Tag Archives: Roy Williams

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Miami

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-71 home win over Miami on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • 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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Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Clemson

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 79-76 overtime home loss to Clemson on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • An absolute soul-crushing disappointment in Chapel Hill today. The Tar Heels led by 10 points with 2:00 remaining, but managed to lose the game. The heartbreaking thing is that for 38 minutes, Carolina played tough, they were aggressive, they shared the ball, the defense looked a lot better, and everything seemed to be pointing to a historic win, but it was not meant to be. In a season full of low points, perhaps we have reached the bottom.
  • Unfortunately, this loss means that not only has Coach Williams still not passed Coach Smith for fourth place on the all-time Division 1 wins list, but that the unbelievable win streak in Chapel Hill against Clemson ends at 59.
  • In any game that goes to overtime (especially one in which you led by 10 points with 2:00 remaining), you will inevitably play the “what-if” game. Here are a few big ones:
    • With just seconds remaining before halftime, Armando Bacot tipped out a rebound in an effort to run out the clock, but the ball went straight to a Clemson Tiger who buried a three-pointer to cut the Tar Heel lead to 10. Without that shot, Carolina wins.
    • With 10:00 left in regulation, Armando Bacot got a steal leading to a monstrous fast break dunk to put Carolina up eight. Roy Williams was incensed, believing that a foul should have been called. Meanwhile, Clemson abruptly went to the other end and buried a three to pull the game back within five. If that foul is called (and Bacot hits the free throw), Carolina is up nine instead of five.
    • Up three points with 12 seconds remaining in overtime, the Tar Heels elected not to foul, which resulted in Clemson burying the game-tying three-pointer. According to Coach Williams in the post-game press conference, he forgot to remind the team to do so in the timeout before that play.
  • The injuries just keep mounting: Today, Jeremiah Francis was in street clothes due to concerns over knee soreness. Carolina has paid enough injury dues this season to last them the entire 2020-2029 decade.
  • Carolina’s turnover numbers weren’t all that glaring – 10. Curiously, they had committed just six with 2:00 remaining in the game, but coughed up three during those final two minutes of regulation. Clemson, meanwhile was busy hitting three three-pointers in that same stretch. Here are the turnovers:

  • Due to Francis’ injury, Andrew Platek got his first career start and made the most of it. He scored eight points and had career highs in both rebounds (eight) and assists (six). If you were to nitpick, you could certainly question some of his shot decisions (early shot clock threes down the stretch and at the beginning of overtime), but all-in-all Platek played admirably.
  • Carolina had uncharacteristically not made 50% of their shots in any one single game so far this season. Today was game number 16, and after Brandon Robinson’s three-pointer with 5:25 remaining in regulation they were sitting at exactly 50% (25-for-50) shooting. From there, the Heels missed their final six shots in regulation and shot 3-for-10 in overtime.
  • Armando Bacot seems to have emerged from his rough patch. Against Pittsburgh and Clemson, he shot a combined 13-for-21 from the field and 10-for-14 from the free throw line for a total of 36 points.
  • Despite a slow offensive start (two points in the first 25 minutes), Garrison Brooks scored 13 to extend his double-digit scoring streak to seven straight games and his 11 rebounds extended his double-double streak to four straight games.
  • For the second time this season, Justin Pierce has scored zero points in back-to-back games. Curiously, these most two recent performances come immediately on the heels of back-to-back double-digit scoring outputs against Yale and Georgia Tech.
  • Similar to Garrison Brooks’ performance against Georgia Tech in a losing effort, Brandon Robinson was absolutely sensational this afternoon. He scored a career high 27 points, hit two clutch free throws to put Carolina up three with 12 seconds remaining in regulation, carried the Tar Heels offensively in the first half with 19 points.
  • One curiously glaring number is that Clemson managed to match Carolina on the glass, 39-39. Watching the game, it was clear that Clemson was getting a fair share of rebounds (more so than the Heels usually surrender), but it still felt that Carolina won the rebounding battle. The numbers told a different story.
  • As previously mentioned, Carolina shared the ball more capably today than in recent games. The assist total was 18 (on 28 made shots). Interestingly, the Heels assisted on the first four made baskets of the game, the first three of which all went to Andrew Platek.
  • Credit to the big guys for staying out of first half foul trouble. Carolina was playing with an already shortened bench (which was made even shorter with Francis out) and Armando Bacot picked up a quick foul and Garrison Brooks got his second midway through the first half. Both players were able to stay away from adding to these totals, which enabled Carolina to keep the Tigers at bay in the first half.
  • Hard to know what to say and where to go from here. It’s obvious that the injuries (to players in street clothes and those who are still playing) are severely limiting Carolina’s ability to win consistently. How do you salvage this type of season? Are there moral victories? As coaches, do you start getting younger guys as much experience as possible for next year? With Carolina losing these three very winnable games, does Cole Anthony elect to not suit back up? Keep in mind – these are 18-to-22 year old young men. Continue to cheer them on, continue to root for them, continue to encourage them. Their worth as humans is not (or at least should not be) tied to their ability to put an orange ball through a hoop at a higher rate than their opponents. Chin up, Tar Heel fans.

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 Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 18. Tip is at 12:00ET on one of the ESPN Networks (TBD).

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Georgia Tech

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 96-83 home loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday evening.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Not sure why, but Carolina came out completely flat. Was it the hangover from Anthony Harris’ injury? Was the team feeling the pressure of Coach Williams passing Coach Smith in career victories? Tough to say, but the first half effort was not nearly enough to win an ACC basketball game.
  • You’ve likely heard by now, but just to make sure: add Anthony Harris to the growing list of 2019-20 Carolina casualties. Harris tore his right ACL last Monday against Yale. He participated in few enough games where he should be able to receive a medical redshirt and still have four years of eligibility ahead of him.
  • Unfortunately it’s precisely the energy Harris has brought over the course of the past several games that the Tar Heels would have benefitted from in the first half.
  • Before looking at all the messy numbers, let’s start by celebrating a few bright points. First off, Garrison Brooks. Brooks made big play after big play and was the heart and soul of the team. He had a monster offensive game, setting a new career high in scoring (35), which eclipsed his previous high by 15 points (20). Brooks made 17-of-18 free throws and brought in 11 rebounds. Here’s a look at Brooks’ game:
  • Brooks has now scored in double-digits five games in a row, the longest such stretch of his career (previous high was three in a row). On the season, Brooks has scored double-digits in 10 of Carolina’s 14 games. All due respect to Brooks, it could also be said that the fact that Garrison Brooks is the team’s leading scorer (by total points scored) is not what anyone expected coming into the season and an obvious sign of Carolina’s offensive struggles.
  • Brooks’ 17 made free throws are the most since Tyler Zeller made 20 on 2/29/12 against Maryland (the most ever by a Tar Heel in the Smith Center). Brooks also ties Tyler Hansbrough (2/10/08 vs. Clemson) for the second most free throws ever made by a Tar Heel in the Smith Center.
  • Largely on the back of Brooks’ free throw shooting, Carolina went 23-for-27 (85.2%) from the free throw line. The only game they shot better this season was against Oregon (20-for-21, 95.2%).
  • Georgia Tech applied full-court pressure from the outset. Carolina handled the pressure well and didn’t turn the ball over once against it.
  • Unfortunately, while handling the full-court pressure well, Carolina turned the ball over 15 times, including the first three possessions of the game. Christian Keeling was the main suspect (four turnovers), while Brandon Robinson and Jeremiah Francis each had three.
  • 50% field goal percentage watch: We are now 14 games into the season and Carolina has yet to shoot 50% from the field over the course of an entire game.
  • Today marked just the second time this season the Tar Heels have eclipsed 80 points. Unfortunately, they surrendered over 90 points in both of those games (Gonzaga – 94, Georgia Tech – 96).
  • Armando Bacot is in a shooting slump. Over the last five games, he is shooting 9-for-38 (23.7%) from the field.
  • Solid effort tonight from Justin Pierce. The past two games is his first time scoring double-digits in back-to-back games as a Tar Heel. He also had three assists and no turnovers.
  • Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Carolina took forever to score. The first points came at 16:04 on two Armando Bacot free throws. The first field goal came 13:10 minutes into the game. In that stretch, Carolina missed their first 15 field goals. If this feels like déjà vu, it is. The first points against Yale were also Bacot free throws and the Tar Heels missed their first seven shots.
  • Many of the missed shots were long-range two-pointers, the least efficient shot in basketball. Carolina continues to struggle to find the types of easy, in-the-rhythm-of-the-offense shots that they are accustomed to.
  • After the ice cold start, Carolina did hit seven of their last eight before halftime and four of the first five after halftime.
  • While the Tar Heels were struggling to score, Georgia Tech built leads of 8-0, 19-2, and 27-4.
  • Things got so dire in the first half, that Shea Rush, Brandon Huffman, and Robbie O’Han all saw the court in an effort to find something, anything that would work.
  • Three different Yellow Jackets picked up three first half fouls, and leading scorer Michael Devoe went on to get his fourth less than two minutes into the second half. Unfortunately, Carolina couldn’t capitalize and none of these players fouled out.
  • Down 20 at the half (the biggest deficit EVER in the Dean Dome), Carolina came out swinging and reeled off a 9-to-1 run. They eventually got the lead down to nine, and 10 or 11 on several other occasions, but could never make the next big play. Every time the Tar Heels threatened, they would take a bad shot, turn the ball over, or fail to corral the defensive rebound.
  • Additionally, while the offense probably did enough in the second half to pull out a victory, the defense was porous and mitigated all the hard work on the offensive end.

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 Pittsburgh on Wednesday, January 8. Tip is at 7:00ET on the ACC Network.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Pecan or Lemon Meringue? An Unlikely Ode to Dean and Roy

Much of what I know about life I learned about from my maternal grandpa, Gene Lester Jarrett.

One thing Grandpa taught me is how to tie my shoes, since he and I are the only lefties in our family. I can vividly remember him coming to our house specifically for the purpose of teaching me the subtle nuances of southpaw shoe-tying.

Another thing I learned from my grandpa is how to appreciate all of God’s people. Grandpa approaches everyone with respect and honor. He taught me the importance of being able to call someone by name and to bring dignity to their life, no matter how “important” or not they are.

Grandpa also taught me some vital lessons about food.

If there was a food I didn’t want to try, he would joke with me, “Good, that leaves more for the rest of us!” While at the time I always rolled my eyes, of course I now use that very same line on my own children.

The single greatest food lesson I learned from Grandpa Gene dealt directly with dessert. You first need to know that my grandma is an unparalleled cook. Amongst other things, she makes phenomenal pies. She’ll typically make two different pies for dessert, like she did for Christmas dinner this year. You see, the multiplicity of pie possibilities provides options for someone who might not care for a singular pie option.

We were in Tennessee this year to celebrate Christmas with my extended family. Grandma made a pecan pie and a lemon meringue pie; two of my absolute favorites. Mere mortals would feel boxed in and choose just one of the pie selections for dessert. But not Gene Lester Jarrett.

When someone asks Grandpa if he wants pecan or lemon meringue, he sits back, furrows his brow in an attempt to appear boxed in by this difficult and limiting decision, and then definitively responds, “Yes.”

“Yes, Gene? What do you mean ‘yes’? I asked if you wanted pecan or lemon meringue. You can’t answer that with ‘yes’.”

“Yes. Give me a slice of both. I don’t want pecan OR lemon meringue, I want pecan AND lemon meringue.”

The man is a dessert genius. A dessert savant. The rest of us are playing dessert checkers and he’s playing dessert chess.

“What on earth do your grandpa’s dessert decisions have to do with North Carolina basketball?” Great question, glad you asked.

On the eve of Roy Williams breaking Dean Smith’s all-time wins record, you’re going to encounter a number of people in the days and weeks to come (if you haven’t already) who want to force you to choose between Coach Smith and Coach Williams. In this era of hyperbolic GOAT talk and ‘Top 5 Lists’ and if-you-aren’t-first-you-don’t-matter, there’s apparently no room in most peoples’ minds to allow both men to sit atop the pantheon of North Carolina college basketball.

But if you’re forced to pick one, it means you aren’t picking the other. If you choose Dean, you feel like you’re cheating on Roy. If you choose Roy, you feel like you’re cheating on Dean.

A vote for Dean means forgetting Hall-of-Famer Roy Williams’ 879 wins, three national championships, nine Final Fours, seven Conference Tournament Championships (three ACC, three Big 12, one Big Eight), 18 Conference Regular Season Championships (nine ACC, four Big 12, five Big Eight), multiple National Coach of the Year awards, nine Conference Coach of the Year Awards (two ACC, three Big 12, four Big Eight), and countless lives changed for the better amongst other astounding professional and personal accolades.

A vote for Roy means forgetting Hall-of-Famer Dean Smith’s 879 wins, two national championships, 11 Final Fours, 13 ACC Tournament Championships, 17 ACC Regular Season Championships, multiple National Coach of the Year awards, eight ACC Coach of the Year awards, one Olympic Gold Medal, and countless lives changed for the better amongst other astounding professional and personal accolades.

There’s no way you’re forcing me to pick just one of these two giants of college basketball coaching.

So as Roy Williams prepares to pass Dean Smith in total wins at some point in the coming days (hopefully on Saturday against Georgia Tech!), it doesn’t have to be a coronation for Coach Williams or a snubbing of Coach Smith.

This is a time for North Carolina faithful (and hopefully all of college basketball) to celebrate both men for the coaches, the teachers, the confidants, the activists, the role models that they both are.

This is a time to reflect on the memories that these gentlemen have inserted into your brain because of the way their basketball teams played on the court.

This is a time to remember how lucky you are to be a Tar Heel in that no other school can boast of two such renowned and successful coaches.

This is a time to think back on the scores of players whose lives have been completely altered because of one (or in some cases, both) of these men.

This is a time to recall the laughter you have when Coach Williams crouches down in a fiery defensive stance imploring his team to get a stop or how you would smile and shake your head at the absurdity of Coach Smith confidently convincing his team that they were going to win a game they had no business winning.

This is a time to relish the fact that neither of these men want or need the spotlight, but would rather focus on the young men in their care. After the win over Yale last Monday, Coach Williams didn’t want to be celebrated; he wanted to get back to the locker room as quickly as possible to check on the ailing Anthony Harris. Coach Smith would have done exactly the same.

This is a time to remember that both men would want you to celebrate the other. As Coach Smith’s son Scott said to Coach Williams after his 879th victory last Monday night, “Dad would be really happy.”

At the end of the day, it doesn’t have to be Dean OR Roy. Just like my grandpa choosing between my grandma’s pecan or lemon meringue pie, choose Dean AND Roy.

Coach Smith or Coach Williams? Just say, “yes”.

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Yale

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 70-67 home win over Yale on Monday night in the Smith Center.

Condensed Game:

Shorter Highlights:

  • With the victory, Coach Roy Williams is now tied with Dean Smith for fourth all-time with 879 Division 1 victories.

  • In true Roy Williams fashion though, it was obvious post-game that all he wanted to do was get off the court to go check on Anthony Harris’ knee. Harris has been a welcome spark off the bench. He attacks the rim, plays tough man-to-man defense, and appears to elevate those around him. It was unfortunate to see his right knee buckle as he drove to the basket with 3:05 left in the game. His previous injury was to the left knee. Here’s Jeremiah Francis, who has been rehabbing with Harris, discussing the heartache of seeing his teammate go down:
  • It sounds strange to say, but this late December game against Yale was important for March. Yale is the best team in the Ivy League, so it was critical for Carolina to hold serve at home. This was a victory against a veteran and experienced Yale squad who never went away and had a shot at the buzzer to tie the game. Coach Williams will have several teachable moments from the stretch run.
  • As predicted, Jeremiah Francis started tonight, rather than KJ Smith. Joining him were usual starters Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot. One of the great strengths Francis brings is aggressive driving to the rim. When unable to find a seam, he continues to probe and look for a driving lane or a pass.
  • Just like Carolina, Yale is a strong defensive rebounding team. In fact the teams had 33 defensive rebounds each. The difference came on the offensive glass, where the Heels dominated Yale 15-to-1.
  • Carolina had just eight turnovers. In starting his first collegiate game, Francis had five assists and just two turnovers. No moment has seemed to be too big for him. In fact, he was the one standing at the free throw line down the stretch of the game. He hit a lay-up (plus the and-one foul shot), hit both ends of a one-and-one, but missed his final foul shot to give Yale the aforementioned opportunity to shoot a potential game-tying three at the buzzer.
  • An important factor in the victory: Zero of those eight turnovers came against Yale’s full court pressure. You might recall that the Heels struggled against UCLA’s pressure last Saturday. Tonight, in 10 possessions against full-court pressure, Carolina never turned the ball over.
  • The Tar Heels shot a more respectable 12-for-17 (70.6%) from the free throw line. You would love to see that number rise even higher, but anything in the seventies is a win.
  • Tar Heels have now played 13 games to open the season without shooting 50% in a single game. Tonight’s number was 36.6% (26-for-71).
  • Anthony Harris was not the only injury tonight; This team just cannot catch a break on the injury front. Andrew Platek was in street clothes thanks to an ankle injury. Christian Keeling rolled his ankle while saving a ball midway through the first half (he was thankfully able to come back). At one point in the second half, athletic trainer Doug Halverson was looking at Leaky Black while on the bench.
  • As has become custom for the 2019-20 Tar Heels, the first points of the game didn’t go on the board until nearly four minutes in (Bacot free throws at 16:17) and the first field goal after five-and-a-half minutes of game action (14:26).
  • This opening scoring drought resulted in an 11-2 lead for Yale. However, Carolina responded with an 11-0 run to take a 13-11 lead.
  • Carolina’s defensive aggression set the tone for the game. While the stats don’t reveal much (four steals and four blocks), the Tar Heels were active in passing lanes, had multiple deflections, and caused multiple shot clock violations. Unfortunately, Anthony Harris was often the one setting this aggressive tone, and pending the severity of his knee injury, will be out of commission for some time.
  • If you watch the Tar Heels closely on offense, you’ll notice that players are often hesitant to shoot. While yes, this team has struggled to score, it appears that at least part of the issue is mental. At some point, players will have to start unconsciously pulling the trigger.
  • Justin Pierce was a revelation tonight. He was active, confident, and attacked the glass and the basket. Carolina needs Justin Pierce to be this version of Justin Pierce every game. Here’s Pierce talking about his performance:
  • Pierce’s production is especially needed with Armando Bacot struggling as he did tonight. Bacot played just 16 minutes and had just two points (both from the free throw line).

  • Carolina has struggled with surrendering second half runs (19-0 vs. Michigan, 16-0 vs. Wofford, 10-0 vs. Gonzaga, 12-0 vs. UCLA). Yale looked like it would do something similar tonight, scoring the first seven points of the second half. But then Carolina went on a 17-2 run and never relinquished the lead.
  • Garrison Brooks has been the leading scorer in Cole Anthony’s absence, and while Brandon Robinson held that distinction tonight, Brooks continues to be the most consistent Tar Heel. He turned in a double-double with 11 points and rebounds.
  • Robinson was indeed the leading scorer (career high 20 points). Carolina needs someone to shoot consistently and dependably from beyond the arc and Robinson is the prime candidate for this role. He buried five three-pointers in this one.

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 Georgia Tech to kick off the main portion of the ACC conference schedule. The game is Saturday, January 4 at 6:00PM ET on the ACC Network.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. UCLA (CBS Sports Classic)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 74-64 neutral site win over UCLA on Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas at the CBS Classic

Highlights:

  • A win! We’ll get to the hard-hitting analysis in a minute (yes, that’s tongue-in-cheek), but first let’s stop to celebrate the joy of winning. It wasn’t pretty. It won’t win the ESPY for “Best Game”. But it was a victory. And coming on the heels of a four game losing streak, the Tar Heels will take a win any way they can get it. Against both Gonzaga and UCLA, Carolina really competed hard. If this trend can be the new norm, these Tar Heels will win some ACC games.
  • Let’s start with a perhaps unpopular opinion: Having now seen Jeremiah Francis in action for a grand total of four collegiate games, (1) he pushes the ball better than Cole Anthony and (2) the offense appears more organized with Francis at the helm. This is no dig at Anthony, but rather an observance of the different skill set both players bring to the table.
  • In Anthony’s absence, the emergence of recently healthy freshmen Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris has been a boon for the Tar Heels. The two were vital to Carolina’s success today and are bringing a toughness quality to Carolina. More on both players…
  • Francis is showing glimpses of being able to confidently and consistently run the team from the point guard position. He was money from the free throw line today (9-for-10), including being selected to shoot the technical free throws. He made a freshman mistake with 1:45 left in the game. With Carolina ahead comfortably compared to the remaining time, Francis drove in for a lay-up rather than pulling the ball back out to re-set and run clock. In subsequent positions, Brandon Robinson demonstrated how to do this well, which Anthony Harris took a cue from and did as well on the very next possession. Those are errors you can live with because it’s a kid (who hasn’t played in two years, by the way) being aggressive.

https://twitter.com/twmarks_/status/1208483121022357505

  • Harris played just three minutes in the first half and had a memorable defensive stop right before halftime (UCLA had been driving at will and Harris walled off his mark twice on the same possession, leading to a turnover). However, he exploded in the second half, playing nearly three-quarters of the half, and was just the spark Carolina needed. Known more for his defensive acumen, Harris provided eight straight points for Carolina (a steal and lay-up, back-to-back threes) in one stretch.

https://twitter.com/FreeportKid/status/1208576714927988736

  • As the Tar Heels amassed a rather sizable lead, I thought to myself, “When was the last time the Tar Heels had a double-digit lead this season?” Great question. It was nearly a month ago, November 27 against Alabama.
  • Interesting minutes distribution. As predicted, KJ Smith got the start at point guard, but Jeremiah Francis got the starter’s minutes (28-10). Look for Francis to start for the first time when the Heels return to action at home against Yale.
  • The past two games have yielded “Gonzaga Bacot” (bad and foul-laden) and “Wofford Bacot” (also quite bad). “Oregon Bacot” is the player Coach Williams wants to see on a consistent basis. Thankfully today against UCLA, Armando was “Oregon Bacot”. After going 3-for-20 from the field in those previous two games, Armando Bacot went 5-for-7 against UCLA for 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
  • After missing the second half of the Gonzaga game, Brandon Robinson returned to action today. Robinson, Bacot and Black are all still banged up in one way or another. Hopefully the large gap before the next game (Mon., Dec. 30) will allow some ailments to heal.
  • 5 different Tar Heels scored in double-figures – Bacot (15), Harris (14), Brooks, Robinson, Francis (all had 12). This balanced attack is an encouraging sign.

https://twitter.com/UNCMBBStats/status/1208526929529171969

  • Carolina has been absolutely terrible recently at the start of the “third quarter” (first 10 minutes of the second half). Today’s version included a 12-0 UCLA scoring run to cut Carolina’s 13-point halftime lead to just one.
  • In the most un-like-Roy-Williams thing ever, the Heels were down to just one timeout with 16:07 remaining in the second half. Coach took a timeout with 18:01 remaining to stem the UCLA run. Then Garrison Brooks had to take the penultimate timeout with 16:07 because he couldn’t inbound the basketball against UCLA’s full-court pressure. Carolina struggled with UCLA’s pressure throughout the second half (that’s putting it nicely) and will certainly need to spend practice time on breaking the press.
  • Brandon Robinson hit three important three pointers in the first half. However he didn’t make another basket the rest of the game.
  • I mentioned earlier that this was an ugly game. Some numbers to prove it: UCLA had 14 first half turnovers. For the game, the teams combined for a total of 39 turnovers. The second half was plagued by so many fouls. In total, 46 fouls were called in the game. The Tar Heels put the Bruins in the bonus with 15:37 left in the game.
  • Not much to show from either grad transfer today. Neither reached double-digits in playing time and Pierce and Keeling combined to score five points. These young men will find their place on this team. It’s just taking longer than anyone hoped or expected.
  • Some old friends were in the house for this one:

https://twitter.com/UNC_Basketball/status/1208499634861047808

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 Yale on Monday, December 30. Tip is at 7:00ET on ACC Network.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Gonzaga

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-81 road loss to Gonzaga on Wednesday night in Spokane.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Give credit where credit is due: This is a really good Gonzaga team. They were too much for a depleted North Carolina squad, and quite frankly are better than the Tar Heels even at full strength. The environment in “The Kennel” was electric. As is often said, kudos to Coach Williams for his willingness to go play a true road game in Spokane. If nothing else, Carolina played tough and fought to stay in a game they could have easily lost by 30.
  • Leaky Black, who is considered game-to-game as he deals with a foot injury, played tonight. However the Tar Heels were dealt other blows. After a lackluster first half, Brandon Robinson missed the second half with some type of illness that kept him in the locker room after halftime. Armando Bacot committed two fouls in the first 67 seconds of the game and was essentially a non-factor.
  • KJ Smith once again started for Cole Anthony, and was serviceable, but the real revelation has been Jeremiah Francis. How does someone not play for two years with knee issues and then suddenly come out like a wrecking ball? Francis played 22 minutes, scored 11 points, shot 2-for-3 from deep, had two steals, and perhaps most importantly, had three assists and zero turnovers.

  • Another Tar Heel coming back from a knee injury, Anthony Harris had a nice game. He had eight points on efficient shooting numbers and had a nice steal at the free throw line.
  • Perhaps Christian Keeling has finally turned a corner. He scored in double digits for the first time as a Tar Heel (12), and did so on 5-for-7 shooting, while also grabbing some rebounds (3) and dishing a couple assists (2).
  • The other grad transfer, Justin Pierce rebounded from scoreless outings against Virginia and Wofford to score seven points.
  • The best Tar Heel tonight was Garrison Brooks. In 31 minutes, Brooks scored 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, had three assists, two steals, and just one turnover. Brooks needs to continue delivering these type of performances.
  • For the first time all season, the Tar Heels scored 80 or more points (81). Granted, the second half of this game didn’t feature much stellar defense and Carolina still didn’t look like a great shooting team.
  • Carolina’s bench nearly doubled their previous season high scoring number. Carolina had 28 against UNC-Wilmington thanks in large part to Justin Pierce’s 18. Tonight, the Heels scored 53, contributed to by eight different players. As further evidence of tonight’s bench usage, 10 different Tar Heels played 10 or more minutes, while 12 played five or more. Keep in mind, these numbers coming with a dwindling roster.
  • Carolina’s defense struggled mightily tonight against KenPom’s number one rated team in adjusted offensive efficiency. Corey Kispert shot 10-for-12 from the floor, including 5-for-6 from three, for 26 points.
  • As a team, Gonzaga shot 72.0% on field goals in the second half. During one stretch, the Bulldogs hit 11 straight field goals without a miss. Those numbers are simply unacceptable.
  • For large portions of the game, the offense looked absolutely discombobulated. This is likely a function of weird combinations of players who have spent little to no time functioning together as a five-person unit. To get an idea of the issues, watch the spacing between the players on the floor Saturday when Carolina plays UCLA.
  • An example of the strange line-up combinations. From 2:59-1:07 of the first half, Carolina sported a line-up consisting of Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, and Justin Pierce (with KJ Smith eventually coming in for Francis). Who is the center in that combination?
  • After starting the season 3-for-19 (15.8%) from three, Andrew Platek has hit four of his last five. Coach Williams has spoken about his quality shooting in practice, so hopefully the fruit of that will start showing up in games.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a the CBS Sports Classic against UCLA on Saturday, December 21. Tip is at 3:00ET on CBS.

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Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Wofford

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 68-64 home loss to Wofford on Sunday afternoon in Carmichael Arena.

Condensed Game:

Shorter Highlights:

This will probably be as painful to read as it was to write. Such is the stretch the Tar Heels are going through right now. Here we go:

  • The hits just keep on coming. This team cannot catch a break on the injury front. Just as one or two players get back on the court, another couple of players are out. Before the game this afternoon, Carolina announced that Cole Anthony would miss the game with a knee injury, Leaky Black would miss the game with a foot injury, and that Sterling Manley would be done for the season after undergoing surgery. Throughout the game, several other players spent time being evaluated by athletic trainer Doug Halverson (Brandon Robinson, Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, KJ Smith).
  • The news for Cole Anthony is that he is out indefinitely with a knee injury, which will be further evaluated this week. Leaky Black is game-to-game with the foot sprain he’s been dealing with. As far Sterling Manley, he had season-ending surgery on December 12 to repair cartilage in his left knee. The timetable for his return is unknown. Tough blow for Manley who has been plagued by lower body injuries.
  • The silver lining with Cole Anthony out is that you can say with assurance that the Tar Heels will not be able to fall into the trap of waiting around for him to bail the team out offensively. Six different Tar Heels scored at least six points today.
  • Given the new injuries, can you imagine what the line-ups would have been today if Armando Bacot’s ankle injury had been worse or if Jeremiah Francis and/or Anthony Harris were still out of commission?
  • Free throws proved to be a major issue again today. In a game Carolina lost by four, they shot 12-for-20 (60.0%) from the free throw line.
  • The Tar Heels did rebound well. They grabbed 51 to Wofford’s 34. However, given their inside advantage, the points in the point should have favored Carolina more than 28-20. The Heels got the ball to Brooks and Bacot quite a bit, but the ball should have gone into the paint on literally every possession. When it did, Brooks shot an extremely efficient 8-for-10. Bacot, however, struggled; shooting just 2-for-14. These interior struggles took place even with Chevez Goodwin, Wofford’s main interior player, attached to the bench with foul trouble for the majority of the game.
  • It can’t be said enough what joy it must bring Jeremiah Francis (in particular) and Anthony Harris to be back in basketball action. Both players have missed significant time and have worked extremely hard to get back on the court. Francis showed glimpses of the dynamic point guard he can be as he gets healthy. He pushed the ball and quite consistently found teammates. Depending on Anthony and Black’s availability, the two freshmen will likely continue to shoulder as much time as they can handle.
  • With the starting and back-up point guards both sidelined, KJ Smith took hold of the reins and played a steady game. He scored seven points and had four assists, against two turnovers. While Smith is admittedly not the playmaker that Anthony is, the most important thing he did today was to stay within himself and not try to do more than he was capable of. Here’s Smith talking about the opportunity to start at point guard for Carolina on the same court where his own dad was the last Tar Heel to do so in a regular season game:
  • Carolina, who historically assists on a high percentage of made baskets, has not done so to this point in the season. For the game, the Heels assisted on 17 of 23 made baskets. While the outcome of the game was not what Coach Williams was looking for, sharing the ball more consistently is a step in the right direction.
  • We are now 10 games into the season without Carolina shooting 50% for the game or reaching the 80-point plateau.
  • In both halves, the Heels took awhile to score. At the beginning of the game, the first points came on a Brandon Robinson three-pointer after 2:15 had already come of the clock. The post-halftime drought was even longer, clocking in at around 3:00.
  • An encouraging sign: Andrew Platek shot 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.
  • Christian Keeling had arguably his most productive game as a Tar Heel, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds, and two assists. Keeling could have had 10 points, but stepped on the three-point line on two different occasions. The different of those couple inches makes this a one-possession game down the stretch instead of two possessions. Details matter.
  • On the flip side, Justin Pierce, the other graduate transfer, did not attempt a single field goal. The one shot he did take was a free throw attempt, which was an air ball. For the Tar Heels to sniff success, both Pierce and Keeling will have to become consistent offensive contributors.
  • The stretch that ultimately killed Carolina was Wofford’s 16-0 second half run to take a 55-42 lead. Led by Brandon Robinson the Heels mounted a strong comeback, but fell short due to turnovers and a lack of shot making.
  • You would obviously like to walk away as the victors, but what a neat opportunity to play a regular season home game back in Carmichael, the setting for so many huge Carolina memories in seasons gone by.

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 Gonzaga on Wednesday, December 18. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN2.

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Twitter: isaacschade
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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Virginia

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 56-47 road loss to Virginia on Sunday afternoon in Charlottesville.

DISCLAIMER: I know you’re ready to freak out. Carolina has lost three of four. They haven’t looked good or in sync while doing so. The injuries seem to be torpedoing this season’s chances. But hear this: Patience, friend, patience. It’s December. This team is trying to work in a lot of new players. This team is trying to get players back from injury and integrate them. This team is trying to find offensive flow. This team is trying to find shooters. All I can say to remind you to be patient is this: There’s a man at the helm of this program that always finds a way. There’s a man at the helm of this program who is currently fifth all time in Division 1 coaching wins. There’s a man at the helm of this program who is already in the Hall of Fame. You don’t achieve these heights without a couple seasons of bringing together a young squad for the good of the name on the front of the jersey. Patience.

Highlights:

Condensed Game:

 

  • Let’s start with some happy things, shall we? Armando Bacot, who appeared to quite severely sprain his ankle against Ohio State on Wednesday and was expected to be out “indefinitely”, was able to not only play, but start against Virginia. No clue how this happened, but his presence was a welcome return. Here’s Bacot talking about how he was able to get back on the court so quickly:
  • In the same vein of comebacks, two Tar Heel freshmen returned from injury to play their first collegiate minutes. Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris, both of whom suffered knee injuries in high school, were able to play (and score) after being cleared. If either, or both, are able to provide backcourt depth and/or the opportunity for Cole Anthony to move off the ball from time-to-time, it will be a big boon.
  • The final piece of good news for this space is that the back-to-back games against the top-two defensive rated teams in the country are now behind us.
  • Of course, against those two teams, Carolina managed to eclipse 50 points exactly zero times. In the Roy Williams era, these have been just the seventh and eighth games in which the Tar Heels have scored under 50. As you can imagine, this is the first time in that period that sub-50 point games have happened back-to-back. Interestingly, all eight sub-50 points have happened since the 2010-11 season.
    • Virginia | 47 | 2019-20
    • Ohio State | 49 | 2019-20
    • Michigan State | 45 | 2017-18
    • Virginia | 49 | 2017-18
    • Virginia | 43 | 2016-17
    • NC State | 46 | 2014-15
    • Syracuse | 45 | 2013-14
    • Boston College | 48 | 2010-11
  • I’m just going to start hitting you with ugly numbers. Ready?
    • The teams combined for 0 (ZERO!) first half fast break points.
    • Carolina had one assist in the first half.
    • Both teams had more turnovers than made field goals in the first half (Carolina 6-5, Virginia 8-5).
    • With 5:49 left in the first half, only one player on either team had multiple made field goals.
    • For the game, Cole Anthony had zero assists and six turnovers. In truth, this is pretty typical for a freshman point guard playing their first game at Virginia.
    • Carolina hit their first (and only) three-pointer of the game with 17:30 remaining in the second half. The Heels shot 1-for-14 on threes for the game (7.1%).
  • The Tar Heels fouled three-point shooters on three different occasions. Truthfully, even doing this one time in a game is unacceptable.
  • The free throw woes continue. Heels shot 12-for-22 today (54.5%).
  • For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels were out-rebounded (this time 37-32).
  • As the season goes along, one of the big keys to Carolina finding success is production from the grad transfers, Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce. Today, Keeling, a known scorer, took zero shots (ZERO!). Pierce shot 0-for-4 from the field. A “zero” in the points column is unacceptable from these two.
  • Both of these teams are inept offensively at this point in their development. The teams combined for two points in the first five minutes of the game and 11 points in the first 10 minutes. Virginia’s first field goal came with 12:48 left in the first half. Carolina didn’t hit double-digit points until 15:00 into the game and had just 18 at the half.
  • The second half started with a veritable offensive explosion – Carolina scored 11 points in the first 4:00. However, the Tar Heels managed just 18 more points over the final 16 minutes.

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 Wofford on Sunday, December 15. Tip is at 4:00ET on the ACC Network.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Ohio State (ACC / Big 10 Challenge)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 74-49 home loss to Ohio State on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • This game ranks as arguably one of the most lifeless performances I’ve ever witnessed from a University of North Carolina men’s basketball team. However, many factors played into tonight’s debacle. Hope is not lost. Lots of opportunity is still ahead. Coach Williams put the loss in perspective in his post-game remarks: “I’ve had my butt beat before and it’ll be beat again. I’ll live to face another day.”
  • For statistical proof of the prior statement: The Heels have not hit 50% of their shots in a game this season. They barely achieved half of that tonight – 27.4% (17-62). In fact, this was the 2nd lowest single game field goal percentage of the Roy Williams era. Only the loss to Michigan State at the PK80 on 11/26/2017 was lower (24.6% – 15-for-61).
  • Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris were in uniform and both warmed up. Still no Sterling Manley though; he remains in a suit on the sideline.
  • Coming into the game there were questions about the availability of several Tar Heels due to injury. You don’t want to make excuses, however it’s tough to win when this is what Coach Williams sees when he looks down the bench: Sterling Manley, Jeremiah Francis, and Anthony Harris not ready for game action. Leaky Black can play but still has foot issues. Brandon Robinson’s ankle is still bothering him. Garrison Brooks is a Cyclops. Cole Anthony played but is sick, has ankle issues, and he took an elbow to the head that drew a good deal of blood. Not to mention Armando Bacot, the most imposing interior player, was done for the game after landing on an Ohio State player’s foot in the first half (Post-game, Coach Williams confirmed that he has a sprained ankle and “may be out for awhile”).
  • Speaking of Bacot, we can’t assume that his presence would have changed the outcome of the game. It is however, safe to say that Bacot would have at least made the game more competitive. The freshman big man, coming off his best game of the season, had two points, four rebounds, a block, and a steal in the seven minutes he did play. Here are players speaking about how Bacot’s absence affects the team:
  • For the first time all season, Carolina was out rebounded. And it wasn’t even close. Ohio State hauled in 48 to UNC’s 32.
  • For the eighth game in a row, Carolina could not crack 80 points. In fact, they couldn’t even get to 50. Here’s Justin Pierce talking about the offensive issues:
  • After shooting lights out from the free throw line against Oregon (20-for-21), the Tar Heels were back down around their season average. Tonight they hit 8-for-13 (61.5%).
  • Tonight was the first of back-to-back games against the top-two rated defensive teams in KenPom rankings. Unfortunately Ohio State is #2 and the upcoming opponent, Virginia, is rated #1. Could be another ugly offensive performance ahead for the Tar Heels, who will almost certainly be without Bacot again.
  • For those who only saw the final result, the beginning of the game was a different story: The Tar Heels forced three Buckeye turnovers on their first three possessions. Meanwhile, Carolina ran efficient offense to get Brooks an interior bucket and Leaky Black a three on the first two offensive possessions, culminating in a 5-0 lead.
  • However, as often happens against Carolina, Ohio State’s first four made baskets were three-pointers. This opened up a 12-8 lead for the Buckeyes with 14:22 remaining in the first half. Tar Heels never led again.
  • We did witness a first in this game: Garrison Brooks’ first career three-point attempt. With the shot clock winding down within the first two minutes of the game, Brooks had to hoist a three. His form didn’t look bad, but the shot didn’t go in.
  • In the second half, with the regular rotation giving lackluster effort, Coach Williams went with a classic five-for-five substitution. This switch came with 10:42 remaining and the starters didn’t come back until more than four minutes later (6:37). The bench players actually outscored Ohio State 8-6 in this time frame, including five points and a block from Justin Pierce and drawn charges from both Walker Miller and KJ Smith. Things didn’t go much better when the starters came back and Coach Williams waved the white flag with 3:02 left in the game. Here’s Shea Rush talking about the marching orders the reserves received from Coach Williams:
  • Christian Keeling is struggling to find his shooting touch. Hard to determine at this point whether he is overmatched at the high major level or if he is still trying to settle in. Whatever the case, he and Justin Pierce are the wild cards that will make or break the 2019-20 season.
  • Quite honestly, with everything that went wrong in the first half, it was quite impressive that Carolina was only down two at the break. But the Tar Heels were hanging by a thread and Ohio State was able to blow the game wide open after regrouping at halftime.
  • This is quite an obvious statement, but Carolina has to hope that Bacot is not out very long. When Garrison Brooks went to the bench with two fouls and 7:00 still remaining in the first half, Coach Williams had no choice but to rely on Brandon Huffman and, in the second half, Walker Miller as well. Both are nice stop-gaps to have on the bench in a pinch, but neither will be able to provide long term meaningful minutes.

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 Virginia on Sunday, December 8. Tip is at 4:00ET on ACC Network.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
Email: tarheelhoopsblog@gmail.com

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