Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-70 home win over Duke on Saturday night.
- Let me start by both apologizing and bragging. This final regular season edition of Quick Hitters is coming to you late, but for good reason. I watched this Carolina/Duke rivalry game from the comfort of a hospital room because my daughter, Poppy Ann Schade, was born on Friday (International Woman’s Day). In her lifetime Carolina has won an ACC Championship, is undefeated, and has never lost to Duke. Maybe she’ll be a good luck charm for the Heels in March (and April?!).
- You probably won’t hear this on ESPN, but Carolina has now won three games in a row against Duke, four of the last five, and six of the last nine.
- Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but the Heels have put themselves in great position for a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps they now even have a shot at playing closer to home since a one seed would likely be at Duke’s expense. There are many story lines to unfold over the next week before the brackets are revealed next Sunday.
- The winner of the second Carolina/Duke game of the season has gone deeper in the NCAA Tournament 11 of the past 12 years. Furthermore, 11 of those 12 teams have made it to the Elite 8 or better (2014 is the lone exception in both cases). Will the same be true this year? Let’s hope so.
- Virginia’s victory over Carolina earlier in the season ultimately came back to bite the Heels. Virginia’s victory over Louisville just prior to the Carolina/Duke game gave the Cavs at least a share of the conference title, but assured them of the one seed in the ACC Tournament. As we know, the Heels tied the Cavs for the ACC regular season championship, but received the two seed because of the head-to-head loss.
- There are so many plays and players to talk about. Let’s start with the seniors. First up: Kenny Williams. It has been well documented that Williams has struggled with his three-point shot this season. A career 36.8 percent three-point shooter, he was shooting just 28.2 percent and was 0-for-his-last-15 heading into the Boston College game. On senior night, Williams connected on four threes (a season high) and has gone 6-for-12 in the past two games.
- Against Duke, Williams was second on the team in scoring with 18 points, grabbed six rebounds, had three assists, one block and one steal. That would be a complete stat line for most people, but as we are all aware, there’s more from Kenny Williams. He drew four (FOUR!!) charges in the game; three of which were against Duke’s leading scorer, RJ Barrett. He also played his usual strong man-to-man defense including forcing Cam Reddish into an off-balance contested three-pointer just before half time. What a time for Kenny Williams to have his best game of his senior season.
- The other two seniors, Luke Maye and Cam Johnson didn’t fare very well in the first half. They combined to shoot 3-for-11 and both picked up two fouls, although they did combine for 10 rebounds. The second half, however, started off with the seniors scoring 12 straight points for Carolina to turn a 40-38 halftime deficit into a 55-44 lead. Johnson finished with a double-double (14 pts / 10 reb). He now has double-doubles in back-to-back games for the first time, three in the last five games and five total on the season (all in ACC play). While Maye didn’t get a double-double, he did come within shouting distance of a triple-double, finishing with seven points, 16 rebounds, and a career-high seven assists.
- Luke Maye now has 890 rebounds in has career. 10 more rebounds will make him just the 12th Tar Heel to reach the 900 milestone. Maye has averaged 18 rebounds over the last two games. For context, that’s the exact same number as Sean May in 2005.
- One more note on the seniors: Typically, senior night features a walk-on or two in the starting line-up. However, the only three graduates on this years’ roster are already in the starting line-up so the typical five started the game.
- You’ll recall that Coby White struggled in round one against Duke (nine points on 3-for-14 shooting, 1-for-6 from deep, six turnovers). Not tonight. This time around White had 21 points, four threes, three assists, three blocks, and zero turnovers. Here are some of the special accomplishments White achieved tonight: This was the first time all season he didn’t have a turnover (coming on the heels of his first non-multiple turnover ACC game). He set the Carolina freshman record for made three-pointers in a season (75), passing Rashad McCants’ 72 in 2002-03. During one stretch in the second half, White scored nine straight for Carolina. In the first half, he also had one of the more impressive drives to the basket you will ever see.
- Midway through the second half Carolina went on an 11-0 run to grab a 75-60 lead in a game that neither team had previously lead by more than six points. However over the next six minutes, Carolina missed nine straight shots (six of which were threes) and turned the ball over twice, allowing Duke to cut the lead to 75-70.
- It would not be a surprise to hear that blocks played a factor, because Duke is the leading shot blocking team in the country. However, it was Carolina blocks that were the story. The Heels finished with eight (tying a season high). With the Heels mired in the aforementioned scoring drought, they recorded three blocks over the final 3:38 to help preserve the lead (one each from Brooks, Maye, and Williams).
- Garrison Brooks really struggled at the line. He hit just 2-for-8 in the first 39 minutes. But then with the game on the line and Duke fouling in the final minute to extend the game, Brooks collected himself and hit both ends of a 1-and-1 to score the Heels’ final two points of the game. Coach Williams showed great confidence in the sophomore big man to leave him in even when he knew Duke was fouling. Cam Johnson also hit both ends of a 1-and-1 just 16 seconds before Brooks.
- Duke’s worst two field goal percentages of the season happened on Wednesday, February 20 and Saturday, March 9. Also known as the two times they played the University of North Carolina.
- Good defensive effort from Andrew Platek to save possession and call a timeout with 7:12 left in first half. You just worry about the health and well-being of anyone who dares to use one of Coach Williams’ timeouts in the first half!
- Zion Williamson once again didn’t play for Duke. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Marques Bolden also hurt his knee 2:30 into the game trying to block a Garrison Brooks dunk. Javin DeLaurier filled in admirably, scoring eight points on 4-for-4 shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking four shots in 28 minutes. Thoughts go out to Bolden who, at this time, is reported as having a sprained MCL.
- Carolina wasn’t as able to take as much advantage of Williamson’s absence this time around. The Heels led points in the paint 32 to 30. The rebounding numbers were tied at 48, however the Heels outscored the Blue Devils 22-11 on second chance points. In fact, second-chance points were responsible for Carolina’s first five points.
- The bigger difference was outside the paint, where Carolina hit 12 threes, after connecting on just two in round one. In fact, the Heels had already surpassed those two just three-and-a-half minutes into the game.
- You always worry about some under-the-radar player going off for Duke – in this case someone like Alex O’Connell, Jack White, or Jordan Goldwire. Carolina held those three players to four points on 1-for-10 shooting and no made threes.
- Nassir Little scored all nine of his points in the first half. His scoring and athleticism, combined with Kenny Williams’ team-leading 12 first half points, buoyed the Tar Heels while waiting on the top three scorers (Johnson, White, Maye) to find their touch.
- This is that weird part of the season where the Tar Heels could play as many as nine more games or as few as two. Enjoy. Every. Moment.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Senior Night Speeches:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the ACC Tournament. The Heels have a 1st & 2nd round bye and will start play on Thursday in the Quarterfinals against either Louisville, Georgia Tech, or Notre Dame. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN.
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