Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 69-61 home loss to Virginia on Monday night.
I wrote this during the game and so I have to stick to it: Regardless of what the final result is (and you would obviously like to win), great resolve from the Heels to push back in second half and grab the lead. And what I’ll add to it now after the game: Man that’s a tough game to lose.
Carolina held a 55-48 lead with 7:50 remaining. From that point, Virginia outscored the Heels 21-6 for the rest of the game.
Granted, four of those minutes were with Cam Johnson’s ankle being tended to in the locker room. Make no mistake, his absence down the stretch allowed Virginia to exploit some defensive match-ups and hurt Carolina’s offensive attack. I’ll say it: If Johnson doesn’t miss those four minutes, Carolina wins tonight. Post-game Johnson said his ankle was actually already bothering him, so it will be important to monitor his health going forward.
Speaking of hurt ankles, Happy Birthday Nassir Little! Your present is a sprained ankle. With 12:06 remaining in the first half, Little stepped on Braxton Key’s foot and immediately went to the locker room. Little never even came back to the bench. With Leaky Black’s ankle injury, Sterling Manley’s continued absence, plus Little and Johnson, the Carolina depth will be tested over the coming weeks.
The lack of depth led to three Tar Heels (Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, Coby White) playing 36+ minutes. That fatigue appeared to play a factor in the closing minutes. However, Virginia’s Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and DeAndre Hunter all did the same with seemingly fewer ill effects. In fact, it was Guy who hit the two dagger threes for Virginia in the closing minutes.
I hesitate to be a “ref-blamer”, but there were several clearly inaccurate calls tonight. With 9:30 left in the first half, the refs rewarded Virginia the ball after replays showed it clearly tipping off of Cavalier Jay Huff’s fingers. At the exact same point of the second half, Virginia committed a shot-clock violation that wasn’t called. Replays showed the ball definitely in Braxton Key’s hands. There were other questionable calls, but these were the two most blatant.
On the other side of shot clock sadness were two calls that also went against Carolina. With two seconds remaining before halftime, Virginia’s shot clock ran out before Coby White could possess the ball for a breakaway lay-up. Then, on what would have been a miraculous shot with 3:30 remaining in the game, Coby White knocked in a three as the shot clock expired for a 62-59 lead. Unfortunately, the refs stopped the game to check this one, and it was determined the ball was still on his fingertips. At the time, it felt like the type of shot that meant Carolina was destined to win this one. Oh well. Here’s the play, followed by a second angle with a view of the shot clock:
This is just the sixth time all season Virginia has given up 60+ points.
Albeit on fewer possessions than normal, Carolina only turned the ball over eight times. This is the second lowest total of the season (six against UCLA).
Much better job rebounding tonight after the clunker against Miami on Saturday. Carolina out-rebounded Virginia 38-27, 16 of which were offensive. The Cavs, who admittedly don’t make much of an effort for offensive rebounds, only had three of that variety.
Thanks to the mobility of Garrison Brooks, Carolina elected to switch a majority of ball screens when he was in the game. While it felt like Virginia could have exploited this possession after possession, they rarely did.
Virginia shot over 50 percent from three (11-for-20). It’s difficult to overcome the methodical nature of the Cavs in any game, but especially when you allow that level of field goal percentage.
Tar Heel alums were everywhere. Most notably, Michael Jordan was in the house. Beyond that, players in attendance included Antawn Jamison, Billy Cunningham, Lennie Rosenbluth, Mitch Kupchak, Phil Ford, Nate Britt, George Lynch, Buzz Peterson, and likely a host of others.
Carolina led 11-8 early before Virginia went on a 10-0 run. The Heels kept it close most of the half although dropped behind by seven at halftime. From 40-32 early in the second half, Carolina went on an impressive 17-3 run to make the score 49-43.
Unfortunately, as previously stated, it just wasn’t meant to be tonight. The Heels need to take some time to get healthy and ready for the final seven game push of the regular season. So chin up Tar Heel fans, there’s still a lot of good basketball ahead.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Wake Forest on Saturday, February 16. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom.
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I wrote this down with about four minutes left in the game: “Win or lose, these two regular season games between North Carolina and Duke have been incredible.” I stand by it. Even though the final margins were eight and seven, both games were played at such a high level. Tonight’s game had 18 (EIGHTEEN!) lead changes in the first half.
I did not like hearing the crowd chanting “overrated” at Harry Giles. The poor kid has struggled with knee injuries and surgeries. Not classy. Sorry, Duke fans.
You might recall that the Tar Heels scored just 43 points Monday night against Virginia, a Roy Williams-era low. When did they hit 43 in this game? With 2:55 left in the first half. In fact, it was a huge basket of a pretty cut by Brandon Robinson to put Carolina back in the lead.
There are many things to point to as the “main factor” in this game. One of them was Isaiah Hicks, who missed the first Duke game with an injury, and has not played well of late. Can’t overstate how huge it was to have him back on the floor this time. On Hicks’ senior night, he scored 21 points, had nine rebounds, shot 7-8 from the free throw line, and, most importantly, only had two fouls. He picked up both fouls in the first half but then did a fantastic job in the second half of moving his feet and not fouling. He needs to learn, as Jay Bilas said tonight, that “you can get a basket back, but you can’t get a foul back.” Also, let’s just never talk about that missed dunk. Okay? Okay, great.
Congrats also to Isaiah Hicks for becoming the fourth Tar Heel this year to reach 1,000 points for his career. Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson, and Joel Berry also hit that mark this year.
As well as Hicks played, Joel Berry is the MVP of this game. 28 points on 5-5 from deep. Several huge shots down the stretch. His performance, particularly in the first half, was very reminiscent of the National Championship.
As hot as Berry was, Justin Jackson really struggled with his shot in this game. He started off 0-6 from deep before getting his seventh to fall. However, following that made three-pointer he had several nice assists and finished with four assists and no turnovers.
As good a year as Jackson has had, I’ve got to give the Conference Player of the Year to Luke Kennard. He matched Joel Berry’s 28 points and hit tough shot after tough shot, often with really good defense in his face. In a year of inconsistency for Duke, Kennard has brought consistency and is the most indispensible player on that team.
The Tar Heels were much better at running Duke off the three-point line tonight than in the first game. The Blue Devils had 13 made threes in the first game and seven tonight. That’s a big deal.
Another key in this game was the free throw line. The numbers heavily favored Duke for most of the game, and indeed they outscored Carolina 28-16 from the line. However, after starting off 25-28 from the free throw line, the Blue Devils shot 3-7 after the under 4:00 media timeout.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 74-63 home win over Louisville.
I cannot stress enough what a huge win this was, for two reasons. First, with Duke losing to Syracuse earlier in the night, this win over Louisville gave the Tar Heels a two game lead in the ACC with three tough games remaining. It by no means guarantees a conference regular season title, but it sure is nice to have some breathing room. Second, Carolina has struggled with Louisville’s defense and athleticism in the two years they’ve been in the ACC.
Nearly three minutes before Tar Heels scored to start the game. Carolina opened the game shooting 2-15 with 4 turnovers in the first 6 minutes.
Stilman White played some meaningful minutes in the first half when Coach Williams put in five brand new players. He even hit a mid-range jumper that put a jolt in the Smith Center crowd.
We’ve been seeing this all season, but let’s just make sure we say it: Justin Jackson and Joel Berry take (and make) some really deep threes.
After starting off the season looking like he would set Carolina’s career and single season records for free throw percentage, Joel Berry has really “struggled” (a relative term) in conference play. He missed 2 more free throws last night. Weird.
This was the second game in a row where an opponent missed an inordinate number of shots in a certain aspect of the game. This time it was both free throws and three-pointers. Louisville’s first made free throw came with 7:41 left in the game. For the game Louisville shot 4-13 while Carolina shot 21-29 on free throws. The final three-point discrepancy was not as substantial, but Louisville didn’t hit their first three until early in the second half.
This was, unfortunately, a game marked by Isaiah Hicks foul issues. For the Tar Heels to accomplish everything they want to this year, Hicks has to stay out of foul trouble, and on the court.
Carolina missed opportunities on the offensive glass when tips didn’t fall. That said, Louisville is the one team that can really stay with Carolina on the glass and Heels doubled up the Cardinals, 16-8, on the offensive glass.
Another 20+ scoring night for Justin Jackson, in another huge game. Look out folks, this man just might bring home ACC Player of the Year.
A little too tense down the closing minutes. The Tar Heels were up 17 with just under four minutes, but took their foot off the gas too early, which allowed Louisville to cut the lead to 8. However Nate Britt then hit two free throws to push the lead back to 10 and essentially ice the game.
I know I’m a couple days late in getting this posted. What can I say, it takes awhile to get over a loss to Duke. Anyway, here are Quick Hitters from Thursday night’s 86-78 road loss to Duke.
Seriously? Isaiah Hicks out with a strained hamstring? What is it going to take to play a game with a fully healthy roster? The good news is that every game the Heels have played this year with the full roster available, they’ve won by 29.5 points.
That said, Luke Maye did a really nice job sliding into Isaiah Hicks’ starting role. He played controlled and confidently, scored eight points on 4-8 shooting, had two assists, and zero turnovers. The one glaring weakness – only two rebounds in a game the Tar Heels lost the rebounding battle (31-30) for only the third time this year.
Great to see Theo Pinson back. It sure doesn’t take long for him to fill the stat sheet. First defensive possession: grabbed the rebound and drew an over-the-back foul on Amile Jefferson. First offensive possession: assist to Nate Britt. Second offensive possession: made mid-range jumper. Third defensive possession: rebound. Third offensive possession: aggressive drive to the basket. Missed lay-up, but corralled two offensive rebounds leading to a Joel Berry floater. Pinson finished with six points, seven rebounds, three assists, zero turnovers, and a block in 19 minutes.
A positive sign: Seventh Woods had his most complete game of the season at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It wasn’t the most points he’s scored (four vs. nine) or the most assists he’s had (four vs. six), but he played under control, with zero turnovers, and had a seemingly better grasp of playing within the offense. On one particular stretch of the first half, over the course of four straight offensive possessions, Woods had a lay-up followed by three assists.
At the end of the first half, the Heels had one of the strangest line-ups on the court you’ll ever see from Roy Williams: Nate Britt, Joel Berry, Brandon Robinson, Theo Pinson, and Justin Jackson. The line-up came because Duke essentially had one possession left and the goal was to stop the three-point barrage.
While Isaiah Hicks’ absence certainly hurt, the biggest problem in this game was three-point defense. The Tar Heels seem to have an aversion to guarding the three or running shooters off the line. Too often, a defender will help off a shooter to stop dribble penetration, resulting in a wide-open kick-out three. For the game, Duke hit more threes (13) than Carolina shot (12), and had a higher percentage (48.1% to 33.3%).
The Heels did a nice job of getting both Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen into foul trouble. It wasn’t enough to affect the outcome, as Allen delivered blow after blow and Jefferson was a defensive stalwart inside. Hopefully, this trend will continue on the return game to Chapel Hill, knowing that Coach K has a shallow bench.
It gave me perverse joy to see Theo Pinson block Jayson Tatum’s shot a couple possessions after he dunked and postured back down the court.
Despite the loss, Carolina showed great resolve to fight back on the road after going down by eight early in the second half.
A troubling trend: poor free throw shooting again in this game, including Joel Berry missing two (including the front end of a 1-and-1). Both misses were within the final five minutes of game time. As a team, Carolina shot 10-18 (to Duke’s 13-16), which won’t cut it in ACC play.
All-in-all, the Heels played a good game, and had the ability to beat Duke in Cameron without Isaiah Hicks, but the three-point and free throw disparities were ultimately too much to overcome.
Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 83-76 home-ish win over Notre Dame. Every win down the stretch, in which the Heels face a crazy gauntlet of opponents, is big. After a crazy week of college basketball, this win solidified the Heels alone in first atop the ACC at 9-2, with a whole slew of teams bunched together right behind them.
First, a note. I didn’t have the opportunity to post Quick Hitters after the Pittsburgh game, but wanted to make sure to say congrats to Kennedy Meeks for becoming just the 11th player in UNC history for amassing 900 career rebounds.
I don’t like to criticize the refs, so I won’t.
This was the second time this season the Heels have had a game delayed. Last time was the 51-point NC State blow out. This one was indeed closer, but the Heels are 2-0 in delayed games.
It was really nice to see a team come out and play man-to-man after a streak of majority zone defenses. Notre Dame did, however, sprinkle in 2-3 zone on several inbounds plays and other half-court possessions throughout the game.
After several games of lackadaisical defense, this game featured a more aggressive and locked-in defense effort from the Tar Heels. Most notably, the there was an apparent renewed effort to stop dribble penetration.
Kennedy Meeks had four rebounds before the first media timeout and finished the game with 8. He would have had more, were it not for second half foul trouble, including fouling out with 5:14 remaining in the game.
Poor FT shooting – 4-10 to start the game. Including 0-2 from Justin Jackson, 1-2 from Tony Bradley, and 3-6 from Kennedy Meeks. Joel Berry, the potential all-time leader at UNC for FT%, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 6:48 left in the game. You can’t do that against the #2 team in the nation in FT percentage. For the game, Carolina shot 17-28 (60.7%) and Notre Dame was 17-20 (85%).
This was another game in which the Heels obliterated their opponents on the boards. The margin in this game was 19 (44-25). In fact, Carolina almost had more offensive rebounds (17) than Notre Dame did defensive rebounds (18). Perhaps the best stat of the day is that all 10 players that saw time on the court day had at least one rebound.
Justin Jackson and Joel Berry a combined 1-9 from three in the first half. Started 0-8 before Jackson connected.
While Berry and Jackson were struggling, it was Kenny Williams who picked up the slack. He shot 3-4 from deep and had 11 total points. In fact, it was Williams (as per usual) who was the spark plug in this game. He had 3 assists and zero turnovers. Perhaps his best play of the day however, came with 10:35 remaining in the game. UNC was up 65-53 and Notre Dame had gained a good deal of momentum. Williams stepped into the lane and drew a charge from Steve Vasturia.
Though Joel Berry and Nate Britt didn’t score in the first half, they had 8 assists combined.
Great scoring balance. 6 different Heels scored in double figures (Jackson – 16, Hicks – 14, Berry and Bradley – 12, Meeks and Williams – 11) in a game where the team had 83.
Theo Pinson missed his 3rd game in a row, however he was out on the court before the game going through drills and looked to be in good form. This is a (hopefully) good sign for him suiting up on Thursday night against Duke. I thought his absence today might be the Tar Heels’ undoing because of Notre Dame’s desire to spread the floor and drive, which would necessitate a good deal of small ball.
Though this version of the Tar Heels are not known for their shot-blocking prowess, the team had 6 (including 3 from Tony Bradley) today.
Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 77-62 road loss to Miami
This is one of those games where you wish you could burn the tape and never speak of it again. In all reality, you could see this coming: The Tar Heels were on the road, less than 48 hours after their last game, against an athletic Miami team, and without the spark plug known as Theo Pinson. The ACC is so deep and so tough to win on the road.
Think the absence of Pinson matters? Similar to the Indiana and Kentucky games, the length and athleticism of the Miami guards really caused problems.
I’ll say this now: North Carolina does not win the ACC OR make the Final Four without a healthy Theo Pinson.
Pinson’s absence alone isn’t too much to overcome on most nights;but that, coupled with Joel Berry’s forgettable game, spelled trouble for Carolina. Berry finished with two points, zero made field goals, one rebound, and two turnovers. On the bright side, Berry did have four assists and a steal.
After 22 first half points, it was safe to say that the streak of seven straight games of scoring 85+ points was not going to extend to eight. Indeed, the Tar Heels finished with 62 points – the lowest point total of the season.
At some point in the season, for this UNC team to put it all together, there will have to be a re-dedication to the defensive tenacity shown in the first couple games of the season. Today, the Heels really struggled to guard the dribble drive. Typically, this happens down the stretch (the ’09 championship comes to mind). This team has the capability to be lights out defensively (especially with Pinson on the floor), and I would imagine we will see that tenacity come out down the wire.
It was a hot start to the game. The Heels jumped out to an 11-2 lead, including the first nine points being spread amongst four players (Berry, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Justin Jackson). However…
Miami took a timeout at 16:27 after UNC went up 11-2. They switched to a suffocating 2-3 zone and outscored Carolina 37-11 the rest of the half. This game showed the difference between when shots are falling against the zone (Virginia Tech) and when they aren’t (Georgia Tech, Miami). Since the shots were going down on Thursday night against the zone, it wasn’t a big deal. Today it was.
UNC first half FGs before Miami switched to zone (Miami timeout at 16:27): 3-5. After the switch to zone: 3-24.
More first half numbers: Carolina had more turnovers (nine) than made field goals (six). The last field goal of the half for UNC was an Isaiah Hicks lay-up with 8:39 left. The next field goal come at 17:44 of second half on a Justin Jackson three-pointer. If you’re keeping track at home that’s 10:55 of game time between field goals, which is more than 1/4th of the game.
A big question out of this game: When Berry or Jackson is off, who becomes that consistent third scorer? Neither Meeks or Hicks fulfilled that role today.
At halftime, my question was not, “Can Carolina win this game?”, but rather, “Does Carolina have the fight to get back into the game on the road?” They certainly did fight, but there just weren’t enough punches to ever get the game back into that magical single digit-range where a comeback feels possible. The classic example of this was when…
Heels had the ball, down 11, with just under two minutes to play. Kenny Williams, having a cold shooting day, should have moved the ball to Jackson for a shot or probed the defense, but missed a three. This effectively ended any hope of a comeback.
Best thing I can say is that Miami out-Carolina-d Carolina in this game. Miami won the rebounding battle 41-36, points off turnovers 14-8, points in the paint 28-22, and, most glaringly, fast break points 11-ZERO.
Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 96-83 home victory over Florida State.
Biggest win of the season for UNC to this point. FSU came into the game undefeated in ACC play and on a 12-game winning streak. The Tar Heels’ other three ACC victories had come against three of the four bottom teams in the conference standings, so to get a win against one of the two remaining undefeated teams is huge.
Quick start for the Heels, led by Isaiah Hicks. At the first media timeout, the Heels led 14-5. At that point, Hicks had six of the 14 points, three rebounds, one assist, and, most importantly, no fouls yet. Hicks was aggressive, taking his man off the dribble on several occasions. He eventually had 10 of UNC’s first 20 points.
Time to rejoice Tar Heel fans – Xavier Rathan-Mayes (the “Carolina Killer” as I refer to him) only scored six points!
Much more disciplined defense in this game after major issues against Wake Forest.
Tony Bradley’s absence was noticeable in the first half as the rest of the front line (Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Luke Maye) each picked up two fouls by the time there was 7:12 left in the half and Coach Williams had to continue to rotate all three guys into the game hoping that none of them would pick up their third. To their credit, none did. However, because of this…
The last 2:57 of the first half was played by a combination of Brandon Robinson (6’5”), Theo Pinson (6’6”), Justin Jackson (6’8”), Nate Britt (6’1”), Joel Berry (6’0”), and Kenny Williams (6’4”, who subbed in for Robinson with 1:21 left). This means Jackson played Center against the likes of FSU’s Michael Ojo who is 7’1”. In that span, the Heels were actually +3 in scoring.
13-21 on free throws in the first half was a bad sign, although, thankfully, FSU also missed eight free throws in the first 20 minutes. The Heels shot much better (13-16) in the second half, the Seminoles (6-12) did not.
Going back to foul problems, Hicks and Meeks both picked up their third fouls in the first four minutes of the second half. Then Justin Jackson picked up his third with 14:20. My reaction? “Uh-oh.” But Roy Williams coached a heck of a game managed the foul problems brilliantly.
Joel Berry missed another free throw. Is something wrong? Just kidding, nothing to worry about. He was 7-8 for the game and is still shooting 91.2% this season (#1 all-time for the Heels) and 85.9% for his career (also #1 all-time for the Heels)
Isaiah Hicks had one of the greatest and most athletic saves I’ve ever seen in a basketball game with 8:29 Resulted in two free throws for Joel Berry.
Theo Pinson’s first basket of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. Justin Jackson had just picked up his fourth foul with 5:53 to go. Kennedy Meeks was already on the bench with four. Xavier Rathan-Mayes made the first free throw. He missed the second, Pinson rebounded it, ran his own fast break, and then this happened:
Pinson later delivered a three to push the lead to 11 with 2:16 left. Pinson finished the game with his first career double-double (12 pts / 10 reb).
If it felt like Luke Maye was coming down with an inordinate amount of rebounds, it’s because he was – 15. Maye had never before finished with double-digit rebounds. This was a heck of a time to change that. As a team, the Heels outrebounded the monstrously tall and lengthy Seminoles 56-34. Five different players had at least six rebounds.
We’ve been waiting on that third scorer. Today it was Isaiah Hicks who had a career high 22. In fact, he, Justin Jackson (22), and Joel Berry (26) each had over 20 points.
Quick Hitters from Saturday’s conference opening 75-63 road loss to Georgia Tech.
Of everything you would want to see in the first conference game on the road against the presumptive worst team in the conference, this performance was the exact opposite of those things. I’m not sure just how bad the illness is that’s going around the team, but most players looked either a step slow or indifferent. The Heels looked sloppy and committed a season high 20 turnovers. In the ultra-competitive ACC, you cannot afford to lose games like this. Great teams find a way to pull out an ugly win, even on a day like today.
With Georgia Tech’s football team playing their bowl game in Jacksonville, FL at the same time as this game, a lot of the Yellow Jacket faithful were absent from McCamish Pavilion. This allowed for a lot of Tar Heels to fill the seats. This was obvious with 6 minutes left in the game when you heard a “de-fense” chant when North Carolina was on defense. After a forced shot clock violation, a “Tar – Heels” chant broke out.
Joel Berry shot five three-pointers before the first media timeout, making two of them. As a team, Carolina shot seven three-pointers in that same time span. A lot of this was coaxed from Georgia Tech’s zone defense. Despite a better three-point shooting percentage this year, this is not ideal shot selection. All told, Carolina shot 5-26 (19.2%) from deep for the game.
Speaking of Georgia Tech’s zone, this game was a great primer for playing Syracuse. The zone rendered the Carolina offense ineffective. The guards seemed content to throw the ball around the perimeter and shoot the first somewhat-open three that was available.
After the first couple possessions of the first half, Justin Jackson was absent offensively the rest of the half. He forced a couple shots to try and get going, but they were not within the rhythm of the offense. He did finish with 16 points, but it took him 17 shots to get there, including going 0-5 from three.
11 first half rebounds for Kennedy Meeks, three of which were offensive. He finished with 14.
Nate Britt was the main bright spot and provided some veteran leadership in a game that was not going well. Big baseline jumper to tie the game early in the second half. Followed by a steal and assist to Luke Maye on a fast break. Britt, who had been in a shooting slump, was the catalyst in this game for the Heels. He finished with 13 points on 5-8 shooting (3-4 from three), three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, and five steals.
Joel Berry is clearly still not feeling well. He had eight points on 3-13 shooting (including 2-9 from deep) and committed six turnovers.
I didn’t keep track of the number, but there were a lot of missed lay-ups in this game.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 85-42 home win against Northern Iowa
Don’t be alarmed – for the second year in a row, Marcus Paige did not play against Northern Iowa.
Northern Iowa is tough. We learned that last year both in their victory over UNC and their showing in the NCAA Tournament (despite the meltdown against Texas A&M). Despite losing a lot of talent, the Panthers have the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Player of the Year, and once again played tough. There was just too much North Carolina in the second half after a close first 20 minutes.
Despite a somewhat slow first half, there was no visible letdown from the emotion of Saturday’s Kentucky game. The Heels didn’t get in a hole early again. They also took care of business in the second half, making sure there was no opportunity for an upset.
Northern Iowa was committed to getting back on defense and not attacking the offensive glass. Consequently it was difficult to get any transition game going, but the Heels still wound up with 11 transition points (to UNI’s zero). For the game, UNI had only three offensive rebounds. The final rebounding totals were 42 (UNC) – 24 (UNI)
We’re starting to see Isaiah Hicks’ foul trouble rear its ugly head. He had two fouls in the first 12 minutes, limiting him to eight first half minutes. In the second half however, Hicks did a good job of staying straight up. Though he allowed a couple baskets, you’ll trade a couple points to keep Hicks on the floor.
Jeremy Morgan, the aforementioned MVC Preseason Player of the Year, came into this game averaging 18 PPG. He had just scored 36 against North Dakota. Given what Malik Monk just did, this was a scary proposition. In this game, he had only six points, which came on two three-pointers in the last four minutes of the first half. That means he didn’t score for the first 15½ minutes of the game or the entire second half.
UNI was also dedicated to doubling the post. This lead to many great possessions of Meeks and Hicks passing well out of the double team.
Nate Britt’s shooting woes continue. Dating back to the Wisconsin game, Britt is shooting just 11 for his last 49 (22.4%).
This was a close game for a long time and before you knew it, the lead had quietly ballooned to 18. The final margin was an astounding 43 points.
Only five turnovers in the entire game for the Tar Heels. This is impressive in any game, but especially against a team that ranks fifth in Ken Pomeroy’s percentage of defensive possessions resulting in a turnover.
Dunk of the season candidate from Isaiah Hicks in the second half. Thanks to the aforementioned post passing (and really the passing of the whole team), Kennedy Meeks, after being doubled found a cutting Hicks for a monstrous jam.
Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 73-71 home win against Tennessee:
Let’s get this out of the way: this was not a pretty game, but it was a win. A game in which the Tar Heels were missing two starters, shot 2-17 from 3, and shot 13-24 from the free throw line.
Since returning from Maui (Indiana, Radford, Davidson, Tennessee), the fire, intensity, and urgency that was present to that point of the season appears to be gone. Joel Berry being out for the last 2.5 games doesn’t help matters. It could get really ugly next Saturday against Kentucky if the team can’t recapture the fire they played with in Maui.
After going down 30-15 with 7:35 left in the first half, there was a steal from Nate Britt, a steal by Kenny Williams, a forced 3-second violation and, less than two minutes later (5:40), the Heels are only down 9. All keyed by defense.
After cutting the lead to 8 just before halftime (on Justin Jackson’s first two points), the Heels had the lead down to two within the first two minutes of the second half. Another run keyed by defense.
Nate Britt (similar to most of his teammates) did not shoot the ball well, but he did have FIVE steals.
Hicks and Meeks each had 3 fouls by 2:30 into the second half and were rather ineffective.. They have to dominate games for this team to accomplish the goals it wants to. Thankfully, Tony Bradley played really well.
Too many mid-range, contested jumpers. In particular from Justin Jackson, who was struggling with his shot (3-for-15 FG, 0-for-6 3P). When the shots aren’t falling you have to get the ball to the rim.
Elevator screen on two straight plays in the second half. The first time, Kenny Williams couldn’t quite get through so the usual look at a 3 wasn’t there. The second time, Tony Bradley slipped the screen for a wide-open dunk when his man anticipated the screen and overplayed it to the top side. This was a thing of beauty.
Who hit the shot to tie the game at 50? None other than Stilman White. He’s filling a similar role to what Jackson Simmons did in recent years. The less-talented, but savvy veteran who comes in and gives a few solid minutes to help settle his team.
Great end-of-game substitution by Coach Williams. He subbed out Kennedy Meeks for the longer Tony Bradley, who promptly rewarded his coach’s decision by blocking Tennessee’s last shot.