I know I’m a couple days late in getting this posted. What can I say, it takes awhile to get over a loss to Duke. Anyway, here are Quick Hitters from Thursday night’s 86-78 road loss to Duke.
Seriously? Isaiah Hicks out with a strained hamstring? What is it going to take to play a game with a fully healthy roster? The good news is that every game the Heels have played this year with the full roster available, they’ve won by 29.5 points.
That said, Luke Maye did a really nice job sliding into Isaiah Hicks’ starting role. He played controlled and confidently, scored eight points on 4-8 shooting, had two assists, and zero turnovers. The one glaring weakness – only two rebounds in a game the Tar Heels lost the rebounding battle (31-30) for only the third time this year.
Great to see Theo Pinson back. It sure doesn’t take long for him to fill the stat sheet. First defensive possession: grabbed the rebound and drew an over-the-back foul on Amile Jefferson. First offensive possession: assist to Nate Britt. Second offensive possession: made mid-range jumper. Third defensive possession: rebound. Third offensive possession: aggressive drive to the basket. Missed lay-up, but corralled two offensive rebounds leading to a Joel Berry floater. Pinson finished with six points, seven rebounds, three assists, zero turnovers, and a block in 19 minutes.
A positive sign: Seventh Woods had his most complete game of the season at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It wasn’t the most points he’s scored (four vs. nine) or the most assists he’s had (four vs. six), but he played under control, with zero turnovers, and had a seemingly better grasp of playing within the offense. On one particular stretch of the first half, over the course of four straight offensive possessions, Woods had a lay-up followed by three assists.
At the end of the first half, the Heels had one of the strangest line-ups on the court you’ll ever see from Roy Williams: Nate Britt, Joel Berry, Brandon Robinson, Theo Pinson, and Justin Jackson. The line-up came because Duke essentially had one possession left and the goal was to stop the three-point barrage.
While Isaiah Hicks’ absence certainly hurt, the biggest problem in this game was three-point defense. The Tar Heels seem to have an aversion to guarding the three or running shooters off the line. Too often, a defender will help off a shooter to stop dribble penetration, resulting in a wide-open kick-out three. For the game, Duke hit more threes (13) than Carolina shot (12), and had a higher percentage (48.1% to 33.3%).
The Heels did a nice job of getting both Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen into foul trouble. It wasn’t enough to affect the outcome, as Allen delivered blow after blow and Jefferson was a defensive stalwart inside. Hopefully, this trend will continue on the return game to Chapel Hill, knowing that Coach K has a shallow bench.
It gave me perverse joy to see Theo Pinson block Jayson Tatum’s shot a couple possessions after he dunked and postured back down the court.
Despite the loss, Carolina showed great resolve to fight back on the road after going down by eight early in the second half.
A troubling trend: poor free throw shooting again in this game, including Joel Berry missing two (including the front end of a 1-and-1). Both misses were within the final five minutes of game time. As a team, Carolina shot 10-18 (to Duke’s 13-16), which won’t cut it in ACC play.
All-in-all, the Heels played a good game, and had the ability to beat Duke in Cameron without Isaiah Hicks, but the three-point and free throw disparities were ultimately too much to overcome.
Quick Hitters from Wednesday night’s 83-74 home win against Davidson.
The starters looked flat to start the game. So much so that four minutes into the game the five players on the floor were Seventh Woods, Stilman White, Luke Maye, Brandon Robinson, and Tony Bradley. This crew moved the score from 10-3 to 15-13 when they exited, exactly what you want to happen when you bring in the second unit to provide energy.
Much of the 10-0 run the reserves went on early in the game was fueled by Luke Maye, who had seven points in that stretch. Maye finished with a career high 10 points.
Once again Seventh Woods is taking too many shots and dribbling too much. He wound up playing only 11 minutes in a game where it seemed like he would play a lot more due to Joel Berry’s injury.
Most of the minutes I assumed Woods would get went to Stilman White who had a solid 15 minutes including six points (all on free throws) and one assist against no steals.
Much of the credit for the frustration in this game is due to Davidson’s double-teaming the post. The Heels got sped up, made some poor decisions, and then didn’t spend time getting the ball inside in the first ten minutes of the game. This trend continued throughout the game. For the most part the interior players did not handle the double teams well.
That said, the team did a poor job of forcing the issue inside. This is attributed both to Davidson’s active defense and the absence of Joel Berry.
Justin Jackson’s work over the summer is paying off from deep. He finished 7-13 on three-pointers. Overall, he tied his career high with 27 points.
While it hurts to have Joel Berry out, very similar to last season and Marcus Pagie’s absence early in the season, the extra experience Nate Britt, Seventh Woods, and Stilman White are getting will pay dividends later on. At the same time, based on what we saw tonight, if Berry doesn’t play against Tennessee or Kentucky, things could go south in a hurry.
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.
It took me until two weeks ago to finally re-watch the National Championship game. I was proud of myself – I even watched the final 4.7 seconds. What a wild ride and fun season 2015-16 was. That said, I’m really glad a new season is underway so I can put some new images of Tar Heel basketball in my head.
When you lose players the caliber of Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, other guys have to step up. It was an encouraging sign that both Joel Berry and Justin Jackson recorded career highs in scoring (23 and 27 respectively), while Kennedy Meeks had a career high in rebounds (15).
A big part of the reason Jackson had such a big night is because he shot 4-5 from three point range. He clearly put the time in during the off-season.
As a team, the Heels shot 9-20 from deep (45%). Although it’s only the first game of the season, this is an encouraging sign.
One of the main storylines this season is Isaiah Hicks’ ability to stay out of foul trouble and on the court. In the first half, he had no fouls and even took a charge. Hicks did, however, have three fouls in the second half. He played 25 minutes which is good news.
After committing a turnover at the 9:00 mark of the first half (the ball inadvertently went off his foot), Joel Berry had a dominant stretch that you hope to see out of your leader: He had an assist on the next offensive possession, then a steal, then another assist, then a 3-pointer, then hit 1-2 at the free throw line. In that stretch of 4 offensive possessions, he had 2 assists, a steal, and 4 points. Prior to this stretch, Tulane had cut the Carolina lead to one. Berry’s stat line for the whole game: 23 pts on 6-11 shooting, 7-9 FT (he missed two?), 6 reb, 4 ast, 2 steals, only 1 TO.
Freshman Tony Bradley (surprise, surprise, another athletic big for the Heels!) had a nice run of his own early in the second half, scoring on three straight possessions. He established good post position and scored off an entry pass from Justin Jackson, had a nice little running hook shot in the lane, then scored on a put-back off a Justin Jackson miss.
The most glaring area of deficiency after the exhibition game and first regular season game: Allowing offensive rebounds to the opposing team. UNC-Pembroke had 30 and Tulane had 18.
Kennedy Meeks struggled shooting the ball (4-13 shooting), but clearly looks more athletic and ready to run than he ever has. He dunked a ball mid-way through the second half that he previously would have laid up. The aforementioned 15 rebounds were much needed with the void left by Brice Johnson.
Tony Bradley was the most consistent of the freshmen, but Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson both had some nice moments. Both players will get minutes and valuable experience while the Heels wait for Theo Pinson to return from injury.