Tag Archives: Northern Iowa Panthers

Quick Hitters – Northern Iowa

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Justin Jackson (#44) takes a shot against Northern Iowa on December 21, 2016. Jackson finished with 12 points and the Tar Heels won 85-42. Photo Credit: Peyton Williams (@peyton_williams)

Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 85-42 home win against Northern Iowa

  1. Don’t be alarmed – for the second year in a row, Marcus Paige did not play against Northern Iowa.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Nate Britt’s shooting woes continue. Dating back to the Wisconsin game, Britt is shooting just 11 for his last 49 (22.4%).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

 

 

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22 Points

I hate losing. If you are anything like me, every loss is a slow, painful death that sticks with you the rest of the season (and sometimes even in the years to come). I can name the Tar Heels’ 6 losses, in order, off the top of my head: Northern Iowa, Texas, Louisville, Notre Dame, Duke, and Virginia. All 6 of these teams are in the NCAA Tournament – or rather, would be if eligible (here’s looking at you Louisville). Here are the teams in order from strongest to weakest:

  RPI BPI KenPom NCAA Tourney Seed
Virginia 3 2 2 1
Louisville 17 8 11 Not in Tournament
Duke 19 11 22 4
Texas 27 37 30 6
Notre Dame 32 33 39 6
Northern Iowa 73 97 76 11

In some ways, it’s worse when the losses are really close games that you know you should/could win. Or worse yet, if it’s a game where you have a comfortable lead at some point, but can’t hold on to it.

Unfortunately, that was every one of these 6 losses. The Tar Heels lost these games by a measly 22 combined points. That’s an average of losing by 3.67. Or taken another way, Carolina lost by only 1-2 possessions a game. This is such a small margin of error: 1 or 2 extra turnovers, 1 or 2 missed boxouts, 4 missed free throws, 1 or 2 times not properly defending the pick and roll, 1 or 2 times not staying in front of your man, a silly foul, etc. You can agonize over the tiny mistakes that can swing a game. Or you can learn from them, remove them, and move on (not exactly Coach Smith’s mantra, but very similar).

The silver lining is that Carolina has been in every game it’s played this season. They have never been blown out – the largest loss was by 6 points. The largest deficit the entire season is 13 points (@ NC State). They’ve held a lead at some point in every game this season. They’ve either been tied or held a lead in the 2nd half of every game this season. In fact the only game they didn’t at some point have a 2nd half lead was the regular season loss to Virginia in Charlottesville.

So, at the end of the day, maybe these losses are not so unfortunate. Maybe this veteran group of Tar Heels have learned something from these 6 losses. Maybe those missing 22 points have helped them get tougher. The domination of the ACC tournament certainly seems to point to that.

Can those 22 points continue to be meaningful to the make-up of this team as the stakes get higher? We’re about to find out during the best 3 week stretch of every year.