievably athletic play from Garrison Brooks for Carolina’s first bucket. He contorted his body to lay in an alley-oop from Andrew Platek while someone was undercutting him. Brooks missed free throw but Bacot tipped out the rebound. The ball came back to Bacot who found a wide-open Leaky Black for a three. The gave the Tar Heels a 5-2 lead (the only lead of the day).

  • The good news is that Carolina never stopped fighting and was able to cut Pitt’s lead to 10 with 1:49 left in the game. As we know all-too-well from the Clemson game last Saturday, 10 points in that amount of time can be overcome. Unfortunately, Garrison Brooks missed a wide-open lay-up which would have cut the lead to eight and Pittsburgh pushed the lead back to the final 14 point margin.
  • Some more potential injury concern: Justin Pierce limped off the court with some type of lower leg injury.
  • On the positive side of the injury epidemic: Brandon Robinson was able to start and play 32 minutes despite being involved in a car accident a week ago (although he missed the final 5:55 after fouling out). Jeremiah Francis, who missed the last game, didn’t start but was able to play 15 minutes. Here’s Robinson talking more about his accident:
  • Pittsburgh curiously piled up five fouls in the first 4:40 of the second half. However, even when the Heels got to the bonus, as you know from the previously mentioned free throw statistics, they couldn’t take advantage
  • Pittsburgh shot terribly in the second half: 22.7 percent on field goals and 10 percent on three pointers. Over the final 15 minutes of the game, the Panthers made precisely ONE field goal. Despite all of this ugly shooting, Carolina still only outscored Pitt by six in those 20 minutes.
  • Carolina shot 31.7 percent for the game. That now makes 17 straight games to start the season without shooting 50 percent for an entire game.
  • Curiously, KJ Smith didn’t play. He was in uniform and on the bench. He’s played in literally ever contest this year other than the season opener when he was sidelined with an injury. Is he suffering from an injury? Was it a conscious decision by Coach Williams to cut his minutes?

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 Virginia Tech on Wednesday, January 22. Tip is at 8:00ET on ACC Network.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Pittsburgh

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 73-65 home loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.

Condensed Game:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCNsDmhpBYI

Highlights:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PJ_jTFJJiQ

  • We are now 15 games into the season and Carolina has failed to shoot 50% from the field in a single game.
  • With the win, Pitt breaks a 22 game ACC road losing streak. This was also their first victory ever in Chapel Hill (0-7 before this game).
  • In a reversal from the Georgia Tech loss on Saturday, this game had a rather promising first half. Carolina was hustling, the offense looked more efficient, and the defense held Pitt to 32.1% shooting, including just 1-for-10 from deep.
  • With the game tied at 14, Carolina took control of the first half when Xavier Johnson picked up his second foul and went to the bench. Carolina immediately went on a 13-2 scoring run to take a 27-16 led and eventually lead by as many as 14 points, before finishing the half up nine. The lead could have been bigger, but some careless turnovers (harbingers of what was to come in the second half) prevented that from becoming a reality.
  • The second half was a completely different story. It’s hard to put your finger on just one issue as the main culprit, but carelessness with the basketball is what seemed to prime the pump of Pitt’s comeback. Jeremiah Francis and Leaky Black handled the majority of the point guard duties and combined for seven of the 17 turnovers, many of which were of the live ball variety. KJ Smith also had a turnover in his three-plus minutes on the court running the point.
  • As Pitt’s confidence grew in the second half, so did their three-point shooting. The team that had just shot 1-for-10 in the first half from three suddenly went 8-for-12 (70%). That’s a better percentage from the three-point line in the second half than Carolina shot from the free throw line. Freshman Justin Champagnie led the Panther charge from deep, burying four threes over the course of just four minutes of game action.
  • While Carolina’s defense was once again struggling in the second half (the last two opponents have shot 63% and 58%), the offense was also losing its way. With no Cole Anthony to confidently run the point guard position, the offense looks discombobulated at times. The ball moves east and west around the perimeter several times before someone has to hoist a desperation three.
  • There is no question that this team struggles offensively; the statistics and advanced metrics bear out that reality. Therefore, in order to be successful, defense will have to be the calling card of this crew. Thus far, that has not been the case. Never count out Coach Williams’ ability to get his team bought in.
  • Garrison Brooks followed up his monster game against Georgia Tech with his third straight double-double and sixth straight scoring in double-figures. His tally for this game was 21 points (9-for-12 shooting), 10 rebounds, and interestingly, hit his first career three-pointer in an end-of-shot-clock situation.
  • Armando Bacot had a nice bounce back game, scoring 15 points (6-for-11 shooting), grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing out four assists (although he did have four turnovers). Bacot looked more aggressive and engaged throughout the first half and the beginning part of the second.
  • The Brooks / Bacot combination carried the offensive load, scoring 36 of the team’s 65 points. This is great news for a Roy Williams-coached team. Unfortunately, there is not currently a dynamic point guard in uniform to balance the front court and back court.
  • Brandon Robinson has scored in double figures four games in a row; the longest such stretch of his career.
  • It’s clear that Coach Williams is doing anything he can to find a nuance to help his team or throw off the opponent. At the beginning of the game, Carolina was trapping every ball screen they could. The Heels secured a turnover on the first possession of the game, but didn’t have as much success afterwards.
  • In this injury-laden season, it was a nice change to get Andrew Platek back on the court. He hustled and was aggressive, apparently trying to fill the void left by Anthony Harris. Shortly after checking in for the first time, Platek had a steal and ensuing fast break lay-up. At this point, you need all the bodies you can get to field a competitive team.
  • To that end, while no one left the game, Carolina continues to have injury concerns. Brandon Robinson had medical attention more than once on the bench. Garrison Brooks took a hard fall and on another occasion landed on his elbow going for a loose ball. Jeremiah Francis appeared to be hobbling at one point and was examined by Doug Halverson on the bench.
  • Every starter committed a turnover, and four of the five had at least three.
  • Free throws continue to be an issue. Tonight the Heels shot 10-for-17 (58.8%).
  • A positive take-away: eight of the nine Tar Heels who played scored at least one point.
  • Christian Keeling’s minutes continue to dwindle. Tonight was the fewest minutes he has played all season (6:00).

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVbsyF6pwDE

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Clemson on Saturday, January 11. Tip is at 4:30ET on Regional Sports Networks.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. UCLA (CBS Sports Classic)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 74-64 neutral site win over UCLA on Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas at the CBS Classic

Highlights:

  • A win! We’ll get to the hard-hitting analysis in a minute (yes, that’s tongue-in-cheek), but first let’s stop to celebrate the joy of winning. It wasn’t pretty. It won’t win the ESPY for “Best Game”. But it was a victory. And coming on the heels of a four game losing streak, the Tar Heels will take a win any way they can get it. Against both Gonzaga and UCLA, Carolina really competed hard. If this trend can be the new norm, these Tar Heels will win some ACC games.
  • Let’s start with a perhaps unpopular opinion: Having now seen Jeremiah Francis in action for a grand total of four collegiate games, (1) he pushes the ball better than Cole Anthony and (2) the offense appears more organized with Francis at the helm. This is no dig at Anthony, but rather an observance of the different skill set both players bring to the table.
  • In Anthony’s absence, the emergence of recently healthy freshmen Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris has been a boon for the Tar Heels. The two were vital to Carolina’s success today and are bringing a toughness quality to Carolina. More on both players…
  • Francis is showing glimpses of being able to confidently and consistently run the team from the point guard position. He was money from the free throw line today (9-for-10), including being selected to shoot the technical free throws. He made a freshman mistake with 1:45 left in the game. With Carolina ahead comfortably compared to the remaining time, Francis drove in for a lay-up rather than pulling the ball back out to re-set and run clock. In subsequent positions, Brandon Robinson demonstrated how to do this well, which Anthony Harris took a cue from and did as well on the very next possession. Those are errors you can live with because it’s a kid (who hasn’t played in two years, by the way) being aggressive.

https://twitter.com/twmarks_/status/1208483121022357505

  • Harris played just three minutes in the first half and had a memorable defensive stop right before halftime (UCLA had been driving at will and Harris walled off his mark twice on the same possession, leading to a turnover). However, he exploded in the second half, playing nearly three-quarters of the half, and was just the spark Carolina needed. Known more for his defensive acumen, Harris provided eight straight points for Carolina (a steal and lay-up, back-to-back threes) in one stretch.

https://twitter.com/FreeportKid/status/1208576714927988736

  • As the Tar Heels amassed a rather sizable lead, I thought to myself, “When was the last time the Tar Heels had a double-digit lead this season?” Great question. It was nearly a month ago, November 27 against Alabama.
  • Interesting minutes distribution. As predicted, KJ Smith got the start at point guard, but Jeremiah Francis got the starter’s minutes (28-10). Look for Francis to start for the first time when the Heels return to action at home against Yale.
  • The past two games have yielded “Gonzaga Bacot” (bad and foul-laden) and “Wofford Bacot” (also quite bad). “Oregon Bacot” is the player Coach Williams wants to see on a consistent basis. Thankfully today against UCLA, Armando was “Oregon Bacot”. After going 3-for-20 from the field in those previous two games, Armando Bacot went 5-for-7 against UCLA for 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
  • After missing the second half of the Gonzaga game, Brandon Robinson returned to action today. Robinson, Bacot and Black are all still banged up in one way or another. Hopefully the large gap before the next game (Mon., Dec. 30) will allow some ailments to heal.
  • 5 different Tar Heels scored in double-figures – Bacot (15), Harris (14), Brooks, Robinson, Francis (all had 12). This balanced attack is an encouraging sign.

https://twitter.com/UNCMBBStats/status/1208526929529171969

  • Carolina has been absolutely terrible recently at the start of the “third quarter” (first 10 minutes of the second half). Today’s version included a 12-0 UCLA scoring run to cut Carolina’s 13-point halftime lead to just one.
  • In the most un-like-Roy-Williams thing ever, the Heels were down to just one timeout with 16:07 remaining in the second half. Coach took a timeout with 18:01 remaining to stem the UCLA run. Then Garrison Brooks had to take the penultimate timeout with 16:07 because he couldn’t inbound the basketball against UCLA’s full-court pressure. Carolina struggled with UCLA’s pressure throughout the second half (that’s putting it nicely) and will certainly need to spend practice time on breaking the press.
  • Brandon Robinson hit three important three pointers in the first half. However he didn’t make another basket the rest of the game.
  • I mentioned earlier that this was an ugly game. Some numbers to prove it: UCLA had 14 first half turnovers. For the game, the teams combined for a total of 39 turnovers. The second half was plagued by so many fouls. In total, 46 fouls were called in the game. The Tar Heels put the Bruins in the bonus with 15:37 left in the game.
  • Not much to show from either grad transfer today. Neither reached double-digits in playing time and Pierce and Keeling combined to score five points. These young men will find their place on this team. It’s just taking longer than anyone hoped or expected.
  • Some old friends were in the house for this one:

https://twitter.com/UNC_Basketball/status/1208499634861047808

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 Yale on Monday, December 30. Tip is at 7:00ET on ACC Network.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Gonzaga

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-81 road loss to Gonzaga on Wednesday night in Spokane.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Give credit where credit is due: This is a really good Gonzaga team. They were too much for a depleted North Carolina squad, and quite frankly are better than the Tar Heels even at full strength. The environment in “The Kennel” was electric. As is often said, kudos to Coach Williams for his willingness to go play a true road game in Spokane. If nothing else, Carolina played tough and fought to stay in a game they could have easily lost by 30.
  • Leaky Black, who is considered game-to-game as he deals with a foot injury, played tonight. However the Tar Heels were dealt other blows. After a lackluster first half, Brandon Robinson missed the second half with some type of illness that kept him in the locker room after halftime. Armando Bacot committed two fouls in the first 67 seconds of the game and was essentially a non-factor.
  • KJ Smith once again started for Cole Anthony, and was serviceable, but the real revelation has been Jeremiah Francis. How does someone not play for two years with knee issues and then suddenly come out like a wrecking ball? Francis played 22 minutes, scored 11 points, shot 2-for-3 from deep, had two steals, and perhaps most importantly, had three assists and zero turnovers.

  • Another Tar Heel coming back from a knee injury, Anthony Harris had a nice game. He had eight points on efficient shooting numbers and had a nice steal at the free throw line.
  • Perhaps Christian Keeling has finally turned a corner. He scored in double digits for the first time as a Tar Heel (12), and did so on 5-for-7 shooting, while also grabbing some rebounds (3) and dishing a couple assists (2).
  • The other grad transfer, Justin Pierce rebounded from scoreless outings against Virginia and Wofford to score seven points.
  • The best Tar Heel tonight was Garrison Brooks. In 31 minutes, Brooks scored 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, had three assists, two steals, and just one turnover. Brooks needs to continue delivering these type of performances.
  • For the first time all season, the Tar Heels scored 80 or more points (81). Granted, the second half of this game didn’t feature much stellar defense and Carolina still didn’t look like a great shooting team.
  • Carolina’s bench nearly doubled their previous season high scoring number. Carolina had 28 against UNC-Wilmington thanks in large part to Justin Pierce’s 18. Tonight, the Heels scored 53, contributed to by eight different players. As further evidence of tonight’s bench usage, 10 different Tar Heels played 10 or more minutes, while 12 played five or more. Keep in mind, these numbers coming with a dwindling roster.
  • Carolina’s defense struggled mightily tonight against KenPom’s number one rated team in adjusted offensive efficiency. Corey Kispert shot 10-for-12 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from three, for 26 points.
  • As a team, Gonzaga shot 72.0% on field goals in the second half. During one stretch, the Bulldogs hit 11 straight field goals without a miss. Those numbers are simply unacceptable.
  • For large portions of the game, the offense looked absolutely discombobulated. This is likely a function of weird combinations of players who have spent little to no time functioning together as a five-person unit. To get an idea of the issues, watch the spacing between the players on the floor Saturday when Carolina plays UCLA.
  • An example of the strange line-up combinations. From 2:59-1:07 of the first half, Carolina sported a line-up consisting of Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, and Justin Pierce (with KJ Smith eventually coming in for Francis). Who is the center in that combination?
  • After starting the season 3-for-19 (15.8%) from three, Andrew Platek has hit four of his last five. Coach Williams has spoken about his quality shooting in practice, so hopefully the fruit of that will start showing up in games.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a the CBS Sports Classic against UCLA on Saturday, December 21. Tip is at 3:00ET on CBS.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Wofford

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 68-64 home loss to Wofford on Sunday afternoon in Carmichael Arena.

Condensed Game:

Shorter Highlights:

This will probably be as painful to read as it was to write. Such is the stretch the Tar Heels are going through right now. Here we go:

  • The hits just keep on coming. This team cannot catch a break on the injury front. Just as one or two players get back on the court, another couple of players are out. Before the game this afternoon, Carolina announced that Cole Anthony would miss the game with a knee injury, Leaky Black would miss the game with a foot injury, and that Sterling Manley would be done for the season after undergoing surgery. Throughout the game, several other players spent time being evaluated by athletic trainer Doug Halverson (Brandon Robinson, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, KJ Smith).
  • The news for Cole Anthony is that he is out indefinitely with a knee injury, which will be further evaluated this week. Leaky Black is game-to-game with the foot sprain he’s been dealing with. As far Sterling Manley, he had season-ending surgery on December 12 to repair cartilage in his left knee. The timetable for his return is unknown. Tough blow for Manley who has been plagued by lower body injuries.
  • The silver lining with Cole Anthony out is that you can say with assurance that the Tar Heels will not be able to fall into the trap of waiting around for him to bail the team out offensively. Six different Tar Heels scored at least six points today.
  • Given the new injuries, can you imagine what the line-ups would have been today if Armando Bacot’s ankle injury had been worse or if Jeremiah Francis and/or Anthony Harris were still out of commission?
  • Free throws proved to be a major issue again today. In a game Carolina lost by four, they shot 12-for-20 (60.0%) from the free throw line.
  • The Tar Heels did rebound well. They grabbed 51 to Wofford’s 34. However, given their inside advantage, the points in the point should have favored Carolina more than 28-20. The Heels got the ball to Brooks and Bacot quite a bit, but the ball should have gone into the paint on literally every possession. When it did, Brooks shot an extremely efficient 8-for-10. Bacot, however, struggled; shooting just 2-for-14. These interior struggles took place even with Chevez Goodwin, Wofford’s main interior player, attached to the bench with foul trouble for the majority of the game.
  • It can’t be said enough what joy it must bring Jeremiah Francis (in particular) and Anthony Harris to be back in basketball action. Both players have missed significant time and have worked extremely hard to get back on the court. Francis showed glimpses of the dynamic point guard he can be as he gets healthy. He pushed the ball and quite consistently found teammates. Depending on Anthony and Black’s availability, the two freshmen will likely continue to shoulder as much time as they can handle.
  • With the starting and back-up point guards both sidelined, KJ Smith took hold of the reins and played a steady game. He scored seven points and had four assists, against two turnovers. While Smith is admittedly not the playmaker that Anthony is, the most important thing he did today was to stay within himself and not try to do more than he was capable of. Here’s Smith talking about the opportunity to start at point guard for Carolina on the same court where his own dad was the last Tar Heel to do so in a regular season game:
  • Carolina, who historically assists on a high percentage of made baskets, has not done so to this point in the season. For the game, the Heels assisted on 17 of 23 made baskets. While the outcome of the game was not what Coach Williams was looking for, sharing the ball more consistently is a step in the right direction.
  • We are now 10 games into the season without Carolina shooting 50% for the game or reaching the 80-point plateau.
  • In both halves, the Heels took awhile to score. At the beginning of the game, the first points came on a Brandon Robinson three-pointer after 2:15 had already come of the clock. The post-halftime drought was even longer, clocking in at around 3:00.
  • An encouraging sign: Andrew Platek shot 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
  • Christian Keeling had arguably his most productive game as a Tar Heel, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds, and two assists. Keeling could have had 10 points, but stepped on the three-point line on two different occasions. The different of those couple inches makes this a one-possession game down the stretch instead of two possessions. Details matter.
  • On the flip side, Justin Pierce, the other graduate transfer, did not attempt a single field goal. The one shot he did take was a free throw attempt, which was an air ball. For the Tar Heels to sniff success, both Pierce and Keeling will have to become consistent offensive contributors.
  • The stretch that ultimately killed Carolina was Wofford’s 16-0 second half run to take a 55-42 lead. Led by Brandon Robinson the Heels mounted a strong comeback, but fell short due to turnovers and a lack of shot making.
  • You would obviously like to walk away as the victors, but what a neat opportunity to play a regular season home game back in Carmichael, the setting for so many huge Carolina memories in seasons gone by.

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 Gonzaga on Wednesday, December 18. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN2.

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Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Oregon (Battle 4 Atlantis)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-74 win over Oregon in the consolation game of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday afternoon.

Highlights:

 

  • Big time win for Carolina to close out the Battle 4 Atlantis with a 2-1 record. Heading into the upcoming Ohio State, (at) Virginia, (at) Gonzaga gauntlet, that 2-1 record provides a lot more cushion than 1-2 would have. Additionally, this win will be a nice resume-boost come March.
  • Congratulations to Coach Williams (877) for passing Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp (876) for 5th place on the all-time D1 coaching victories list.

  • The stat that made the difference in the game: Coming into today, Carolina was hitting 60.3% (82-for-136) of their free throws, good for 324th in the country. What has been a weakness all season, turned into a strength today: The Tar Heels hit 20 of their 21 charity stripe attempts (95.2%). This number included 11-for-11 in the second half.

  • The Tar Heel bench is beginning to look like the MASH unit on the sideline for the Looney Tunes in Space Jam. The infirmary has already claimed Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, and Sterling Manley. Leaky Black sprained his foot against Michigan, and while he was able to start the game, was only able to play 8:30 (all in the first half). Garrison Brooks suffered a corneal abrasion (a surface scratch) against Michigan and had to wear what looked like shop glasses to protect his eye. Brandon Robinson suffered from Joel Berry syndrome: He stepped on a Ducks’ foot and re-tweaked his bad ankle. We await a status update on all three Tar Heels.
  • Garrison Brooks was able to overcome his Cyclops-like condition to play 32 minutes, score nine points (on 4-for-6 shooting), pull down 10 rebounds and block three shots. His combination inside with Armando Bacot is becoming a dominant force.
  • When Brandon Robinson tweaked his ankle, he immediately ran back to the locker room (2:30 into the second half) and appeared to be in a great deal of pain. However, he checked back in just 1:30 of game time later. Robinson was able to manage a career high 13 points, hit three three-pointers, dish four assists, block a shot, and grab two steals. Perhaps most importantly, Robinson played some key (and certainly painful) defensive possessions against Oregon’s dynamic point guard, Payton Pritchard. The most crucial of these possessions came with 20 seconds remaining and Carolina clinging to a three-point lead. Robinson did a marvelous job staying with Pritchard and forcing him into a deep three; however, discerning viewers caught Robinson crouching on the sideline in a great deal of pain after the possession.
  • Hard to believe we haven’t talked about Armando Bacot’s performance yet. Bacot, just like Brandon Robinson, set a career high with 23 points. He also had a career high six blocks. The combination of the points and his 12 rebounds (seven of which were offensive) gave Bacot his fourth double-double in five games. The big freshman was just four blocks shy of a triple-double. Most impressively Bacot, shooting just 41% on his free throws this season, hit nine out of 10. This performance at the line will be imperative for the type of inside game he plays.

  • Carolina has struggled with three-point shooting. The team got off to an encouraging 4-for-8 start today, made by four different players (Cole Anthony, Brandon Robinson, Justin Pierce, and Christian Keeling). Unfortunately, the Heels only hit two of their final 15 attempts and finished with a 26.1 percentage for the game.
  • The Tar Heels were saddled with a good deal of foul trouble. Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, and Garrison Brooks each had four fouls while Brandon Robinson and Justin Pierce each had three. Curiously, no other Tar Heels committed a foul.
  • Anthony’s foul trouble, paired with Leaky Black’s injury, forced KJ Smith into playing 8:16 (by far the most game time he’s seen as a Tar Heel). Smith didn’t contribute much on the stat line, did have two assists and just one turnover. One of the assists was a beautiful drop-off to Armando Bacot for a dunk. Anthony’s fourth foul came with 10:16 remaining but Smith’s steady play allowed the freshman to stay on the bench until after the under-4:00 media timeout.
  • The foul trouble and injuries also created some unconventional line-ups. When KJ Smith checked in at 10:16, he was paired with Brandon Huffman, Garrison Brooks, Christian Keeling, and Brandon Robinson.
  • Let’s talk about the blocks. Carolina had nine IN THE FIRST HALF. They finished the game with 12. The most impressive of these was the highlight of the game when 6’3” Cole Anthony went up to reject 6’7” Shakur Juiston in transition.

  • The second most impressive highlight was also from Mr. Anthony. Just a minute before his block, Anthony deflected an Oregon attempted inbounds pass, chased down the loose ball, and threw down a one-handed slam in transition.

  • Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce both had a more dynamic first half, finishing with seven points each. However, Carolina will need the two grad transfers to put together a complete game in order to achieve this teams’ goals. Keeling and Pierce combined to shoot 0-for-9 in the second half. Keeling, in particular, looks uncomfortable or unsure of his shot. Keeling comes in with the reputation of a scorer, and will hopefully soon settle in and find his touch (and confidence).
  • Here’s what a senior adds: With around 13:00 minutes remaining in the game, Keeling missed a three and in the rebound action the ball rolled toward the baseline. Brandon Robinson, bad ankle and all, was able to save the ball and throw it directly to Garrison Brooks for a lay-up plus an and-one foul shot (which Brooks made).
  • Now seven games into the season, Carolina is still yet to hit 80 points or shoot 50% from the floor. Quite the anomaly for a Roy Williams-coached club.
  • The events surrounding the final media timeout of the game were quite interesting. As previously mentioned, this is when Cole Anthony checked back in. Carolina had mounted a 10 point lead which Oregon whittled down to six. The play that led to the under-4:00 media timeout was an incorrectly adjudicated out-of-bounds call which gave Oregon the ball, to go with the momentum they had already built up. This seemingly incorrect decision contributed to the closing moments becoming more tense than they otherwise might’ve been. The other curious happening during this media timeout was that someone involved in the on-court timeout entertainment apparently stole the game ball.
  • While they were the flashiest, Cole Anthony’s dunk and block weren’t the most important moments of his play. Saddled with four fouls, the freshman scored six of Carolina’s final eight points after Oregon cut the lead to one with 1:30 left. Most impressively, four of these points were pressure-filled one-and-one free throws. The final two points were also one-and-one free throws, completed by none other than the gritty Brandon Robinson.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

 

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Big 10 / ACC Challenge at home against Ohio State on Wednesday, December 4. Tip is at 9:30ET on ESPN.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Notre Dame

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 76-65 home win over Notre Dame on Wednesday night.

Condensed Game:

Shorter Highlights:

  • Cole Anthony. This kid is as good, if not better, than advertised. There were flashes in the first half, but midway through the second he completely took over the game. 34 points (12-24 FG, 6-11 3FG), 11 rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Those 34 points set the Carolina AND ACC records for most points scored by a freshman in his debut.
  • HUGE to get this win to start the season 1-0 in the ACC, especially with a second ACC game coming in early December at Virginia (a notoriously difficult place to play). Despite those good feelings, being forced to play an ACC game to start the season is an awful idea. That’s two huge missteps by the ACC at the beginning of the new network; the other is choosing specifically Duke Basketball for its inaugural broadcast rather than something encompassing the entire conference.
  • Currently taking bets on whether Cole Anthony (34 points/ 11 rebounds / 5 assists) or Leaky Black (5 points / 7 rebounds / 5 assists) registers the first triple-double of the season.
  • Coach Williams was concerned with Carolina’s ability to rebound the basketball. The result? A 51-31 advantage for the Heels. That number will obviously come down, but a +20 rebounding margin in an ACC game is absurd.
  • With a team that projects to have trouble scoring at times as compared to recent teams, defense will be of utmost importance this year. The length of players like Leaky Black and Brandon Robinson should cause issues for opponents. Carolina held Notre Dame to 35.3% shooting and 29.0% shooting from deep. Garrison Brooks did a great job limiting John Mooney to just 10 points, eight rebounds, and zero made three-pointers (for reference, Mooney hauled in 19 rebounds against Carolina last year and hit six three-pointers two years ago).
  • But Brooks does more than just play defense:
  • Cole Anthony should be transcendent on most nights, but there will be games where he will be cold from the field. When that happens, who will step up? Time will tell. But in the meantime, the aforementioned defense will have to be dialed in every time Carolina takes the court. If the other team can’t score, they can’t beat you.
  • Technically, nine players played in this game. However, Brandon Huffman and Walker Miller each played one minute or less. For a team with injury issues and starting the season with an ACC game, this is to be expected. Would be a big plus to get Brandon Robinson, Sterling Manley, KJ Smith, Anthony Harris, and Jeremiah Francis into uniform.
  • The Tar Heels attacked the interior early in the game, but got away from that as things wore on. As Armando Bacot settles in alongside Brooks, you have to imagine Carolina will continue to pursue buckets in the post.
  • Speaking of Bacot, I present you with two facts concerning the freshman: (1) Bacot is going to shoot a lot of free throws this year. (2) Bacot is not currently a great free throw shooter. He was 1-for-6 tonight from the line. As a team, Carolina was 10-for-17, so taking Bacot’s numbers away, that’s a strong percentage.
  • A couple season “firsts”. Garrison Brooks scores the first points of the season on the first possession of the season with a baby hook on the baseline. Christian Keeling hit the first three-pointer of the season. The first missed free throw of the season was tapped back out for an offensive rebound (Tar Heels doing Tar Heel things).

  • The first five field-goals were scored by five different players (Brooks, Anthony, Bacot, Keeling, Justin Pierce).
  • After making their first three shots of the game, Carolina only hit seven of their final 29 in the first half (31.25%). The second half was a different story though, as the Tar Heels percentage in the second half (62.96%) was double that of the first half.
  • Scary moment early in the first half as Bacot came off with what appeared to be a lower left leg injury. Thankfully he checked back in just a couple minutes later,  immediately recorded a defensive rebound, and then dished an assist to Leaky Black to put Carolina back in the lead.

  • Cole Anthony does a lot of things really well. He had a monster rebound with 7:00 left in the first half. He had a great finish around the rim, and through contact, two minutes into the second half. It will be fun to watch him this season. And enjoy it, because it’s going to be the only one with him.

  • Some other Carolina scoring records to watch this year as it relates to Cole Anthony: Most points in any game by a freshman is 40 (Tyler Hansbrough – 2006 / Harrison Barnes – 2011). The most points scored by a Tar Heel in a single game is 49 (Bobby Lewis – 1965). Most points scored by a freshman in a season is 600 (Joseph Forte – 2000-01).

  • Andrew Platek is going to be an important member of this team. Sometimes scoring. Sometimes just making good, smart fundamental basketball plays. He had eight points, four rebounds, and two assists tonight. You saw several of those good basketball plays tonight: tipping a rebound he couldn’t corral to a teammate, nabbing a couple offensive rebounds, throwing a nice alley-oop to Bacot for a thunderous dunk. Here’s that alley-oop:

 

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 UNC-Wilmington on Friday, November 8. Tip is at 7:00ET on FLO Sports (a streaming service that you will need a subscription for).

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Brandon Robinson Injury Update and Repercussions

North Carolina senior guard Brandon Robinson sprained his right ankle with 12:19 remaining in the first half of the Tar Heels’ lone public exhibition Friday night against Winston-Salem State. The injury occurred after Robinson blocked a shot and a Winston-Salem player rolled up on his ankle upon landing back on the court.

According to a press release from the University of North Carolina, “X-rays taken on Saturday were negative for a fracture. There is no timetable for [Robinson’s] return.”

Robinson started the exhibition game and had already scored eight points by the time the injury occurred. The Douglasville, GA native, along with junior Garrison Brooks, brings the greatest level of returning experience and maturity to the 2019-20 Tar Heels.

The first regular season game is on Wednesday, November 6 against Notre Dame in the Smith Center.

What does the injury mean for the beginning of the regular season?

Starting Line-Up

In the exhibition game, the other starters were Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot. Graduate transfer Justin Pierce started in Robinson’s place in the second half.

Pierce and sophomore Leaky Black (this year’s “Danny-Green-Theo-Pinson-jack-of-all-trades-Swiss-army-knife” player) are the two most likely candidates to start at the ‘3’.

Two factors point to Pierce receiving the starting nod on Wednesday against Notre Dame:

First, Coach Williams has mentioned that the coaches are slowly working Black back into playing form after his severe ankle injury last season against Georgia Tech.

Second, with Seventh Woods transferring to South Carolina and freshman guards Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis still recovering from high school injuries, Black is the primary point guard back-up to Cole Anthony. Therefore, the coaching staff will want to preserve as much of his energy as possible.

My prediction is that Pierce starts, but that Black will receive ‘starter’s minutes’.

Join the Club

The Tar Heels are already without the aforementioned Harris and Francis, as well as junior big man Sterling Manley and junior guard KJ Smith.

Robinson will likely join them in street clothes for an unknown period of time.

It’s a good thing Carolina has depth because it will be tested.

Depth

What about that depth? As already discussed, Robinson’s absence means more minutes for both Pierce and Black. The other player who should see an increase in minutes is junior Andrew Platek. Christian Keeling already figured to play a large share of Carolina’s 200 available minutes in a game, but he will likely see an uptick for the time being as well.

Affects

Early season injuries to experienced players can often be a blessing in disguise as they allow less-experienced players to gain valuable minutes. However, in a season with new faces everywhere, the on-court consistency that a veteran like Robinson provides is invaluable. Hopefully he can provide the same leadership from the bench for however like he is sidelined.

Team Chemistry

It’s no secret that Roy Williams teams take the early months of seasons to build chemistry and figure out roles and fit; sometimes to the detriment of the win column. Depending on the length of Robinson’s absence, it could be difficult to work him back into a team that has already found its way.

Hopefully the ankle heals quickly and we get to see a long and fruitful senior season from Brandon Robinson.