- 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.
- Love the senior night tradition of starting the seniors, even the walk-ons. This year was particularly fun because there are exactly five seniors who make up a sensible line-up – Nate Britt, Stilman White, Kanler Coker, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks.
- Heels finish the year undefeated at home – 16-0.
- 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.
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
- National Champion – 2
- Finalist – 1
- Final Four – 1
- Elite Eights – 3
- Sweet Sixteen – 1
- Second Round – 4
- First Round – 0
- NIT Finalist – 1
- 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?
Quick Hitters from UNC Basketball’s 53-43 road loss to Virginia on Monday night.
- Win or lose (lose, by the way), this game was a tough proposition. Back-to-back road games tipping 55 hours apart is extremely difficult. Add to this that Virginia has been struggling of late and was desperate for a big win.
- My hope was that I could say, “Hey, here’s one nice take-away: Isaiah Hicks became 76th Tar Heel to score 1,000 career points.” Nope. Things were so bad that Hicks, who needed just three points to make it to 1,000, scored how many? You guessed it. Two.
- This game was doomed from the beginning. Carolina’s first shot was a Justin Jackson air ball from three. For just the third time all year Jackson droyidn’t score in double-digits.
- Remember being worried about being outworked and outmuscled by Louisville last week? That happened tonight against Virginia. Prime example? 12 (TWELVE!) first half turnovers for Carolina. If you want to win on the road, you have to be stronger with the ball. A positive sign was that the Heels had only two more turnovers in the second half.
- Another sign of a lack of competing showed up in the rebounding numbers. Sure UNC won the overall rebounding battle 38-35. But this is a team that is leading the nation in rebounding margin by a large berth. This is a team that is winning in large part due to their ability to overwhelm their opponents on the glass. For reference, when these teams played nine days ago, Carolina owned the boards, 44-26.
- Here’s what’s even more befuddling about the rebounding. Virginia elected to start a small line-up that hadn’t started together all season. The Tar Heels could not take advantage of this glaring mismatch.
- In the first meeting, Virginia shot 2-20 from three. Tonight they hit their second three just six-and-a-half minutes in, and the third ninety seconds later. For the game the Cavs were 10-24 from deep. This is what Roy was saying after the first game about wide-open shots just not falling. Well, tonight they did and it really hurt Carolina’s ability to win.
- For Roy Williams run-and-gun fans, playing Virginia is painful. It’s similar to playing Georgia Tech in football. You must stay disciplined for 25+ seconds on nearly every possession on both sides of the ball. Virginia didn’t score until almost four minutes into the game, but they didn’t care. They just kept plugging away and out-competing the Heels.
- While Syracuse’s 2-3 zone tricks you into shooting lots of mid-range jumpers and threes, Virginia’s defense forces you to do the same.
- Call me a whiner (I’m a big boy, I can take it), but the officiating was rough in this game. Virginia’s defense is stellar, but because of the reputation they get away with a lot that other teams would be called for.
- Another missed free throw for Joel Berry. I need to study up on the decline of Berry’s free throw shooting this year and write an article about it. It really is hard to believe the difference from early in the season.
- Well, it never fails, unless something crazy happens with Louisville, Florida State, and Notre Dame this week, Carolina will be playing Duke to earn the outright regular season championship. Just to be clear, Duke cannot win the regular season title; they can only stop Carolina from doing so. Louisville and Notre Dame play this week, so it cannot be a four-way tie. However, we are looking at a possible three-way tie for the regular season ACC championship.
Quick Hitters from Monday night’s 85-68 home win against Syracuse.
- Congrats to Coach Roy Williams for his 800th career victory. 2nd fastest all time to that mark, behind only legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp. Williams did it in 1,012 games. Rupp in 972.
- The Tar Heels are now exactly 1/3 of the way into the conference schedule. Despite the early loss to Georgia Tech (who, by the way, currently has a better conference record than Duke), the Heels find themselves right where they want to be. 5-1 and currently in second place in the ACC. The remaining schedule is certainly daunting, but precisely at the time of year where you want to be playing your best basketball.
- At the half, Syracuse had 10 total rebounds. UNC had 13 OFFENSIVE rebounds. The final rebounding totals were 44-24, a +20 margin for the Tar Heels.
- Tar Heels came out sloppy in the second half and allowed Syracuse a 12-0 run to cut the lead to three. It’s these types of lapses that need to be eliminated.
- My favorite stat of the night? Isaiah Hicks had a zero in his stat line. Under the column for “fouls”. I had to look two or three times to make sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me. Well done sir.
- Another stat for Isaiah Hicks tonight was 20 points. That’s the first time in his career he’s had back-to-back 20+ point games. The aggressiveness he’s shown in the past two games is encouraging.
- How about one more Isaiah Hicks stat? He came into the season a career 69% free throw shooter. This year he’s hit 60-73, good for 82.2%. This will be invaluable in the close games down the stretch. No need to sub him out when the opposition is looking to foul.
- Have I mentioned how wonderful it is to have Theo Pinson back? In just 14 minutes, he had seven points, five rebounds, five assists, and zero turnovers.
- Justin Jackson (19 pts. / 10 reb.) and Kennedy Meeks (15 pts. / 12 reb.) both recorded double-doubles in this game. Isaiah Hicks was two rebounds shy of joining them. I would imagine there haven’t been many games in the history of UNC Basketball where three players have tallied double-doubles.
- Another encouraging stat: The Tar Heels only had nine turnovers in this game. This is especially impressive when you consider the opponent and the turnover problems that the team had just a few weeks ago. Interestingly, all nine turnovers were committed by just four players (Meeks, Hicks, Jackson, Berry).
Quick Hitters from Tuesday night’s 89-86 overtime road win against Clemson in their newly-renovated Littlejohn Coliseum.
- Great first defensive possession to force a steal and a transition lay-up. Already a seemingly better start than Saturday.
- This was Roy’s 796th He should reach 800 sometime in the next couple weeks.
- Undoubtedly due to Saturday’s struggles against Georgia Tech’s zone, Clemson (a typically man-to-man defensive team) played sprinkled in zone several different times throughout the game. By my count, there were seven possessions when Clemson played zone. All seven came out of dead ball situations. Six of the seven resulted in Carolina shooting a three-pointer and the seventh might as well have been. The Heels were shot 4-7 on those possessions. I’ll post another blog detailing the possessions against zone.
- After a dialed in start to the game, the Heels gave up back-to-back sloppy turnovers that led to fast break lay-ups for Clemson and a 13-11 lead. In fact, this was another game with many unforced and silly turnovers – 18 total turnovers to be exact. This means the Tar Heels have had 17, 20, and 18 in the last three games. Gotta value the basketball.
- Good first half contributions from Brandon Robinson.
- The whole team still looks a step slow. Where is the passion and fire from Maui? Where is the drive shown in Las Vegas against Kentucky?
- Isaiah Hicks had two first half fouls and picked up a third within the first minute of the second half. Much of it is trouble guarding Jaron Blossomgame. We need Theo Pinson. We have to be able to play small ball against mobile and stretch 4s. Justin Jackson has the size, but not defensive prowess of Pinson.
- That said, after all his foul problems, with around 1:30 to go, Isaiah Hicks and his four fouls stayed in front of Blossomgame as he tried to drive, forced him under the basket – which resulted in a turnover when Blossomgame threw a pass straight to Kenny Williams. Well done Isaiah, well done.
- This was another game of many missed tip-ins and bunnies. There were lots of offensive rebounds, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t put the ball in the bucket on the second chance.
- Speaking of offensive rebounds, the Tar Heels had more offensive rebounds (23) than Clemson had defensive rebounds (22).
- Well, Joel Berry is back. Congratulations young man. Career high 31 points points. Career high seven made three-pointers. And all done on incredibly efficient 12-19 shooting on field goals and 7-10 on threes.
- Just like in the Kentucky game, the Tar Heels could not close out a late lead. Thankfully, in this game, the team was able to pull out the victory in overtime.
Quick Hitters from Saturday afternoon’s 103-100 neutral site loss to Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 from Sunday afternoon’s 95-50 home win against Radford.
- Kenny Williams scored 14 of the first 18 points, including 4-4 from three-point range. He had reached his career high in points five minutes into the game. Williams finished the game with 19 points, leading the way for the Heels.
- Too many offensive rebounds in the first half for Radford. In fact, Isaiah Hicks found a seat on the bench after a couple missed block-outs.
- After a hot start, there was a lull between the under-8:00 and under-4:00 media timeout of the first half. A couple missed bunnies inside, an early shot clock three from Joel Berry, a turnover by Berry before crossing half court.
- After beginning the scoring, Kenny Williams beat the halftime buzzer to put the Heels over 50 for the first half.
- With 17:36 left in the game, Joel Berry stepped on the foot of a Radford defender while driving and went down in a heap. Thankfully this was a game where Berry didn’t need to come back in. Coach Williams said the team will take precautionary X-rays to confirm a sprain, but that he is encouraged by the current assessment.
- I wrote this before Joel Berry’s injury: Seventh Woods is extremely athletic, but often looks lost when he gives Joel Berry a breather. Hopefully this stretch of games leading up to ACC play will give him a chance to settle in more.
- This is a completely different team with Joel Berry out. Hopefully it’s not a long-term injury. However, if there was a good time for Berry to be out, it’s this stretch of games before ACC play.
- At this point in his development as a point guard, Seventh Woods is calling his own number too much.
- After shooting well on free throws for the first seven games, this is the second game in a row where the Tar Heels struggled from the line. The team was a combined 18-29 (62.1%) against Radford. The main culprits were Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley, who shot a combined 5-13 (38.5%). Taking away those two players, the rest of the team was 13-16 (81.3%)
- It seemed like Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Bradley each had rather pedestrian days, yet they wound up with a combined 35 points and 23 rebounds, with all three players scoring in double-digits.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 76-67 loss to Indiana in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge
- This was Roy Williams’ 1,000 game coaching in college. He’s won 799 of them. Remarkable. I’m glad he’s the coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
- Listen, I want to win every game and go 40-0, but that’s unrealistic. If you told me going into the game that Joel Berry would shoot 3-for-12 and Isaiah Hicks would shoot 2-4, I would imagine the margin of victory would have been greater than nine. This is a good learning lesson in a hostile environment that will pay huge dividends on Thursday, February 9 in Durham, North Carolina.
- There are many things that we could point to as the reason for the loss. One of these is fast-break points, a Carolina staple. The Heels scored exactly two fast-break points in the entire game. Not a recipe for victory.
- Another culprit was the free-throw line. In the first half, the Heels collectively missed the front end of three 1-and-1’s. Collectively the team shot 5-for-11 on free throws in the first half and 13-22 for the game. I’m not saying they have to hit every one of those, but the team missed nine free throws and lost the game by nine points (and don’t forget the missed 1-and-1’s).
- This was the third true road game of the season and sixth (out of eight total games) away from home. This was certainly the toughest road environment to play in so far. It’s extremely hard to win on the road when you get down early and let the crowd stay in the game. With that said, Carolina missed eleven of their first thirteen field goals and had a huge hole to climb out of.
- A positive sign was the methodical fight displayed. No, the Heels did not win the game, but after being down 17 points in the first half, the lead was cut to as few as four points with 4:29 to go. I use “methodical” because there was no huge run or spurt; the team just settled down in the second half and worked themselves back into the game. Credit Indiana for making big shot after big shot every time the Heels cut into the lead.
- The tide really started to turn when Kennedy Meeks scored inside with 3:51 left in the first half and then again less than a minute later. This momentum carried over into the second half as Meeks continued to get position inside.
- After being down by double digit rebounds early, the teams ended up tied with 37 rebounds apiece.
- The Joel Berry didn’t have a great shooting night (3-for-13), he did have eight assists and only two turnovers. Justin Jackson was the leading scorer with 21 points.
- Though UNC didn’t win the game, the ACC won the ACC / Big Ten Challenge for the first time since 2008.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 71-56 win over Wisconsin in the Maui Invitational championship.
- One sign of a championship caliber team? The ability to win playing various styles. From the up-tempo game against Oklahoma State on Tuesday to the grinding Wisconsin game on Wednesday night, the Tar Heels showed the ability to either enforce their will and win, or beat you at your own game. In this championship game, it’s fair to say that North Carolina out-Wisconsined Wisconsin.
- I don’t want to jinx anything, but, including this year, Roy Williams has won three Maui Invitational tournaments. The first two times were the 2004-05 and 2008-09 seasons. Anyone remember anything of significance that happened in those two years?
- Amount of game time the Tar Heels trailed in Maui: exactly zero seconds.
- Congratulations to Justin Jackson for becoming the 74th Tar Heel to score 1000 career points. He joins Kennedy Meeks as the second player to achieve that level this year. Look for Isaiah Hicks and Joel Berry to become numbers 75 and 76 later this season.
- The first eight points of the game for Carolina went to the big men (Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley). This trio is should have the edge inside in nearly every game they play this year.
- Wisconsin didn’t score until 12:39 left in the first half. Most of this was due to Carolina forcing them into jump shots. I’ll keep saying it: defense is keying this team. It starts with Joel Berry as the leader setting the example, and everyone else feeds off that.
- Tony Bradley’s streak of double digit scoring to start his career ended tonight. He had just six points.
- On the season, the trio of Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ, and Bronson Koenig has averaged a combined 40.4 points a game. They were scoreless until Happ got a bucket with 5:45 left in first half. The trio totaled only seven points at halftime.
- Just as Wisconsin pulled to within three points at 17-14, Joel Berry went on his own little five-point run with a deeeeeeep (is that enough “e’s”?) three and a mid-range jumper to push the lead back to eight before Wisconsin called a timeout. He extended his run to seven with the next Carolina bucket as well.
- Sure was nice to play a game (especially after the Oklahoma State game) where there was hard-nosed, no-fouling defense. There were 52 combined free throws shot against Oklahoma State, and 22 combined against Wisconsin.
- Kennedy Meeks had a double-double in the first half (10 points/12 rebounds). He finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds (a career high)
- In the first half there zero fast break points for either team and only three offensive rebounds; all to Carolina.
- For the tournament, the Heels shot 80% from the free throw line (60-75). Both Joel Berry and Justin Jackson were perfect from the charity stripe in the three games.
- It seems like the level of games keep ramping up. Next Wednesday, Carolina heads to Bloomington to play Indiana in the Big Ten / ACC Challenge. This will be third true road game in the first eight games; a wise scheduling move for a veteran squad. Although Indiana lost last night, they are also considered one of the top five teams in the nation. And they will be looking to avenge last year’s NCAA Tournament loss. Should be a great environment!
Quick Hitters from Tuesday night’s 93-67 over Long Beach State in the Dean Dome.
- With the win, Coach Williams moves into a tie with the legendary coach Lefty Driesell for 9th (786) all-time in Division 1 wins.
- This was the second straight dominant win against a team predicted to win their conference.
- Long Beach State didn’t score until the 12:21 mark of the 1st This is in large part due to the fact that…
- The Carolina defense is already in mid-season form. Moving feet. Hustling. Activity. Diving after balls. They’re playing a brand of defense that last year’s squad took a long time to develop. This is the type of playing that will keep you in games even when the shots aren’t falling.
- This Carolina team is unselfish. It shows in the aforementioned defense, but also in assists. Tonight, there were 20 assists on 32 made baskets.
- Joel Berry is more than living up to his Preseason All-ACC First Team Nomination. He looks like one of the best players in the country.
- For comparison’s sake, I’ll say another word about Joel Berry. I said it several times last year and I’ll say it again: the progression of Joel Berry reminds me a lot of Ty Lawson. The improvement on the outside shot. The pace with which he pushes the ball. The comprehension of how to run Coach Williams’ offense. The understanding of when to use his strength and speed to penetrate and score. The difference is the drive and determination – Berry has a fire in his eyes that I never saw from Lawson.
- Good to see UNC playing with intensity for 40 minutes no matter the opponent or score.
- Freshman Tony Bradley has reached double figure scoring in all three games to begin his Tar Heel career.
- A welcome sight: the Heels have scored 90+ points in all three games this season. It sounds like a broken record, but this scoring output starts with the defense opening things up for the offense.