Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-77 double overtime road loss to Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.
- Let’s start here: you just have to feel heartbroken for the players and coaches. They are working their butts off, but to no avail (at least on the scoreboard). Given the circumstances (road game, more injuries – including your senior leader, etc.), this was probably the grittiest showing of the season for Carolina. They just couldn’t make the plays down the stretch of regulation to pull out the victory.
- The war of attrition continues in Chapel Hill. In addition to Sterling Manley and Anthony Harris, who are out for the season, and Cole Anthony, who is still out, Brandon Robinson missed the game with stiffness in his neck relating to his recent car accident. This is now 57 games (by seven different players) missed due to injury in the first 18 games of the season.
- The lack of depth certainly played a role tonight. Only seven players saw the court, four of whom (Garrison Brooks, Andrew Platek, Leaky Black, and Justin Pierce) played 45+ minutes. Fatigue was absolutely a factor in the outcome. Here’s Justin Pierce talking about the team “running out of gas”:
- The loss marks the first time in program history Carolina has lost six straight ACC games.
- Carolina has held a double-digit lead at some point in three of their last four games, only to lose each one. The Heels held a 12 point lead with 12:57 remaining and a seven point lead with 3:35 left, but just couldn’t hang on down the stretch.
- Despite a size advantage for Carolina, Virginia Tech was able to keep the Heels relatively in check on the glass. Carolina won the rebounding battle, but just 43-39 and only had six offensive rebounds.
- Unfortunately, free throws once again were a major factor in the loss. Carolina shot 8-for-8 in the first half and the overtimes, but just 6-for-12 in the second half. Amongst those six misses were two misses by Justin Pierce (which fed into an 8-0 Tech run), misses on the front end of a 1-and-1 from both Garrison Brooks and Andrew Platek, and a miss from Leaky Black with 19.9 seconds remaining in regulation which would have given Carolina a three-point lead heading into Virginia Tech’s last possession. A make on any of these five free throws would have been the margin of victory.
- An unfortunate call that went against the Heels: With 1:35 remaining in the first overtime and Carolina leading 67-65, Leaky Black deflected a pass which Andrew Platek appeared to be on the verge of corralling possession. However, one of the officials blew the play dead, ruled a kick-ball, and awarded possession to Virginia Tech. Big momentum swing. If Carolina had scored there, they lead by four or five points with likely 1:00 remaining.
- 18 games into the season, Carolina still has not shot 50% for an entire game. The first half showed promise, with the Heels recording a 50% mark in the first half for the first time all season (51.6% on 16-for-31 shooting).
- For all the talk of the zone Carolina played Saturday against Pitt, the Heels stayed exclusively in their staple man-to-man defense.
- Some individual performances deserve to be highlighted. First of which is Garrison Brooks. Brooks now has double-doubles in six straight games. He led the team in points (28), rebounds (13), and assists (six). Brooks scored or assists on Carolina’s final 11 points of the first half.
- Carolina was able to go to Brooks at will in the first half (26 points in the paint), but Virginia Tech defended the interior much more strictly in the second half (just four points in the paint).
- Another important individual effort was the play and scoring of Justin Pierce. Pierce scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Nine of these points came on three-pointers. His shooting, along with Leaky Black’s three three-pointers, helped to fill the void missing with Brandon Robinson out.
- Nothing flashy, but Jeremiah Francis had two assists and zero turnovers. Francis also had four points on two nice lay-ups, but also missed another in crunch time.
- Andrew Platek continues to dish out assists. In his three starts, he has 13 assists and just three turnovers.
- Leaky Black opened the scoring in both halves of the game by burying a three-pointer. He also had another late in regulation to push Carolina’s lead back to six. If Black or Pierce (or both!) can join Brandon Robinson in making threes, it will free up the paint for Brooks and Bacot to operate.
- In general, the offense appeared to move with more fluidity. Passes were crisper. The ball didn’t stick in any one spot for too long. As players wore down, this changed, but this movement was certainly true for the portions of the game where Carolina built its lead.
- The highlight of the game came just before halftime. Carolina had a baseline out of bounds play under their own basket. Garrison Brooks got just the screen he needed and Leaky Black fed him perfectly for a monster dunk, plus a foul. Brooks converted the free throw to push the Carolina lead to 36-28. Here’s the dunk:
- A big aspect of the second half struggles was Armando Bacot’s foul trouble. He picked up his third foul with 12:59 remaining and Carolina up 12. Tech immediately went on an extended 11-2 run. Bacot then picked up foul number four with 9:46 remaining in regulation. His absence, in a game where Carolina dominated inside, was likely a big part of the reason the Hokies were able to claw their way back and force overtime.
- We could re-hash a lot of the plays from the end of regulation and overtimes. Suffice it to say that the exhausted Tar Heels had a lot of empty possessions. Garrison Brooks had a good look to win the game at the buzzer of regulation, but couldn’t get the drop. On the previous possession, Virignia Tech had a 56% free throw shooter go to the line and hit both. Bacot fouled out midway through the first overtime, another dagger in Carolina’s efforts to pull out a tough-earned victory.
- Please keep in mind: these are young men trying their very best. They are working hard, playing through pain, and doing everything they can to win basketball games. It just isn’t happening right now. Will Cole Anthony’s impending return provide any kind of spark? Hopefully so, but we wait to see.
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 Miami on Saturday, January 25. Tip is at 12:00pm ET on ESPN2.
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