Tag Archives: Sterling Manley

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Louisville (ACC Quarterfinal)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 83-70 win over Louisville on Thursday evening in the ACC Quarterfinals.

Highlights:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Hard to believe that this is the same team as the one that got blown out by Louisville just over two months ago in the Dean Dome. Since that game, Carolina has won 15 of 16 (including two against the Cardinals). Safe to say that embarrassment and the ensuing look in the mirror was the turning point in the season for the Tar Heels.

 

 

 

 

  • Louisville is always long, pesky, and athletic. So to get another convincing win over them, especially in a tournament scenario, is a big deal. This was the win the Tar Heels had to have in order to lock-up at least a two seed in the NCAA Tournament (which might have already been locked up) and keep the path open for a one seed. A win over Duke tomorrow all but assures the Heels of a one seed. A loss to Duke doesn’t necessarily lose the one seed, but it does mean that the Heels will have to see what other teams do in their conference tournaments.
  • Tomorrow’s semifinals will be the first time in history that three teams in the AP top five are all playing in a conference tournament semifinals. The ACC semifinals will probably be better than the Final Four.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Rebounding was an important factor in the first two match-ups, with Louisville winning Round One 40-31 and Carolina winning Round Two 49-32. Louisville’s Coach Mack stressed the importance to his team about keeping Carolina off the glass. To no avail. The Heels held a 44-35 rebounding advantage at the end of the night.
  • Coach Mack had also cautioned his team about keeping Carolina out of transition. I’m not sure how to put this kindly, but, um, they didn’t do that. The Heels scored 10 fast break points in first 7:30 of the game and finished with 34 total fast break points.
  • Coby White really struggled in the first two Louisville games. He shot a combined 3-for-18, including 0-for-9 on threes and scored 12 total points. Tonight he had triple-double-like numbers, finishing with 19 points, seven rebounds, six assists, with just one turnover. After multiple turnovers in each of the first 16 ACC games, White has finished with zero or one in the last two regular season games and the ACC Quarterfinals. In those three games he has a 6:1 assist to turnover ratio. He also had a ridiculous move and and-1 with 17:05 left in the game:

 

 

  • While Leaky Black was back in uniform, he didn’t see the court. Sterling Manley, however, got a little playing time in the second half with the game very much still in question. With Garrison Brooks saddled with four fouls, Manley came in with 9:24 to go to spell Luke Maye leading up to the under-8:00 media timeout. Manley got a dunk and tipped away a post entry pass in his 90 seconds on the court.
  • 10 players played. Nine of them scored. Eight of them grabbed a rebound. Seven of them had an assist.
  • The Heels didn’t shoot the lights out from deep, but after a combined 9-for-46 (19.6 percent) in the first two games, a 7-for-20 (35 percent) clip was much improved. Especially because three of those made threes were bonus production from Nassir Little (one) and Brandon Robinson (two). Both players filled up the stat sheet well in other ways as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Carolina only turned the ball over nine times, just one of which came from the point guard position.
  • There’s always a tension in the ACC Tournament of playing for NCAA Tournament seeding while also staying healthy and not exhausting the team. Recall the John Henson injury in 2012. Last year’s team seemed to have an NCAA Tournament hangover after beating Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Yet in 2017, Carolina lost to Duke in the semifinals and went on to win the National Championship. So how was the health tonight? Garrison Brooks fell and hurt his elbow early, but came back in and seemed to be okay. He had a couple nice moves inside and finished with 11 points. Kenny Williams took his usual bumps and bruises, including injuring his right shoulder and appearing to get poked in the eye.
  • Speaking of Kenny Williams, how did he follow up his Senior Night performance against Duke? He had a rough shooting night and finished with four points. However, as previously mentioned he held Jordan Nwora to just seven points and, as per normal, was all over the court causing havoc.
  • Curiously, the Heels picked up several fouls on screening violations (at least four by my count). There were some curious calls throughout the game, such as an NBA-style continuation bucket in Louisville’s favor. There were also some no-calls that probably should have been whistled.
  • Cam Johnson started off hot, scoring 10 of Carolina’s first 16 on 4-for-4 shooting. He finished the half with 14 points, shooting 6-for-8. Interestingly, he didn’t score a single point in the second half.
  • It was an interesting night at the free throw line. The Heels hit their first 13 before missing five of the next six. Brooks made a pair in the closing minutes for the team to finish 16-for-21.
  • Several offensive runs helped Carolina’s cause. In the four-minute stretch from 16:36-12:34 of the first half the Heels were 9-for-10 on field goals and went from two points to 23. If you’re keeping score at home that’s 21 points in four minutes. Later in the first half, Louisville decided to play and cut 13-point Carolina lead to one in just two minutes. However, the Heels pushed the lead back to 10 over the final 5:30 leading to halftime. Finally, with Louisville hanging around and the lead down to seven late in the second half, Carolina went on an 11-0 run to push the lead out to 18 (79-61; predicated on the defensive end), which all but iced the game.
  • Johnson has now made 85 threes on the season. One more will get him into the top 10 in a single season, tied with Marcus Paige and Shammond Williams for tenth.
  • If Luke Maye pulls down one rebound tomorrow against Duke, he will have 900 for his career. The 12th Tar Heel to do so.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

 

 

 

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the ACC Semifinals against Duke on Friday. Tip is approximately 9:00ET on ESPN (following Virginia/ Florida State).

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Clemson

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-79 road win over Clemson on Saturday night.

Highlights:

  • See what happened on that last play was…well…and then…okay, so…ummm….yeah. In all seriousness, you never expect to get a favorable call on the road in an end-of-game scenario, but that’s what happened. While it seemed like perhaps Garrison Brooks fouled Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell as he drove to the bucket in the waning seconds, the refs didn’t call it, so it wasn’t a foul and Carolina won by two. Coby White made a heads’ up play on that Clemson drive to save the ensuing loose ball to Garrison Brooks, who got the ball ahead to Kenny Williams. Williams wisely threw the ball ahead to the other end of the court where the clock ran out before Clemson could recover the ball and get a shot off.
  • Yes, the clock was still running when Clemson recovered and the player got the shot off before the clock said zero. However, the clock had stopped for approximately 1.8 seconds during the scrum on the other end and Clemson’s Hail Mary was released with 0.2 remaining. So the shot wouldn’t have counted if it had gone; thusly Williams’ play was brilliant.
  • While we all care a great deal about the results of a basketball game, the more important concern on Saturday was the health of Roy Williams. Just before halftime, Coach Williams went down with one of his bouts of vertigo that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from time to time. Unfortunately, this episode wasn’t one where he just popped back up and was fine. Coach was escorted to the locker room by Doug Halverson and Eric Hoots and did not return to the court for the rest of the game. Steve Robinson filled in admirably and helped guide the Heels to victory.
  • With the win, Carolina is 8-0 on the road in ACC games. This means that a win at Boston College on Tuesday would be just the second time since the ACC expanded to 18 games in 2012-13 that a team has finished 9-0 on the road in conference play (Virginia achieved that feat last season).
  • Coby White started the game on fire. In the first eight minutes, he had 14 points including four three-pointers. He finished with a game high 28 points, to go along with six rebounds, five assists, two steals, but unfortunately five turnovers. White now has 70 threes on the season, the second-most ever by a Tar Heel freshman. Rashad McCants holds the record with 72.
  • Just another ho-hum double-double for Luke Maye (13 points, 10 rebounds), his twelfth of the year. Maye is tied for 15th all-time at Carolina with 854 rebounds and is 49th in points with 1286.
  • Clemson big man Elijah Thomas is precisely the type of player the Heels have struggled with the past two seasons. He exploded for 10 points, nine rebounds, and two assists in the first half. However, a third foul early in the second half limited his production to just three more points, two more rebounds, and one assist.
  • Welcome back Sterling Manley, now shoot two free throws with nobody standing on the lane. With 54 seconds remaining before halftime, Manley checked in for the first time since the Davidson game back on December 29 and immediately took an elbow to the face from Elijah Thomas. Thomas was assessed a Flagrant 1. Manley made one of two free throws and Cam Johnson hit a three on the ensuing possession.
  • Speaking of Cam Johnson, he scored 19 points, 18 of which came from six three-pointers (on just eight attempts). The efficient shooting brought his season percentage from deep up to a ridiculous 48.1 percent. His 78 made threes so far this season is already tied for 15th in a single season in Carolina history.
  • On the flip side of three-point shooting is Kenny Williams. He hasn’t hit from deep in four straight games and is 0-for-14 in that stretch. But as Kenny Williams does, he’s found other ways to contribute. In that same stretch he has 13 assists and just five turnovers. He has multiple drawn charges. It was Williams who huddled the team together to rally the troops and settle everyone down after Coach Williams’ vertigo episode. It was Williams who hit a couple mid-range shots down the stretch. It was Williams who grabbed Coby White to assure him after White prematurely fouled in the closing moments. It was Williams who hit three of four free throws to help seal the win. I’ll say it til I’m blue in the face: Senior. Leadership. Matters.

  • There were some interesting line-up combinations on Saturday. For a stretch in both halves, Coby White and Seventh Woods were both on the floor, seemingly in an effort to get White some off-the-ball scoring opportunities. It will be interesting to see if Coach Williams utilizes this combination more going forward.
  • Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks, and Coby White each finished the game with four fouls. Maye and Brooks played the last three minutes and change saddled with four. This is when the depth that Coach Williams develops each year becomes important. You never know when a similar scenario will happen going forward and the Heels will need to call on Brandon Huffman (& hopefully Sterling Manley) to provide some key minutes.
  • Huffman and Manley both helped down the stretch of the first half. Huffman in particular showed great tenacity on the offensive boards leading to a Nassir Little put-back and and-one.

  • To that end, 11 different players saw the court in the first half for Carolina. Keep in mind, this is with Leaky Black still on the bench in street clothes.
  • A takeaway from this game will be end-of-game awareness. After a Cam Johnson three gave Carolina a seven-point lead with 1:15 to go, Coby White turned the ball over near mid-court. So instead of a seven point lead with under one minute remaining, Clemson cut the lead to five with still more than a minute. This was not the only issue, but the one that stands out the most as causing more end-of-game pressure than was necessary. That said, the Heels did what they needed to do from the free throw line to escape with a win, including making the front end of several 1-and-1s.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the final road game of the season against Boston College on Tuesday, March 5. Tip is at 8:00ET on Raycom and WatchESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 69-61 home loss to Virginia on Monday night.

Highlights:

 

  • I wrote this during the game and so I have to stick to it: Regardless of what the final result is (and you would obviously like to win), great resolve from the Heels to push back in second half and grab the lead. And what I’ll add to it now after the game: Man that’s a tough game to lose.
  • Carolina held a 55-48 lead with 7:50 remaining. From that point, Virginia outscored the Heels 21-6 for the rest of the game.
  • Granted, four of those minutes were with Cam Johnson’s ankle being tended to in the locker room. Make no mistake, his absence down the stretch allowed Virginia to exploit some defensive match-ups and hurt Carolina’s offensive attack. I’ll say it: If Johnson doesn’t miss those four minutes, Carolina wins tonight. Post-game Johnson said his ankle was actually already bothering him, so it will be important to monitor his health going forward.
  • Speaking of hurt ankles, Happy Birthday Nassir Little! Your present is a sprained ankle. With 12:06 remaining in the first half, Little stepped on Braxton Key’s foot and immediately went to the locker room. Little never even came back to the bench. With Leaky Black’s ankle injury, Sterling Manley’s continued absence, plus Little and Johnson, the Carolina depth will be tested over the coming weeks.

  • The lack of depth led to three Tar Heels (Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, Coby White) playing 36+ minutes. That fatigue appeared to play a factor in the closing minutes. However, Virginia’s Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and DeAndre Hunter all did the same with seemingly fewer ill effects. In fact, it was Guy who hit the two dagger threes for Virginia in the closing minutes.
  • I hesitate to be a “ref-blamer”, but there were several clearly inaccurate calls tonight. With 9:30 left in the first half, the refs rewarded Virginia the ball after replays showed it clearly tipping off of Cavalier Jay Huff’s fingers. At the exact same point of the second half, Virginia committed a shot-clock violation that wasn’t called. Replays showed the ball definitely in Braxton Key’s hands. There were other questionable calls, but these were the two most blatant.
  • On the other side of shot clock sadness were two calls that also went against Carolina. With two seconds remaining before halftime, Virginia’s shot clock ran out before Coby White could possess the ball for a breakaway lay-up. Then, on what would have been a miraculous shot with 3:30 remaining in the game, Coby White knocked in a three as the shot clock expired for a 62-59 lead. Unfortunately, the refs stopped the game to check this one, and it was determined the ball was still on his fingertips. At the time, it felt like the type of shot that meant Carolina was destined to win this one. Oh well. Here’s the play, followed by a second angle with a view of the shot clock:

  • This is just the sixth time all season Virginia has given up 60+ points.
  • Albeit on fewer possessions than normal, Carolina only turned the ball over eight times. This is the second lowest total of the season (six against UCLA).
  • Much better job rebounding tonight after the clunker against Miami on Saturday. Carolina out-rebounded Virginia 38-27, 16 of which were offensive. The Cavs, who admittedly don’t make much of an effort for offensive rebounds, only had three of that variety.
  • Carolina had 17 assists on 23 baskets.

  • Thanks to the mobility of Garrison Brooks, Carolina elected to switch a majority of ball screens when he was in the game. While it felt like Virginia could have exploited this possession after possession, they rarely did.
  • Virginia shot over 50 percent from three (11-for-20). It’s difficult to overcome the methodical nature of the Cavs in any game, but especially when you allow that level of field goal percentage.
  • Great hustle from Brandon Robinson on this play:

  • Tar Heel alums were everywhere. Most notably, Michael Jordan was in the house. Beyond that, players in attendance included Antawn Jamison, Billy Cunningham, Lennie Rosenbluth, Mitch Kupchak, Phil Ford, Nate Britt, George Lynch, Buzz Peterson, and likely a host of others.

  • Carolina led 11-8 early before Virginia went on a 10-0 run. The Heels kept it close most of the half although dropped behind by seven at halftime. From 40-32 early in the second half, Carolina went on an impressive 17-3 run to make the score 49-43.
  • Unfortunately, as previously stated, it just wasn’t meant to be tonight. The Heels need to take some time to get healthy and ready for the final seven game push of the regular season. So chin up Tar Heel fans, there’s still a lot of good basketball ahead.

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 Wake Forest on Saturday, February 16. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Miami

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 85-76 road win on Saturday afternoon over Miami.

Highlights:

  • Don’t overlook what a big deal a 3-0 start on the road in the league is. The Heelswill have six more road games and need just two wins in those games to ensure a winning record on the road in conference.
  • Welcome back Cam Johnson’s shot. After not hitting a three for the past two games, Johnson shot 5-for-7 from deep.

  • Carolina had 26 assists on 33 made field goals. Hopefully James Harden is paying attention. Coby White contributed eight assists, Kenny Williams seven, and Brandon Robinson and Luke Maye each had four.
  • The Heels are tops in the ACC in rebound margin while Miami is dead last. It showed today with Carolina holding a 38-23 margin, including 13 offensive rebounds.
  • In a rotation change, Nassir Little was the first sub off the bench. In his second offensive possession, he corralled a rebound, got fouled and made both free throws. The next possession he found Cam Johnson for a three. The next possession he scored off a Luke Maye assist in the lane.
  • Still no Sterling Manley, for the sixth game in a row. It’s time to start wondering if he will play again this season.
  • Carolina surrendered seven threes to Miami in the first half, but held the Canes to just two in the second 20 minutes. On the flip side, after Miami cut the lead to one in the second half, the Heels hit three-pointers on four out of their next five possessions (two each from Johnson and Williams) to push lead back to eight.
  • Refs missed a shot clock violation on Miami with 11:29 left in the first half and no one seemed to react to it. From still pictures, the ball was clearly still in the shooter’s hand when the shot clock is at zero.

  • Nassir Little had a thunderous dunk driving down the lane four minutes into the second half. Take a look:
  • A balanced scoring attack today for Carolina. Five players were in double-digits led by Cam Johnson’s 22. Most encouraging was a season high 16 points for Kenny Williams, including 6-for-9 shooting and 3-for-5 from deep.
  • This was a tight game throughout, with the only double-digit lead coming for Carolina with less than a minute to go.

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 Virginia Tech on Monday, January 21. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Harvard

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-57 home victory on Wednesday night over Harvard.

Highlights:

  • Tonight was the final tune-up for the Tar Heels before ACC play commences on Saturday at Pittsburgh. It was a sluggish win for Carolina, but a win all the same. At the same time, the ugly win will not do much to inspire confidence heading into conference play. The 2018-19 Tar Heels are very much still a work in progress.
  • For the 13thseason in a row, Carolina has amassed 10+ non-conference wins.
  • Sterling Manley was out tonight with left knee discomfort. There is no current timetable for his return.
  • The Tar Heels only had four first half turnovers and finished with 11. Curiously, Cam Johnson was responsible for five of those. Harvard finished with 22 turnovers.

  • Carolina only out-rebounded Harvard 38-34 and had just eight offensive rebounds.
  • Garrison Brooks had another strong start but picked up two fouls before the first media timeout. This is the third game in a row he’s had two fouls in the first five minutes. Particularly with a thin front line further thinned with Sterling Manley’s absence, Brooks has to find ways to stay on the court longer.

  • Admittedly it has been against back-to-back mid-major teams, but the defense is trending in the right direction. Purely based off of shooting numbers, Carolina has held their last two opponents (Davidson and Harvard) to 33.9 percent (41-for-121) on field goals. Anecdotally, the team appears to be playing with more urgency, activity and cohesion on defense. Of course, there is still room to grow on defense. Here is Kenny Williams talking about that need for growth:
  • This defense uptick is fortunate because the Heels are struggling in half court offense and need the defense to turn into fast-break offense. A great example of the defense turning into offense came just before the under 4:00 media timeout of the first half. Kenny Williams grabbed a steal and pitched ahead to Leaky Black who assisted Nassir Little on an explosive dunk.

  • Sluggish and sloppy start to second half. Harvard cut the lead down to as little as 5.
  • If something seemed different defensively in the second half, that’s because Carolina started switching all their screens instead of the usual hedging out.
  • 19-22 from the free throw line for the Heels. Those are numbers you’ll take any night.

  • 5 different players hit double-digit scoring, led by Luke Maye’s 14.
  • For the first time all season, Kenny Williams didn’t record an assist.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the ACC conference opener on the road against Pittsburgh on Saturday, January 5. Tip is at Noon ET on Raycom. Here’s former Pittsburgh Panther Cam Johnson talking about tonight’s game, but also the impending match-up in Pennsylvania:

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

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 80-72 loss to Kentucky on Saturday afternoon in Chicago at the CBS Sports Classic.

Highlights:

  • For those of you traveling for the holidays that missed the game, you probably enjoyed the time you spent talking with your awkward aunt more than those of us who watched the game. It was painful. Here’s a microcosm that sums up what you missed: 54.3 seconds left. Carolina down eight. Kentucky’s Reid Travis misses front end of 1-and-1. P.J Washington was the only Wildcat lined up for the free throws. All 5 Tar Heels watch as Washington tips out the miss for an offensive rebound.
  • Both teams came into the game as dominant, top-level rebounding machines. Whichever team controlled the glass figured to be in position to win the game. Kentucky finished with a plus-10 margin (43-33) over Carolina. The typically offensive-rebound-happy Tar Heels only managed one in the first half and five total for the game. This marks the first time Carolina’s been outrebounded this season. The teams were close in just about every other stat. These rebounds tell the story of the game.
  • Turnovers, the live ball variety in particular, continue to be a bugaboo. Each time Carolina would get close to Kentucky, someone would commit a silly turnover leading to a run-out for the Wildcats. This happened frequently also against Gonzaga, but the offensive outpouring that night covered a world of sins. At some point, the horizontal, top-of-the-key live ball turnovers have to stop.
  • Cameron Johnson, who once again paced the team in scoring with 17, was the main turnover culprit (five). In fact, the starters combined to commit 14 of the 17 turnovers.
  • Kentuky’s Ashton Hagans is a blur and a disruptive defensive force. He finished with as many steals as points (seven). Hagans rolled his ankle midway through the first half, but was thankfully able to return. While we want to (thoroughly and soundly) beat all our opponents, we never want to see them injured.
  • Speaking of a blur, Coby White can seemingly get to the rim whenever he wants.
  • The game had an incredible pace to it early on. The teams were up and down the court.
  • Carolina had no answer for Stanford transfer Reid Travis. He finished with 16 points…in the first half. Brooks played him pretty well (particularly early in the second half) but there was a noticeable defensive drop-off when Manley subbed in.
  • Great energy from Seventh Woods early in the second half cut the lead down to four (47-43). After securing three offensive rebounds, Kentucky hit a three to immediately push the lead back to seven. Carolina never again got that close. Each time the Tar Heels began to cut into the lead, Kentucky responded with a bucket or a steal. Case in point: Carolina cut the lead down to six with just under seven minutes remaining. The Heels secured a defensive rebound but Hagans stole the outlet pass, which eventually resulted in a Wildcat three and a nine-point lead. From there, Carolina committed a live-ball back court turnover, resulting in another Kentucky breakaway lay-up.

  • A positive to walk away with: This was about as poor a performance as is seemingly possible from this group. Against Kentucky. And yet, the loss was only by eight points. What’s the take away? Clean up four or five of those lost possessions, and this is a different ball game.
  • Please keep in mind: Roy Williams teams have a proven track record of growing by leaps and bounds over the course of a season. Be patient and enjoy the evolution.
  • As well as this team typically scores, if they can hold on to the basketball, they should have a successful ACC record. If this team can’t learn to value the basketball, it will be a brutal ACC season. Back to the drawing board.
  • That said, whether it was Kentucky’s disruptive defense or just lack of precision, today’s offense was not marked by the usual certitude and team play. There was a lot of isolation and a lot of standing around. Baskets often felt lucky, rather than the foregone conclusions that they typically are.

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 Davidson on Saturday, December 29. Tip is at Noon ET on ESPN2.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Gonzaga

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 103-90 home win on Saturday night over #4 Gonzaga.

Highlights:

  • What a big-time win in an incredible environment. Yes, Gonzaga is missing a starter and another key player, but they’re still good enough to be top five in the country. While you would love to add win over Kentucky to the résumé next Saturday, taking at least one of these two games is encouraging.
  • Welcome to the 1,000-point club Luke Maye! Maye becomes the 78thTar Heel to reach that milestone. The 1,000thpoint was a free throw tacked on to a dunk that put Carolina over the century mark. In fact, Maye was 7-for-7 on free throws, with the first six coming after being fouled while shooting three pointers. This was not only the Heels’ first signature win of the year, but also Maye’s first signature game: scoring 20 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.

  • While on the subject of Luke Maye, it is being said around basketball that his production has “really dropped off from last year”. He’s currently averaging 14.3 points to last year’s 16.9 when he neededto shoulder a bigger portion of the scoring load. He’s currently averaging 10.0 rebounds per game as compared to last year’s 10.1. While his field goal percentage (48.6 to 45.0) and three-point percentage (43.1 to 31.3) are down, his free throw percentage is up almost 20 percentage points (62.4 to 79.5). All that to say – Luke Maye is going to be juuuuuuust fine.
  • With a sample size of 10 games (roughly one quarter of the season), we can legitimately begin to look at season stats. Cameron Johnson is shooting 49.1 percent from deep, exactly 15 percentage points better than last year’s 34.1 percent. Johnson had an absurd night, leading all scorers with 25 on efficient shooting. While his six threes (including a shot-clock-ending desperation heave) were impressive, it was this dunk that was the most memorable:

  • Seventh Woods had a career-high 11 points – by halftime. The junior finished with 14 points. Woods made two three pointers, the first time he’s hit multiple in a game. In fact, two three pointers ties the number he hit in his first two seasons combined. Woods went on a personal 6-0 run over the last 1:16 of the first half to stretch an eight point lead back out to 14.

  • Coach Williams wants to dominate the glass, and dominate the glass the Heels did – 42-21. Additionally, Carolina had 14 offensive to Gonzaga’s five and outscored the Bulldogs by an overwhelming 27-0 on those second-chance opportunities.

  • The Tar Heels had to be that good on the boards to win because they coughed up a season high 23 turnovers, which led to 29 Bulldog points and kept Gonzaga in the game.
  • On several occasions Gonzaga out-Carolina-ed Carolina by getting pitch-aheads to a man streaking down the court behind the defense. This will no-doubt be a point of emphasis in the film room.
  • Much like the UNC-Wilmington game, the Heels showed much better defensive desire and did some things well, while others have room to grow. The want-to seems to be there, and that’s a step in the right direction. That said, as I predicted the final score resembled the UNC-Kentucky regular season game from 2016-17 in which the Wildcats won 103-100 behind 47 points from Malik Monk. In fact, Carolina finished with that exact same total tonight. Let’s just hope this season doesn’t wind up for the Heels the way that season wound up for Kentucky. But just for a reminder of how that season ended for Kentucky:
  • On five occasions in the second half, Gonzaga cut the lead to single digits. But on all five of those instances Carolina responded by scoring the next basket to push the lead back to double-digits. The Bulldogs are a team that can score in bunches, so maintaining the double-digit threshold provided security for the Heels. Although, once again, avoiding live ball turnovers and Carolina-like-run-outs would have placed an even larger cushion between the two teams.
  • Roy Williams has been saying how good a shooting team this is and that it would eventually break out. 13-for-25 (54.7 percent) from deep is a great example of that. Shooting that well from outside on a consistent basis will cover a multitude of sins in other facets of the game.
  • Leaky Black, who is dealing with patellar tendinitis, only played three minutes. But in that time he used his go-go-gadget arms to steal a pass and head in the other direction for an electrifying dunk. Sterling Manley also only scored two points, but it was a nice turnaround jump shot early in the second half.

  • I must unfortunately leave you with a sour taste in your mouth: The execution after the final media timeout left much to be desired. The play included several turnovers, some fouls and some missed clutch-ish free throws. Thankfully, the cushion in this game was large enough to absorb these gaffes, but that won’t always be the case.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago against Kentucky on Saturday, December 22. Tip is at 5:15ET on CBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. UNC-Wilmington

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 97-69 home win on Wednesday night over UNC-Wilmington.

Highlights:

  • There are scoring runs and then there are scoring runs. Luke Maye picked up his fourth foul with 17:16 remaining in the game and the Heels up 48-41. You might have been concerned. I was concerned. Should we have been? Nope. The Heels immediately went on a 16-0 run, which extended to an absurd 30-3 run. When Maye checked back in with 9:12 remaining the lead had ballooned from seven to 31 (75-44). Here’s Kenny Williams talking about the 53-point second half explosion:
  • The big concern of late has been the Tar Heels’ (lack of) defense. For the game, Carolina held UNC-Wilmington to 35.5 percent shooting, forced them into 25 turnovers, and scored 34 points off of those turnovers. It remains to be seen whether the defense was legitimately better, or just a product of playing (with apologies to UNC-Wilmington) an inferior team. We’ll get quick answers with the next two games being against Gonzaga and Kentucky.
  • After exploding out of the gate, Cameron Johnson’s scoring has tapered off the last couple games. He rebounded nicely tonight, leading all scorers with 21 points (ties his season high). Here’s Johnson talking about the game:
  • Coby White and Brandon Robinson both sat out the game with injuries. Despite missing those two regulars, nine different players played double-digit minutes. As has often been the case this season, no player played 30 minutes or more.

  • Seventh Woods earned his first career start in White’s absence. He had three assists and three turnovers, a wash. Woods’ biggest contribution was his aggressive play to help grow the lead immediately after Maye went to the bench with his fourth foul.
  • In addition to Woods’ three turnovers, Kenny Williams, Luke Maye, and Nassir Little each also had three. These key players will need to curtail their sloppiness with the ball. The good news is that after nine first half turnovers, the first turnover of the second half didn’t occur until six minutes in.
  • With White out, Leaky Black also played more than usual. He quietly had a rather effective showing – four points (on 2-for-3 shooting), three assists, zero turnovers and two steals. That type of steady play will be important for Carolina throughout the season.
  • Kenny Williams really has become an assist machine. Despite his three turnovers, the senior racked up eight assists. He is averaging 4.9 assists per game this season. For reference to a recent non-point guard playmaker, Theo Pinson averaged 5.1 assists per game last season. As a team, Carolina assisted on 23 of their 37 made baskets tonight.
  • Devontae Cacok is Wilmington’s leading scorer (15.9) and the nation’s leading rebounder (12.3). As you are aware, the Heels pride themselves on rebounding as well. Carolina held Cacok to just six points and six rebounds, as well as just 21 minutes of game action due to foul trouble. It was a classic case of the Heels working to get an opponent’s dominant big man in foul trouble. Overall Carolina won the rebounding battle 49-36.
  • The Tar Heels enjoyed a lopsided 50-16 advantage on points in the paint. Big men Garrison Brooks (seven), Sterling Manley (eight), and Brandon Huffman (seven) each had a meaningful contribution to that tally. Manley also came away with double-digit rebounds (10).

  • Wilmington overcame a 7-0 UNC lead to take a 24-22 lead just over midway through the first half. Carolina responded with a 10-0 to take a lead they would never relinquish.
  • KJ Smith desperately tried to get a three in the closing seconds in order to help Carolina hit the century mark, but couldn’t get one to stick. No biscuits. They’ll have to wait for another day.

Roy Williams postgame press conference (make sure to listen to the story at the end about former President George H.W. Bush who recently passed away.):

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Gonzaga on Saturday, December 15. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN2.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Michigan (ACC / Big Ten Challenge)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 84-67 road loss on Wednesday to Michigan in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge.

Highlights:

  • Two years ago the Heels played in a similarly tough road environment at Indiana during the ACC / Big Ten challenge. Things didn’t go well in that game either. However, as you’ll recall that season turned out just fine. Patience. Roy doesn’t play for November. Roy builds for March.
  • Coming into the game, the main story line was Carolina’s top-notch offense against Michigan’s stingy defense. Unfortunately it was the Tar Heels’ defense (or lack thereof) that received top billing. Never doubt Coach Williams’ ability to rally the troops, but defense is currently an area of serious concern. Pick-and-roll and back door cuts, in particular, yielded several wide open lay-ups for Michigan.

  • Kenny Williams appears to be heating back up. In the past two games he’s shot 9-for-15 from the field and 5-for-9 from three while averaging 13 points. He’s done this while maintaining his defensive prowess and dishing out nine assists with just one turnover. Here’s Williams talking about tonight’s game:
  • Similar to the Texas game, Carolina started off hot, hitting four of its first five shots and amassing a quick 10 point lead in the first eight minutes. The Heels hung with Michigan the entire first half, but Michigan pushed the lead to 12 before the first media timeout of the second half and never looked back.
  • Luke Maye recorded his second double-double of the season, grabbing 15 rebounds to go with 11 points. The other starting big man, Garrison Brooks had a sneakily solid 10 points and seven rebounds.

  • Michigan’s style of defense forces a lot of one-on-one basketball. The Heels didn’t do a great job of moving the ball tonight and wound up assisting on only half of their made baskets (13 of 26).
  • On the plus side, while Michigan’s defense is tough, Carolina had its second-lowest turnover output of the season (10). In a true road environment, that’s an encouraging number. Over the past two games the Heels are averaging eight turnovers. That’s a number Coach Williams can live with.
  • While the total score of 67 was a season low, Carolina’s 35 first half points is the most Michigan has given up in the first half all year. The Tar Heels are going to be able to score all year, but some nights that shots won’t fall as frequently and the defense will have to be ready to pick up the slack.
  • Great to have Seventh Woods back from injury. He completed an and-one within his first two minutes of returning to action. His years of experience provide a steadying hand at the point guard position. Woods didn’t move the ball as well as he had been doing prior to his concussion, but he’ll get back there quickly.

  • Michigan’s unheralded (and ambidextrous) freshman Ignas Brazdeikis is impressive. He led all scorers with 24 points. Brazdeikis seems to genuinely enjoy the game and is fun to watch. Michigan has already slaughtered Villanova at Villanova. This Wolverines team might be better than last year’s national runner-up.
  • It was a tough offensive night for Cam Johnson and Nassir Little. The first and fourth leading scorers on the team finished with a combined nine points. Johnson didn’t score his first point until 13 minutes into the second half.
  • As per usual, 11 different Tar Heels entered the game in the first half. As early as the first media timeout, the entire second unit (Seventh Woods, Leaky Black, Brandon Robinson, Nassir Little and Sterling Manley) was in the game. It should be noted that Michigan took its first lead with this group of five on the court. 13 different players were used in the meaningful minutes of the game, including Brandon Huffman and KJ Smith. As often happens when he’s unhappy, Coach Williams benched all five starters for a four-minute stretch of the second half. I’ll say it again: ROY IS COACHING FOR MARCH. BE PATIENT.

  • Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: Michigan came into the game shooting 33 percent on three-pointers for the year. They drilled 11 of 22 for 50 percent shooting against Carolina. Texas just had a similar shooting performance against Carolina on Thanksgiving.
  • The Tar Heels are averaging 14.29 offensive rebounds per game, but had just one at halftime. A strong second-half effort got them to 13 for the game and overall out-rebounded Michigan 43-34.
  • In a hostile road environment, a lot of teams would pack it in after a poor performance and falling behind by as many as 22. However, an 11-0 Tar Heel run cut the lead to 11 with 5:30 remaining. Andrew Platek missed a lay-up to further cut the deficit to nine. After that, Michigan pushed the lead back to 18. The good news: these Heels have fight in them. They just need to show it from the tip and show it on defense.
  • In case you care: The ACC tied the Big Ten 7-7 in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge. The Big Ten has 14 teams so one ACC teams sits out each year. Also, it’s time for a name change Big Ten. Because you have 14 teams.
  • The night in a nutshell:

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 UNC-Wilmington on Wednesday, December 5. Tip is at 9:00ET on ESPN2.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Texas (Las Vegas Invitational)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 92-89 loss on Thanksgiving evening to Texas in the Las Vegas Invitational.

Highlights:

  • First off: Happy Thanksgiving. Hoping you had a wonderful day with family and friends and ate way too much good food.
  • Same story, different chapter of the series versus Texas: Opposing guard goes off (Kerwin Roach, 32 points on 12-for-15 shooting). Texas out-physicals Carolina. Texas out-hustles Carolina. Texas out-toughs Carolina. Texas uses the dribble to get in the lane at will. The Tar Heels have now lost eight of their last nine to the Longhorns. Here’s Kenny Williams providing some senior prospective:
  • You might think that the absence of a back-up point guard isn’t a big deal. You’d be wrong. When Coby White checked out with 14:27 left in the first half, Carolina lead 17-5. Typically Seventh Woods would enter the game at that point and run the team seamlessly. Leaky Black just isn’t ready to do that yet and when White checked back in the lead was down to 23-18. Black projects to be an incredible player for this team, but the offense severely bogged down with the changing of the guard.
  • Turnovers were *yet againa major issue, at least in the first half. The Heels coughed the ball up 17 total times; 14 of which were in the first 20 minutes. Literally all 10 players that stepped on the floor for Carolina had at least one turnover.
  • Okay, let’s talk about something positive. Coby White knows how to put the ball in the bucket and we caught our first glimpse of just how prolific he can be. White poured in 33 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including 7-for-10 from deep and 6-for7 from the free throw line. Here’s a look at all his scoring:
  • As out-of-sync as the Heels looked most of the night, they fought to stay in the game and had their chances. Down 80-70 with just under 7:00 remaining, Carolina went on an 8-0 run in under a minute to close the gap to 2. Later, down three with 30 seconds left, Luke Maye had a great look at a three to tie the game, but the ball just wouldn’t stay down. Unfortunately the closest the Heels could get was two.
  • Need a reminder of how every play matters? With 3:30 remaining in the first half and the Heels up seven, Sterling Manley grabbed a rebound and threw his outlet pass to Kerwin Roach who took one dribble and buried a three. Final deficit? Three points. Here’s the play:

  • It wasn’t all bad for Manley. He had two really nice assists to Cam Johnson.
  • As well as Coby White shot, the senior trio of Luke Maye, Kenny Williams, and Cam Johnson were a combined 12-for-33 from the field, including just 2-for-13 from three.
  • After the St. Francis game, I mentioned that Carolina’s bench was outscoring the opponents 194-66. The bench only contributed 18 tonight.
  • Defense has been something of an issue all season. However against inferior competition, the problems have been masked. In the second half, Texas shot 62.5 percent from the field and from three. To put it bluntly, that just won’t cut it against either the rest of the non-conference schedule or the ACC gauntlet.
  • Despite winning the total rebound battle 41-32 and the offensive rebound battle 15-9, the small line-up surrendered some ill-timed offensive boards to Texas.
  • A final positive note: Congrats to Cam Johnson for reaching 1,000 career points combined between Pittsburgh & Carolina.

  • Despite the loss, the most painful part of the night for this writer? My wife is a Longhorn.

  • 2ndmost painful part of the night? We’re going to the Texas football game on Friday where I will be cheering for the Longhorns.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the consolation game of the Las Vegas Invitational against the loser of UCLA/ Michigan State on Friday afternoon. Tip is at 4:00ET on FOX.

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