Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-71 home win over Miami on Saturday afternoon.
- Congratulations to Coach Roy Williams who, with today’s victory, passed Coach Dean Smith for fourth in all-time Division 1 career coaching victories (880 to 879). Feels good to have that out of the way, doesn’t it? Hopefully with that monkey off the back, Carolina can get things going. If you didn’t have a chance to read my article about Coach Williams and Coach Smith, you can do so here.
- Happy birthday to me! I turned 36 today and Carolina broke their five game losing streak (and six game ACC losing streak). Perhaps, for good luck, I should celebrate my birthday every day the Tar Heels play.
- As weird as it sounds to say, this was Carolina’s first win in the month of January 2020. The Heels’ last win was against Yale on December 30.
- The big Tar Heel lead allowed Coach Williams to limit the minutes of some of the starters, Garrison Brooks in particular. Brooks played 27:19 today, marking the first time he’s been under 30:00 since game eight of the season against Ohio State. The reason minute-reduction was so important is that Carolina turns around and plays at NC State on Monday.
- Brooks’ double-double streak ends at six games. At first blush, this is a disappointing statement. However, I would suggest to you that this is good news, because it means his teammates are helping carry the load. It’s nice for Brooks to not have to shoulder so much.
- His frontcourt partner, Armando Bacot, on the other hand did record a double-double. In fact, Bacot’s line was very nearly a triple-double as he finished with 19 points (on efficient 8-for-11 shooting), 12 rebounds, and seven assists. For good measure, Bacot added two blocks and had just one turnover. Here’s one of the seven assists:
- After missing the previous game with soreness from his car accident, Brandon Robinson returned to action today and scored a career high 29 points. He did so on just 16 shots, including an impressive 6-for-10 from three. Here’s highlights of Robinson’s performance:
- Finally! For the first time all season (this was game number 19), the Tar Heels shot 50% or more for the entire game. The 55.0% (22-40) shooting in the first half was a great mark, but the 62.1% (18-29) in the second half brought the final tally for the game up to 58.0% (40-69). The individual half percentages clock in as the second and third highest numbers of the season, behind only the 64.3% (18-28) Carolina shot in the second against Notre Dame in the season opener.
- If you shoot that strong a field goal percentage you also probably score a whole truckload of points. That conjecture turned out to be factually correct. Carolina obliterated their previous season high (83 vs. GT) by finishing with 94 points. The Heels passed the previous mark on a Justin Pierce three-pointer with 6:01 left in the game. Today was just the third time Carolina has eclipsed 80 points this season, but the first time to do in a victory. Here’s Pierce’s three that set the new season mark:
- Over the course of the last four games, Andrew Platek has moved into the starting line-up and amassed 17 assists against just four turnovers in those games. For the season, his assist-to-turnover ratio is an absurd 3:1.
- Bacot’s free throw shooting has grown dramatically through the season. Through the first 12 games of the season, he was shooting 54.2% (26-48). In the seven games since he has shot 78.6% (22-28) to bring his season average to 63.2% (48-76).
- If you watch enough North Carolina basketball, you’ll learn that Roy Williams teams typically move the ball rather adroitly against zone defense (which the depleted Miami roster employed for most of the game). Today was no different. Carolina assisted on 17 of 22 made baskets in the first half and finished with a season high 32 assists on 40 made baskets. For the game, nine different players recorded an assist. 32 assists is also tied for the most ever in a game in the Roy Williams era.
- The Carolina “missed-games-due-to-injury” meter is now up to 61 missed games through 19 games played. Jeremiah Francis was once again in street clothes today. The Heels got no sympathy from Miami though, as the Canes are going through similar woes and only had six scholarship players available on Saturday. One of those missing-in-action was Chris Lykes who has wreaked havoc the past couple years against the boys in baby blue.
- The Tar Heels dominated the glass 41-21. They were also efficient at getting offensive rebounds and turning them into second chance points (17 points on 10 offensive rebounds). Miami only had two offensive rebounds, the first of which came with 13:07 left in the game.
- Justin Pierce followed up his strong performance against Virginia Tech by chipping in nine points, five rebounds, and four assists. Fellow grad transfer Christian Keeling also had nine points, and looked more confident today. Both players were just one point away from joining Robinson, Brooks, and Bacot on the double-digit list.
- Carolina has struggled to hold onto leads of late (lost three of last four after having a double-digit lead at some point in the game). That double-digit lead threshold was reached early today as the Heels jumped out to a 15-4 lead. The encouraging fact is that that lead did not stay stagnant, but rather ballooned to 24 by halftime (the largest lead of the season to that point). Carolina showed good resolve in growing the margin to as much as 34 with around seven minutes remaining.
- This might be painful to hear, but if Carolina had hung onto two of those losses (Clemson and Virginia Tech, for example), they would be 4-4 in the conference and sitting in 7th place rather than tied for 12th with Notre Dame and Wake Forest.
- Although the Heels finished the game with 12 turnovers, 10 of those came in the second half with the game well in hand. That means Carolina committed just two turnovers in the opening frame.
- Three-point shooting was a plus today. Five different players connected from deep (Platek, Keeling, Black, and Pierce each had one; Robinson had six). The final percentage was 43.5% (10-23) and at the point when Robinson hit his sixth three, Carolina was shooting 50% from outside the arc.
- Leaky Black is starting to hunt for and find his outside shot more and has connected on seven threes in the past five games. It might not seem like much volume, but even the threat of him pulling the trigger creates more space for Carolina’s strongest current assets (Brooks & Bacot) to operate inside.
- Good to see KJ Smith get back on the court after not playing in the previous two games.
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 NC State on Monday, January 27. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.
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