Tag Archives: Marcus Paige

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Washington (NCAA Tournament – 2nd Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-59 win over Washington on Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • The Tar Heels advance to the Sweet 16 for the 29th time in program history; the most all-time. While a Sweet 16 appearance is not the ultimate goal, let’s keep it in perspective: There are only 16 of the 353 D1 men’s basketball teams still playing and Carolina is one of them. That never gets old. See for yourself:
  • Cameron Johnson made three more three-pointers to run his season total to 94. That ties him with Marcus Paige (2014-15) for the third most in a single season in Carolina history. In second place is Shammond Williams with 95.
  • Luke Maye just keeps piling up career accolades. Against Washington, Maye set NCAA Tournament career highs in both points (20) and rebounds (14). His 20 points move him into 40th on the all-time Carolina scoring list (1379). His 14 rebounds move him into 11th on the all-time Carolina rebounding list (935). If Maye grabs seven rebounds against Auburn, he’ll move past Eric Montross into 10th.
  • Wrap your brain around this: Luke Maye is the only person in program history to have two entries on the Carolina single season top ten rebounding list. Maye now has 370 rebounds this season; ninth-most in a single season for a Tar Heel. The next person Maye would pass on that list is…himself from last season. Depending on how far the Heels go in the NCAA Tournament, Maye has a shot at recording just the second 400 rebound season in Carolina history (Brice Johnson – 416 in 2015-16).
  • The Tar Heels have been dominant on the boards thus far in the NCAA Tournament. Iona? Doubled them up (52-26). Washington? Doubled them up as well (48-24). That’s a total of 100 rebounds for Carolina vs. just 50 for their opponents.
  • A couple scary injury moments in this one. Garrison Brooks took an elbow to the mouth in the first half, which damaged two of his teeth and required stitches. Brooks missed the rest of the first half while being attended to, but came back out and had a solid second half. Not coincidentally, thanks to Brooks’ steady defense, his first half absence was the only point at which it seemed like Washington could potentially make a run.

  • The other injury occurred in the opening moments of the second half when Kenny Williams got a steal on Washington’s first possession. Unfortunately, he appeared to tweak his left hamstring. After being evaluated, Williams eventually returned to the game. Thankfully he has several days to recover before playing Auburn on Friday night.
  • Don’t look now, but Nassir Little is rising (#NassirRising). With 19 points against Iona and 20 against Washington, he has his highest two game scoring output of his Tar Heel career. There was a stretch in the second half when he scored 11 straight for Carolina, including a monster block.
  • Coby White broke out of his shooting slump early and often. He hit 4-for-5 from three in the first 11 minutes of the game. White finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal and several drives to the hoop against a defense geared at “stopping three-pointers and layups”.
  • White wasn’t the only player to shoot better from deep. As a team the Tar Heels shot 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from three, the best percentage since playing Wake Forest on February 16.
  • As per usual, Carolina played great zone offense, sharing the ball and operating out of the opening at the free throw line. Quietly, Cam Johnson had seven assists and zero turnovers. This was the most assists he’s had as a Tar Heel and tied his career high.
  • Once or twice a game, Carolina will execute a picture-perfect fast break. With 11:20 to go before halftime, Nassir Little grabbed a rebound, threw a long outlet pass to Cameron Johnson, who hit Brandon Robinson for the lay-up.
  • This Tar Heel team is really difficult to guard because the scoring comes from so many different players and in so many different ways. In five of the last six games, at least four Tar Heels scored in double figures.
  • Washington scored the first bucket of the second half to cut the Carolina lead to five. From there, the Heels went on a 13-0 run over the next 4:30 to push the lead to 18. Washington would never again get within single digits. That is how an experienced team closes an NCAA Tournament game.

Roy Williams, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament against Auburn on Friday, March 29. Tip is at 7:29ET on TBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Iona (NCAA Tournament – 1st Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-73 win over Iona on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • With Luke Maye’s 16 points tonight, three different Tar Heels have scored 500 points this year (Cam Johnson – 580, Coby White – 530, Maye – 502). That’s happened seven previous times in program history. Those seasons each worked out pretty well: 3 National Championships (1992-93, 2008-09, 2016-17), 1 National Runner-Up (1980-81), 2 Final Fours (1994-95, 1997-98), and 1 Elite Eight (1986-87).
  • Roy Williams is now 29-0 all-time in the 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament.

  • Cam Johnson has made 91 three-pointers this season. He is just the fifth Tar Heel to hit 90 threes in a single season. Justin Jackson (105), Shammond Williams (95), Marcus Paige (94), and Joel Berry (93) are the other four.

  • Coby White now has one or fewer turnovers in four of the last five games. He had achieved this just three times in his 28 games prior.

  • At halftime, both teams had 14 defensive rebounds. The difference was that Carolina also had 14 offensive rebounds to Iona’s two. The Gaels only managed 10 more rebounds the rest of the game, none of which were offensive. Overall, Carolina doubled up Iona on the glass 52-26 and had 25 second chance points to the Gaels’ three.
  • Interestingly, no Tar Heel had double-digit rebounds, but all five starters had between six and nine.
  • This projected to be a high-scoring game with both teams in the top-50 in tempo according to KenPom. However, Iona decided to slow the game down and try to take Carolina out of transition. It worked in the first half with the Heels only scoring two fast break points in that stretch.
  • A big part of why Iona’s plan worked is that they hit 10 three-pointers in the first half while Carolina struggled to run offense against the Gaels’ match-up zone. The second half, however, was a different story. The Gaels hit their second three-pointer of the second half, before missing their next 12 by which point the Heels were up by 18.
  • It’s always a question how freshmen will respond to their first NCAA Tournament game. While most of the team was struggling in the first half, it was Coby White and Nassir Little who led the way offensively. White scored eight of the team’s first 12. Nassir Little picked up his second foul with 8:49 left before halftime, but stayed in the game and proceeded to score Carolina’s next three buckets. Little finished second on the team in scoring with 19 (behind Johnson’s 21) on an efficient 9-for-13 shooting.

  • While being less of a factor than his classmates, Leaky Black saw his first game action since spraining his ankle on January 29 against Georgia Tech. He secured three rebounds in the last four minutes of the first half and played well other than a turnover in the closing seconds before halftime.
  • The seniors were the primary culprits of the first-half woes. The three combined to shoot 6-for-22, including 1-for-8 from three point range. But then the second half happened. After halftime, Carolina went on an 11-3 run to grab a 44-41 lead. All 11 of those points were scored by the senior trio, who shot a combined 10-for-15 (4-for-6 from deep) in the second half. After the 11-3 run, Iona scored the next two points before the Heels reeled off a backbreaking 19-4 run to essentially put the game out of reach.
  • It was another balanced scoring night for the Tar Heels, with five Tar Heels in double figures and Kenny Williams chipping in eight.
  • Speaking of Kenny Williams, keep an eye on his right knee. He checked out of the game with just a couple minutes remaining and had the training staff check him out.

  • The second round will be an interesting match-up against Washington, whose head coach, Mike Hopkins, was a long-time Syracuse assistant and runs Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense. It’s worth noting that since Syracuse came to the ACC, the Tar Heels are 8-1 against the Orange (the only loss coming in the teams’ first ACC match-up). In those games, the Tar Heels have averaged 20 assists per game and assisted on 69.2 percent of made field goals. In the three most recent meetings, those numbers jump to 21.3 assists per game, while assisting on an absurd 81.0 percent of made field goals.

Roy Williams, Nassir Little, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Washington on Sunday, March 24. Tip is approximately 2:40ET (following Iowa/Tennessee) on CBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Louisville (ACC Quarterfinal)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 83-70 win over Louisville on Thursday evening in the ACC Quarterfinals.

Highlights:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Hard to believe that this is the same team as the one that got blown out by Louisville just over two months ago in the Dean Dome. Since that game, Carolina has won 15 of 16 (including two against the Cardinals). Safe to say that embarrassment and the ensuing look in the mirror was the turning point in the season for the Tar Heels.

 

 

 

 

  • Louisville is always long, pesky, and athletic. So to get another convincing win over them, especially in a tournament scenario, is a big deal. This was the win the Tar Heels had to have in order to lock-up at least a two seed in the NCAA Tournament (which might have already been locked up) and keep the path open for a one seed. A win over Duke tomorrow all but assures the Heels of a one seed. A loss to Duke doesn’t necessarily lose the one seed, but it does mean that the Heels will have to see what other teams do in their conference tournaments.
  • Tomorrow’s semifinals will be the first time in history that three teams in the AP top five are all playing in a conference tournament semifinals. The ACC semifinals will probably be better than the Final Four.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Rebounding was an important factor in the first two match-ups, with Louisville winning Round One 40-31 and Carolina winning Round Two 49-32. Louisville’s Coach Mack stressed the importance to his team about keeping Carolina off the glass. To no avail. The Heels held a 44-35 rebounding advantage at the end of the night.
  • Coach Mack had also cautioned his team about keeping Carolina out of transition. I’m not sure how to put this kindly, but, um, they didn’t do that. The Heels scored 10 fast break points in first 7:30 of the game and finished with 34 total fast break points.
  • Coby White really struggled in the first two Louisville games. He shot a combined 3-for-18, including 0-for-9 on threes and scored 12 total points. Tonight he had triple-double-like numbers, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists, with just one turnover. After multiple turnovers in each of the first 16 ACC games, White has finished with zero or one in the last two regular season games and the ACC Quarterfinals. In those three games he has a 6:1 assist to turnover ratio. He also had a ridiculous move and and-1 with 17:05 left in the game:

 

 

  • While Leaky Black was back in uniform, he didn’t see the court. Sterling Manley, however, got a little playing time in the second half with the game very much still in question. With Garrison Brooks saddled with four fouls, Manley came in with 9:24 to go to spell Luke Maye leading up to the under-8:00 media timeout. Manley got a dunk and tipped away a post entry pass in his 90 seconds on the court.
  • 10 players played. Nine of them scored. Eight of them grabbed a rebound. Seven of them had an assist.
  • The Heels didn’t shoot the lights out from deep, but after a combined 9-for-46 (19.6 percent) in the first two games, a 7-for-20 (35 percent) clip was much improved. Especially because three of those made threes were bonus production from Nassir Little (one) and Brandon Robinson (two). Both players filled up the stat sheet well in other ways as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Carolina only turned the ball over nine times, just one of which came from the point guard position.
  • There’s always a tension in the ACC Tournament of playing for NCAA Tournament seeding while also staying healthy and not exhausting the team. Recall the John Henson injury in 2012. Last year’s team seemed to have an NCAA Tournament hangover after beating Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Yet in 2017, Carolina lost to Duke in the semifinals and went on to win the National Championship. So how was the health tonight? Garrison Brooks fell and hurt his elbow early, but came back in and seemed to be okay. He had a couple nice moves inside and finished with 11 points. Kenny Williams took his usual bumps and bruises, including injuring his right shoulder and appearing to get poked in the eye.
  • Speaking of Kenny Williams, how did he follow up his Senior Night performance against Duke? He had a rough shooting night and finished with four points. However, as previously mentioned he held Jordan Nwora to just seven points and, as per normal, was all over the court causing havoc.
  • Curiously, the Heels picked up several fouls on screening violations (at least four by my count). There were some curious calls throughout the game, such as an NBA-style continuation bucket in Louisville’s favor. There were also some no-calls that probably should have been whistled.
  • Cam Johnson started off hot, scoring 10 of Carolina’s first 16 on 4-for-4 shooting. He finished the half with 14 points, shooting 6-for-8. Interestingly, he didn’t score a single point in the second half.
  • It was an interesting night at the free throw line. The Heels hit their first 13 before missing five of the next six. Brooks made a pair in the closing minutes for the team to finish 16-for-21.
  • Several offensive runs helped Carolina’s cause. In the four-minute stretch from 16:36-12:34 of the first half the Heels were 9-for-10 on field goals and went from two points to 23. If you’re keeping score at home that’s 21 points in four minutes. Later in the first half, Louisville decided to play and cut 13-point Carolina lead to one in just two minutes. However, the Heels pushed the lead back to 10 over the final 5:30 leading to halftime. Finally, with Louisville hanging around and the lead down to seven late in the second half, Carolina went on an 11-0 run to push the lead out to 18 (79-61; predicated on the defensive end), which all but iced the game.
  • Johnson has now made 85 threes on the season. One more will get him into the top 10 in a single season, tied with Marcus Paige and Shammond Williams for tenth.
  • If Luke Maye pulls down one rebound tomorrow against Duke, he will have 900 for his career. The 12th Tar Heel to do so.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

 

 

 

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the ACC Semifinals against Duke on Friday. Tip is approximately 9:00ET on ESPN (following Virginia/ Florida State).

Want to receive an email with Quick Hitters and other articles from Isaac Schade? Click here.

Does Duke Dominate the ACC?

As I sat in the discouraging aftermath of Villanova’s 2016 National Championship, not only was the loss hard, but the impending personnel loss weighed heavy as well. This was the end of an era. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, the players responsible for 35 of Carolina’s 74 points that night, including the final 10, would never again don a University of North Carolina Tar Heel uniform.

As the offseason unfolded, things got worse as I realized how loaded Duke’s roster would be in the 2016-17 season. Just days after Marcus Paige’s miraculous three-pointer, Grayson Allen announced he was coming back to school for his junior year. A few weeks later, big man Amile Jefferson was granted another year of eligibility after a foot injury held him out most of the 2015-16 season. Duke had already signed three of the top 10 recruits in the class (depending on which recruiting site you go by), but then another top 20 recruit (Marques Bolden) picked the Blue Devils over Kentucky. Once again, Duke was picked to run away with not only the ACC Championship, but also the National Championship.

I realized I was beginning to have this fear that Duke was dominating the ACC year after year after year and that no one else could keep up with their talent, recruiting, and on-court victories. My perception was that the Blue Devils were in a class of their own of late, winning all sorts of regular season and conference championships.

So I decided to actually look at the results to help confirm my suspicions.

This is Roy Williams’ 14th season coaching the Tar Heels. Here are the ACC regular season conference champions during that span:

  • 2004 – Duke
  • 2005 – North Carolina
  • 2006 – Duke
  • *2007 – North Carolina, Virginia
  • 2008 – North Carolina
  • 2009 – North Carolina
  • *2010 – Duke, Maryland
  • 2011 – North Carolina
  • 2012 – North Carolina
  • 2013 – Miami
  • 2014 – Virginia
  • 2015 – Virginia
  • 2016 – North Carolina
  • *2017 – North Carolina (Notre Dame can share the championship if they win and North Carolina loses today)

*the ACC allows co-champions when teams tie, regardless of head-to-head results. Notre Dame can tie North Carolina this year if the Irish beat Louisville today AND the Heels lose to Duke.

Looking at the results, North Carolina actually has eight regular season championships, compared to Duke’s three. Virginia also has three, but no other school has more than one. Okay, I guess I can breathe a little easier.

If it isn’t regular season championships, perhaps my feelings of Duke’s domination of the ACC are based on ACC Tournament championships. Here are the results of the championship game for the past ten years:

  • 2007 – North Carolina 89 – NC State 80
  • 2008 – North Carolina 86 – Clemson 81
  • 2009 – Duke 79 – Florida State 69
  • 2010 – Duke 65 – Georgia Tech 61
  • 2011 – Duke 75 – North Carolina 58
  • 2012 – Florida State 85 – North Carolina 82
  • 2013 – Miami 87 – North Carolina 77
  • 2014 – Virginia 72 – Duke 63
  • 2015 – Notre Dame 90 – North Carolina 82
  • 2016 – North Carolina 61 – Virginia 57

So that’s not it either. North Carolina and Duke have each won three ACC Tournament championships in the past ten years. In fact, during that ten-year span, the Tar Heels have made the ACC Championship game seven times while the Blue Devils have only advanced to the final four times. Interestingly, a different team has won the ACC Tournament each of the past six years.

Taking a deeper look, Duke has actually not won an ACC regular season or tournament championship since the conference expanded to 15 teams in the 2013-14 season.

Maybe if we expand the scope further, we can uncover my fears of Duke supremacy. Perhaps my worries are due to the fact that Duke has had more success that Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. Here are the NCAA Tournament results for both teams in the Roy Williams era:

  • 2004 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Final Four
  • 2005 – UNC: National Champions; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2006 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2007 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: First Round
  • 2008 – UNC: Final Four; Duke: Second Round
  • 2009 – UNC: National Champions; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2010 – UNC: NIT Finalist; Duke: National Champions
  • 2011 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: Sweet Sixteen
  • 2012 – UNC: Elite Eight; Duke: First Round
  • 2013 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: Elite Eight
  • 2014 – UNC: 2nd Round; Duke: First Round
  • 2015 – UNC: Sweet Sixteen; Duke: National Champions
  • 2016 – UNC: Finalist; Duke: Sweet Sixteen

North Carolina:

  • National Champion – 2
  • Finalist – 1
  • Final Four – 1
  • Elite Eights – 3
  • Sweet Sixteen – 1
  • Second Round – 4
  • First Round – 0
  • NIT Finalist – 1

Duke:

  • National Champion – 2
  • Finalist – 0
  • Final Four – 1
  • Elite Eight – 1
  • Sweet Sixteen – 5
  • Second Round – 1
  • First Round – 3
  • NIT – 0

These results don’t point to Duke dominance either. In the 13 NCAA Tournaments of the Roy Williams era at North Carolina, both teams have two National Championships to their name. The Tar Heels were relegated to the NIT the year after the 2009 championship, while the Blue Devils have made the NCAA Tournament each year. Carolina has never lost in the first round (the REAL first round) of the NCAA Tournament in the Williams era, while Duke has been knocked out three times at that level. Carolina’s biggest advantage in NCAA Tournament success is that they have made it to the Elite Eight or beyond in seven of the 13 years, while Duke has advanced that far four times. Needless to say, NCAA Tournament results also do not explain my fear of Duke dominance.

Perhaps my worries are unfounded? Maybe my fears are irrational and Duke hasn’t actually dominated the ACC?

Then it hit me. I needed to narrow my scope, not broaden it. Here is Carolina’s record against Duke each year of the Roy Williams era:

  • 2003-04 – 0-2
  • 2004-05 – 1-1
  • 2005-06 – 1-1
  • 2006-07 – 2-0
  • 2007-08 – 1-1
  • 2008-09 – 2-0
  • 2009-10 – 0-2
  • 2010-11 – 1-2
  • 2011-12 – 1-1
  • 2012-13 – 0-2
  • 2013-14 – 1-1
  • 2014-15 – 0-2
  • 2015-16 – 1-1
  • 2016-17 – 0-1

In the Roy Williams era at North Carolina, the Tar Heels have a total record of 11-17 against Duke. Duke holds a comfortable lead in the series during this time span, but since Carolina’s 2009 championship, the Blue Devils have absolutely dominated. From the 2010-11 season through the present, the Tar Heels have a 4-12 record against Duke.

Mystery solved. My fears of Duke ACC dominance are actually based on the fact that they have absolutely owned North Carolina head-to-head in the Roy Williams era. It is always nice to beat your rival, but, at the end of the day, give me the championships every time!

 

 

Will tonight’s regular season finale be a turning point in the series for the Tar Heels? Or will it be a step in the right direction for a Duke team that was supposed to run away with the 2016-17 season?

A Tale of Two Halves: Joel Berry’s Free Throw Shooting

The free throw line is the loneliest and most pressure-filled place on a basketball court. Some basketball players thrive on this moment. Others? Weeeeeelllll, not so much.

Two players in NBA history have shot over 90% for their careers (Steve Nash, 90.4% and Mark Price, 90.4%). Stephen Curry (90.4%), though still active, shares the same distinction. Coming in just behind these three is Rick Barry who famously shot his free throws underhanded (and technically rounds up to 90% free throw shooting himself).

On the other side of the coin are the “not-so-much-ers”. We all know about the “Hack-a-Shaq” tactic of fouling an opponent even when he doesn’t have the ball. Why? Because he’s so awful at shooting free throws that the percentages say you are better off giving that player two free shots from 15 feet rather than letting the opposing team run their offense. It’s become so rampant that the NBA has been forced to employ rules discouraging the use of this tactic. As you would imagine, this strategy is so named because teams started doing this to Shaquille O’Neal. While Shaq is a poor free throw shooter, and believe me, he is bad, the Big Aristotle actually more than half of his free throws (52.7%) for his career.

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Believe it or not, there are actually several NBA players with worse free throw shooting percentages than Shaq. One of the most famous players of all time – Wilt Chamberlain – shot just 51.1% from the charity stripe. Several NBA players have shot under 50% – Chris Dudley (45.8%), DeAndre Jordan (42.1%), and Ben Wallace (41.4%).

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Finally, coming in under 40% free throw shooting is Andre Drummond at 38%.

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When it comes to the best free throw shooters in North Carolina basketball history, Shammond Williams leads the way at 84.9% (292-344). As recently as last year, it looked as though that Williams’ career record would fall. Entering his senior year, Marcus Paige had actually eclipsed Williams in career free throw percentage at 86.5% (275-318). Paige, as you might recall, had an “off year” (by his standards) in the 2015-16 season, shooting “just” 77.4% (72-93). When all was said and done, Paige wound up fifth on the all-time list for UNC at 84.4% (347-411), behind Williams, Kim Huband, Marvin Williams, and Danny Green.

Shammond Williams also holds the single-season record for free throw percentage at 91.1% (133-146) in 1997-98; the only Tar Heel to shoot above 90% for an entire season. Marcus Paige holds two of the top nine single season free throw percentage marks. He hit 87.7% (128-146) in 2013-14 (third place) and 86.5% (96-111) in 2014-15 (ninth place).

This brings us to Joel Berry. Berry did not begin his Tar Heel career as a candidate to be one of the best free throw shooters in North Carolina history. During his freshman year, Berry shot 75.7% (28-37). Things changed, though, in his sophomore year when Berry shot 86.7% (91-105), which is the eighth best single-season mark in Tar Heel history. This incredible sophomore year allowed Berry to begin his junior year at 83.8% (119-142) for his career, which is seventh on the all-time list.

Joel Berry entered his junior year with great possibilities of continuing to move up the career free throw percentage list as well as having one of the best single seasons of free throw shooting in UNC history. Right out of the gate, that’s exactly what Berry did. Oddly though, Joel Berry’s free throw shooting in 2016-17 has been a tale of two halves.

Let’s use the natural dividing of non-conference schedule and conference schedule to create those two halves.

First, the good. In non-conference, Berry hit 39 of 42 free throws over the course of 11.5 games (he missed most of the second half against Radford after suffering an ankle injury and the subsequent games against Davidson and Tennesee). That’s a 92.9% clip during roughly the first third of the season. That free throw percentage would give Berry the best single season number in Carolina history; beating Shammond Williams’ 91.1% mark for a single season by almost two percentage points. This hot start also propelled Berry to 85.9% for his career, a full percentage point above Williams’ career record.

As the conference part of the schedule began, everything changed. Let’s call this part the “not-so-good”. The Tar Heels have played 17 conference games (and have one more to go against some team from eight miles down the road). In those games, Joel Berry has shot 35-47 from the free throw line, which is 74.5%; a drop of 18.4 percentage points from the non-conference portion of the schedule. This is a respectable number, but not an “all-time-best-in-program-history” type of number. The worrisome part is that things have continued to get worse. Over the last 11 games, Berry has shot just 68.8% (22-32) from the line. Remember, this is statistically one of the greatest free throw shooters in Carolina history.

Here’s a telling way to look at things. In the non-conference schedule, Berry shot free throws in nine of the 11.5 games he played in. In those nine games, he hit every free throw he took seven times. By contrast, Berry has shot free throws in 11 of the 17 conference games. Of those 11 games, he’s made every free throw he’s taken just twice.

It’s also troubling to notice the discrepancy in the number of free throws Joel Berry has attempted when comparing the non-conference and conference. In his 11.5 non-conference games, Berry shot 42 free throws. In the 17 conference games, he’s shot 47, just five more. That means that in non-conference games, Berry 3.65 free throws a game, which dropped to 2.76 per game during the conference schedule. In the non-conference schedule, there were three games when Berry didn’t shoot any free throws. In conference, there have been six such games.

It’s hard to say exactly what is causing the drop in Joel Berry’s free throw percentage. Perhaps it’s the fatigue of playing point guard for Roy Williams over the course of a grueling season. Perhaps it’s a problem of shot mechanics. Perhaps Berry is in his own head. Perhaps the hot start was an anomaly. Perhaps it’s a lack of focus.

Whatever the reason, while Justin Jackson has been the most consistent scorer this year for North Carolina, Joel Berry is the heart and engine of the team. In order for this year’s version of the Tar Heels to reach, and possibly exceed, what the 2015-16 team achieved, Berry will have to continue to be that driving force as the regular season gives way to postseason tournaments. And it wouldn’t hurt if he hit a couple more free throws along the way.

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia

With a 65-41 win at home on over Virginia, UNC stays undefeated at home on the season, and, more importantly, atop the ACC standings with an 11-3 conference record. With a brutal end of the regular season stretch, Carolina HAD to hold court at home, and they did. Here are Quick Hitters from the match-up:

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Defense like this from Nate Britt was the key to the 65-41 victory over Virginia on 2/18/17. Photo Credit: Jeffrey A. Camarati
  1. This was a special night for North Carolina as both Brice Jackson and Marcus Paige were on hand to be honored at halftime for having their jerseys hung in the rafters.
  2. Congrats to Kennedy Meeks. His seven rebounds in the game give him 929 for his career, good enough to tie him with Rusty Clark for 10th all-time in Carolina basketball history.
  3. An important development early: Jack Salt, Virginia’s starting center, picked up his second foul with 16:35 left in the first half. He eventually picked up his third before halftime, opening the inside for the Tar Heels.
  4. Justin Jackson was absolutely on fire in the first half, including shooting 4-6 from three. In fact, he nearly outscored Virginia in the first 20 minutes: Virginia 22, Justin Jackson – 18.
  5. It feels like London Perrantes has been in school forever. He’s an opponent who you can’t help but have a lot of respect for. He plays the game right, doesn’t showboat, and is the consummate teammate.
  6. I get scared every time I see Virginia on the schedule, and today was no different. That’s the Tony Bennett effect. That said, this was just a bad night for the Cavaliers; one of those days where the shots just don’t fall. On the Carolina side of things, the Tar Heels played with the patient discipline needed in order to beat Virginia. They minimized their fouls on the defensive end and were (mostly) patient on the offensive side.
  7. Virginia started off 0-17 from three. In fact, their first connection from deep came with 5:32 left in the game. The Cavs finished 2-20 for the game.
  8. Virginia shot 27.8% for the game – the first time this year Carolina had held a team under 30% shooting.
  9. Virginia’s 19 second-half points were the second fewest points Carolina has allowed in a half this year.
  10. I appreciate Jay Bilas’ ability to love the game, but still call officials, the NCAA, and programs to higher standards. The prime example tonight was late in the first half when the officials called a double foul. Bilas, who was doing commentary for ESPN, spoke about the use of the double foul as a cop-out. He said that someone committed the first foul and it needs to be called as such.

Quick Hitters – Kentucky

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Justin Jackson reacts to a go-ahead lay-up with under 1:00 left in the game, that gave the Tar Heels a 100-98 over Kentucky. Unfortunately, this was not the last big image from the game. Photo Credit: J.D. Lyon, Jr.

Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 103-100 neutral site loss to Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic.

  1. First off, you never like to lose, and especially not to Kentucky, but this looked like the team that was playing in Maui, not the team we’ve seen in the four games since – an encouraging sign. The trick now is becoming that team always. This game had the feeling of a game in March or April and will pay dividends for both teams throughout the season.
  2. I think Joel Berry is going to be all right. With a player coming back from a lower body injury, you always wonder what their first game back will be like. Berry’s return was reminiscent of Marcus Paige’s first game last season against Maryland in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. The key is not having the let down that Paige had after that. Berry’s line from Saturday: 23 points on 9-15 shooting, 3-5 on 3s, 2-2 FTs, 5 R, 7 A, 3 TO, 2 S in 34 minutes. Also, Berry fell to the court after getting his shot blocked less than two minutes into the game. While you hate to see him fall, it’s nice that he was able to get right back up.
  3. The pace of this game was incredibly fun to watch. Two deep and athletic teams who like to run. And yet they take care of the ball really well – both teams finished with single digit turnovers.
  4. Speaking of pace, both teams scored 50+ points in the first half. Kentucky had 56, which is the most given up in the Roy Williams era in the first half. In the end, both teams finished with over 100.
  5. Justin Jackson missed more free throw in this game (five) than he had the rest of the season combined (four). Coming into the game he was 25-29 (86.2%). On the other side of the coin, Tony Bradley, who was shooting 30-50 (60%), went 6-6 in this game to balance out Jackson’s misses.
  6. Speaking of Justin Jackson, he’s getting to the line so much because he is attacking and aggressive. This is a good sign. Jackson finished the game with a career-high 34 points.
  7. Great close to the first half. The Heels closed the lead to as little as four after being down 12, and finished the half down five.
  8. Understatement of the season: Malik Monk is good at basketball. A couple of great defensive possessions against him in the closing minutes of the first half were what helped Carolina close the gap.
  9. That said, you know who would’ve done a great job guarding Monk in this game? Theo Pinson. Not saying Pinson would have completely shut Monk down, because he was hitting everything in sight. However, his lankiness and athleticism certainly would’ve bothered Monk and lowered his point total. Thanks to my man Carter Gilchrist for pointing this out!
  10. Speaking of Pinson, the Heels only got two points from the 2-guard spot today, and you’ve got to think that Pinson would’ve contributed more.
  11. Luke Maye had some important contributions. He had to HUGE 3s down the stretch as the Heels were fighting back. He also had a big time tap out on a missed Justin Jackson free throw that gave the Heels a chance to go up two possessions with under one minute left. Unfortunately, Joel Berry missed a shot and we know what happened next. Maye finished with a career high 11 points.
  12. Foul trouble hurt the Heels in this game. Berry, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks each were playing with four fouls down the stretch. Meeks fouled out, but both Hicks and Berry played smart to stay on the court down the stretch and impact the game in big ways. (Berry did ultimately foul out, but it was on the last meaningful play of the game).

 

 

Quick Hitters – Davidson

Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 83-74 home win against Davidson.

  1. The starters looked flat to start the game. So much so that four minutes into the game the five players on the floor were Seventh Woods, Stilman White, Luke Maye, Brandon Robinson, and Tony Bradley. This crew moved the score from 10-3 to 15-13 when they exited, exactly what you want to happen when you bring in the second unit to provide energy.
  2. Much of the 10-0 run the reserves went on early in the game was fueled by Luke Maye, who had seven points in that stretch. Maye finished with a career high 10 points.
  3. Once again Seventh Woods is taking too many shots and dribbling too much. He wound up playing only 11 minutes in a game where it seemed like he would play a lot more due to Joel Berry’s injury.
  4. Most of the minutes I assumed Woods would get went to Stilman White who had a solid 15 minutes including six points (all on free throws) and one assist against no steals.
  5. Much of the credit for the frustration in this game is due to Davidson’s double-teaming the post. The Heels got sped up, made some poor decisions, and then didn’t spend time getting the ball inside in the first ten minutes of the game. This trend continued throughout the game. For the most part the interior players did not handle the double teams well.
  6. That said, the team did a poor job of forcing the issue inside. This is attributed both to Davidson’s active defense and the absence of Joel Berry.
  7. Justin Jackson’s work over the summer is paying off from deep. He finished 7-13 on three-pointers. Overall, he tied his career high with 27 points.
  8. While it hurts to have Joel Berry out, very similar to last season and Marcus Pagie’s absence early in the season, the extra experience Nate Britt, Seventh Woods, and Stilman White are getting will pay dividends later on. At the same time, based on what we saw tonight, if Berry doesn’t play against Tennessee or Kentucky, things could go south in a hurry.

Quick Hitters – UNC @ Tulane (11/11/16)

 

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Kennedy Meeks (#3) and the Tar Heels opened the 2016-17 season with a 95-75 victory over Tulane in New Orleans. Photo Credit: J.D. Lyon Jr.

 

  1. It took me until two weeks ago to finally re-watch the National Championship game. I was proud of myself – I even watched the final 4.7 seconds. What a wild ride and fun season 2015-16 was. That said, I’m really glad a new season is underway so I can put some new images of Tar Heel basketball in my head.
  2. When you lose players the caliber of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, other guys have to step up. It was an encouraging sign that both Joel Berry and Justin Jackson recorded career highs in scoring (23 and 27 respectively), while Kennedy Meeks had a career high in rebounds (15).
  3. A big part of the reason Jackson had such a big night is because he shot 4-5 from three point range. He clearly put the time in during the off-season.
  4. As a team, the Heels shot 9-20 from deep (45%). Although it’s only the first game of the season, this is an encouraging sign.
  5. One of the main storylines this season is Isaiah Hicks’ ability to stay out of foul trouble and on the court. In the first half, he had no fouls and even took a charge. Hicks did, however, have three fouls in the second half. He played 25 minutes which is good news.
  6. After committing a turnover at the 9:00 mark of the first half (the ball inadvertently went off his foot), Joel Berry had a dominant stretch that you hope to see out of your leader: He had an assist on the next offensive possession, then a steal, then another assist, then a 3-pointer, then hit 1-2 at the free throw line. In that stretch of 4 offensive possessions, he had 2 assists, a steal, and 4 points. Prior to this stretch, Tulane had cut the Carolina lead to one. Berry’s stat line for the whole game: 23 pts on 6-11 shooting, 7-9 FT (he missed two?), 6 reb, 4 ast, 2 steals, only 1 TO.
  7. Freshman Tony Bradley (surprise, surprise, another athletic big for the Heels!) had a nice run of his own early in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions. He established good post position and scored off an entry pass from Justin Jackson, had a nice little running hook shot in the lane, then scored on a put-back off a Justin Jackson miss.
  8. The most glaring area of deficiency after the exhibition game and first regular season game: Allowing offensive rebounds to the opposing team. UNC-Pembroke had 30 and Tulane had 18.
  9. Kennedy Meeks struggled shooting the ball (4-13 shooting), but clearly looks more athletic and ready to run than he ever has. He dunked a ball mid-way through the second half that he previously would have laid up. The aforementioned 15 rebounds were much needed with the void left by Brice Johnson.
  10. Tony Bradley was the most consistent of the freshmen, but Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson both had some nice moments. Both players will get minutes and valuable experience while the Heels wait for Theo Pinson to return from injury.

The Wait

Today is May 4. We are exactly a month into “The Wait”.

The wait comes every year. The wait is never fun. The wait is hard. You might even call it excruciating.

A month ago today, the Tar Heels lost what is, for me, the most excruciating Carolina loss of my 32 years on Earth. What an incredibly fun season the 2015-16 Tar Heels had; but that ending though. I shudder thinking about it. Sometimes I still punch my pillow when I wake up in the morning because they were sooooooooo close. But win or lose your last game of the season, the wait still comes.

What is this wait I speak of?

Every year we wait for the decisions of underclassmen. Will they come back to Chapel Hill? Or will they declare for the NBA draft? And if they declare, will they hire an agent (meaning they forfeit any remaining eligibility) or won’t they (meaning they maintain eligibility and could return)?

Sometimes a player will spare us the wait and rather quickly declare their intention to return. Sometimes a player will spare us the agony in a less favorable way by declaring for the draft and hiring an agent. Sometimes players we think are gone will surprise us and come back. Sometimes players we think should stay will decide to leave. Sometimes players wait a long time before deciding to come back. There are so many possibilities.

The good news for this year is that the wait is almost over. We have come to grips with the fact (or at least tried to) that Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Joel James have to leave due to graduation. Just today, Kennedy Meeks announced that he would return to Chapel Hill for his senior season:

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The only remaining decision is Justin Jackson. He has declared for the draft, but did not hire an agent. Based on his somewhat disappointing sophomore season, it seems logical that he would return, but crazier things have happened. So we wait.

We all hope Jackson will come back, but even if he doesn’t, we’re looking at a possible starting lineup of Joel Berry, Nate Britt, Theo Pinson, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks. Not too shabby considering the departure the Tar Heels have experienced after other extremely successful Carolina teams of recent history (think the 08-09 and 11-12 teams).

The wait, this year, is amplified. Why? Because this year, the wait has the added dimension of potential NCAA sanctions. We all breathed a sigh of (at least temporary) relief when the most recent allegation notice came out and did not mention men’s basketball. There is some hope that the men’s basketball team will be exonerated and not face loss of scholarships or national championships or even more recruits.

The wait is only a month in and we still have about 5 more months to go before Late Night With Roy. We might see Justin Jackson that night, we might not. By that night, we might know more about the NCAA sanctions or (more likely based on the tortoise pace the NCAA is exhibiting) we might not. Regardless, that night can’t come soon enough so we can see the 2016-17 Tar Heels in action and can begin to erase the memory of Kris Jenkins’ rising up and unleashing an incredibly (and unfortunately) beautiful shot that broke all our hearts.