Tag Archives: Tyler Hansbrough

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. NC State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 85-79 home win over NC State on Tuesday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Can’t underestimate the role the crowd played in the victory. How cool that a full (and loud) crowd will turn out for a 10-17 team to play a late game on a school night. Really grateful for the Carolina faithful. It felt really good for the Tar Heels to get a big win tonight against an in-state rival who is currently vying for an NCAA Tournament birth. Hopefully the Heels can build on this momentum!
  • For a moment, this game had the makings of the same story line we’ve seen time after time in this 2019-20 season. Carolina held an 11-point lead with 8:00 remaining and still a 10-point lead with 5:00 to go. However, NC State cut the lead to three with 2:00 remaining. Unlike other experiences though, the Heels were able to make winning plays down the stretch, including going 7-for-8 from the foul line in the final 0:40.
  • The most consequential stretch of the game came after NC State opened up a seven point lead with 14:45 left in the game. The Heels responded with a quick 9-0 spurt from 13:51-12:12. That run extended out to 22-4, giving Carolina a 67-56 lead with 8:33 to play.
  • There was question about Garrison Brooks’ ability to play after the illness he had been suffering from and the eight pounds he lost as a result. It’s safe to say he did just fine. Following in the lineage of recent Pack-killers Marcus Paige and Luke Maye, Brooks dropped in 30 points and nine rebounds. If you’re keeping track at home, that 55 points against NC State this season.
  • Brooks was also able to exorcise some free throw demons this evening. After going 0-for-7 and 0-for-5 from the line respectively against Boston College and Duke respectively, Brooks went 14-for-16 tonight including making six out of six in the final 0:41. The junior big man did his best Tyler Hansbrough impersonation by getting four separate and-ones (three of which he converted the free throw).
  • Let’s not forget that NC State jumped out to a 10-0 lead while making their first four shots (13-2 extended). During that same stretch Carolina was busy turning the ball over five times in the first 3:30. The Heels eventually settled in and ran off a 9-0 over the course of two minutes from 15:40-13:45 to cut the deficit to 13-11.
  • After the Wolfpack’s initial 10-0 lead, the Heels clawed back to take a 38-37 lead off a Garrison Brooks shot in the paint with 1:00 to go before halftime. After a sloppy sequence from both teams, a Leaky Black lay-up at the halftime buzzer made it 40-37 Heels at the half.
  • NC State foul trouble in the first half contributed to Carolina’s ability to get back in the game. Three important Wolfpack players (Hellems, Bates, and Daniels) each picked up two fouls before halftime. While Carolina didn’t take advantage as much as they would have desired, they were able to grab the lead.
  • Cole Anthony had an under-the-radar 19 points. This is a tell-tale sign of the freshman starting to settle in to the game, getting teammates involved, and then calling his own number when the time is right. He also did a great job in getting back on defense during a NC State fast break which allowed Christian Keeling to catch up and block the shot from behind.
  • Speaking of Keeling, what a night for the grad transfer! Before the Louisville game, he had not hit multiple threes in a game this season and now he’s done so in back-to-back contests. Keeling poured in a total of 16 points and the 6’3” guard was second on the team in rebounds with seven.
  • Keeling has now scored in double-digits in five of the past seven games (and he had nine in the two in which he didn’t hit double-digits). He’s averaging 12.4 points per game over that seven game stretch. It’s been really fun to watch Keeling find his offensive stride in the latter part of the season; you just wish it could be for a more successful team in terms of wins and losses.
  • Armando Bacot was curiously ineffective tonight against the Wolfpack, despite having registered a double-double against them in the first meeting in Raleigh. The freshman only played 13:26 total, and just 5:36 in the second half. Bacot picked up his second foul with 10:54 remaining in the first half and never really seemed to find his stride after that.
  • The victory loss kept Carolina from tying the 1950-51 team for the longest losing streak in program history.
  • It’s worth noting that both teams were sloppy with the ball early. They combined for 12 turnovers in the first seven minutes.
  • Carolina did all of this tonight while shooting just 3-for-16 from three.
  • One of the big factors was offensive rebounding (surprise, surprise). Carolina hauled in nearly double what State did (13-7) and held a similar edge in resulting second-chance points (13-6).
  • Carolina scored 80 points for just the fifth time all season. Interestingly, it was only the second win in those five games (Miami being the other occurrence).
  • Justin Pierce didn’t have an overly impactful game in the scoring column but he did snag four offensive rebounds, got three steals, and had two assists. It felt like both he and Keeling were all over the court. It showed in the final tally. Carolina was +25 with Pierce on the floor and +24 with Keeling on the floor.

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 Syracuse on Saturday, February 29. Tip is at 4:00pm ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 64-62 home loss to Virginia on Saturday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Well here we go again. Same script for the last three Saturdays in a row: Carolina home game. Saturday night. Comes down to last possession. Tar Heels lose. February 1 against Boston College (terrible foul called against Brandon Robinson). February 8 against Duke (let’s not talk about it). February 15 against Virginia (last second three). These poor Tar Heels just cannot catch a break.
  • Unlike last week against Duke, Carolina made offensive plays down the stretch, including sinking free throws. It’s just that Virginia had one more play in them and Carolina couldn’t make the defensive stop.
  • If you’re keeping track at home, Carolina has lost four of their last five at home (Miami being the lone win). Those four losses have been by a combined eight (8!) total points and two of the games have gone to overtime. You just can’t make this stuff up.
  • The team that showed up tonight was much more the team was saw last Saturday against Duke than the imposters that played in Winston-Salem last Tuesday. They moved the ball better, hustled more, and generally looked like a Roy Williams-coached team.
  • It’s been well documented that Carolina has struggled offensively all year long. For just the third time all season, the Heels hit 50 percent of their shots tonight (25-for-50, exactly 50 percent). And of course that happened against the team ranked 4th in defensive efficiency in KenPom. And of course Carolina still lost.
  • Garrison Brooks’ vision must be much improved from his troubles on Tuesday night against Wake Forest. Even though Brooks wore his goggles again, he scored 20 points tonight, many of which came from the mid-range game. He also made his second career three-pointer. Similar to junior and senior Tyler Hansbrough, if Brooks can continue to consistently hit these deeper shots away from the rim, he will be a very dangerous man. This also opens up more operating room for a more traditional, back-to-the-basket big man.
  • Turnovers were an issue tonight, especially early. As has happened with regularity this season, the team had more turnovers than assists (15-14). Armando Bacot was the main culprit tonight, surrendering five turnovers against zero assists. The freshman was a rebounding machine (16), but found himself in trouble often tonight against Virginia’s pesky defensive scheme.
  • A positive note about the turnovers: The Heels committed their ninth (in their first 19 possessions) with 9:18 left before halftime. However, they cleaned up their act and only committed one more in the half, and six total more for the game.
  • Christian Keeling continues to shoot well and hit double-digits for the fourth straight game. Keeling came up huge in the final minute, burying three free throws to give Carolina a one-point lead with 10 seconds to go. One thing Keeling will need to pay more attention to is getting his feet behind the three-point line. Three separate shots tonight could have been threes if he was just a couple inches further back.
  • Good to see Brandon Robinson back in uniform, although he didn’t play. Today marked the two week point since his injury.
  • Poor Cole Anthony took a shot to the face, just above his eyebrow, and bled a good deal. He just can’t seem to catch a break. After receiving medical attention in the locker room, he eventually came back in. Here’s video of the play:
  • This game moved quickly. Much of that can be attributed to the lack of fouls and foul shooting. The teams combined for just 22 total free throws. The first free throws of the game didn’t happen until 12:30 had already elapsed.
  • Carolina drew three charges in the first half (Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, Andrew Platek).
  • As part of the offensive struggles, it’s plainly evident that several players are hesitant to shoot when they get a good look from three. There seems to be a lack of confidence. The open shots are coming within the flow of the offense, but players are reticent to pull the trigger.
  • This turned out to be one of the more fun Virginia games of recent memory. Both teams scored in the 60s. There were seven ties and 16 lead changes.
  • It’s a quick turnaround to playing in northern Indiana on Monday night. The Fighting Irish will also be flying back up after playing Duke on Saturday. Which Tar Heel team will show up?

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 Notre Dame on Monday, February 17. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.

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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.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Notre Dame

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 76-65 home win over Notre Dame on Wednesday night.

Condensed Game:

Shorter Highlights:

  • Cole Anthony. This kid is as good, if not better, than advertised. There were flashes in the first half, but midway through the second he completely took over the game. 34 points (12-24 FG, 6-11 3FG), 11 rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Those 34 points set the Carolina AND ACC records for most points scored by a freshman in his debut.
  • HUGE to get this win to start the season 1-0 in the ACC, especially with a second ACC game coming in early December at Virginia (a notoriously difficult place to play). Despite those good feelings, being forced to play an ACC game to start the season is an awful idea. That’s two huge missteps by the ACC at the beginning of the new network; the other is choosing specifically Duke Basketball for its inaugural broadcast rather than something encompassing the entire conference.
  • Currently taking bets on whether Cole Anthony (34 points/ 11 rebounds / 5 assists) or Leaky Black (5 points / 7 rebounds / 5 assists) registers the first triple-double of the season.
  • Coach Williams was concerned with Carolina’s ability to rebound the basketball. The result? A 51-31 advantage for the Heels. That number will obviously come down, but a +20 rebounding margin in an ACC game is absurd.
  • With a team that projects to have trouble scoring at times as compared to recent teams, defense will be of utmost importance this year. The length of players like Leaky Black and Brandon Robinson should cause issues for opponents. Carolina held Notre Dame to 35.3% shooting and 29.0% shooting from deep. Garrison Brooks did a great job limiting John Mooney to just 10 points, eight rebounds, and zero made three-pointers (for reference, Mooney hauled in 19 rebounds against Carolina last year and hit six three-pointers two years ago).
  • But Brooks does more than just play defense:
  • Cole Anthony should be transcendent on most nights, but there will be games where he will be cold from the field. When that happens, who will step up? Time will tell. But in the meantime, the aforementioned defense will have to be dialed in every time Carolina takes the court. If the other team can’t score, they can’t beat you.
  • Technically, nine players played in this game. However, Brandon Huffman and Walker Miller each played one minute or less. For a team with injury issues and starting the season with an ACC game, this is to be expected. Would be a big plus to get Brandon Robinson, Sterling Manley, KJ Smith, Anthony Harris, and Jeremiah Francis into uniform.
  • The Tar Heels attacked the interior early in the game, but got away from that as things wore on. As Armando Bacot settles in alongside Brooks, you have to imagine Carolina will continue to pursue buckets in the post.
  • Speaking of Bacot, I present you with two facts concerning the freshman: (1) Bacot is going to shoot a lot of free throws this year. (2) Bacot is not currently a great free throw shooter. He was 1-for-6 tonight from the line. As a team, Carolina was 10-for-17, so taking Bacot’s numbers away, that’s a strong percentage.
  • A couple season “firsts”. Garrison Brooks scores the first points of the season on the first possession of the season with a baby hook on the baseline. Christian Keeling hit the first three-pointer of the season. The first missed free throw of the season was tapped back out for an offensive rebound (Tar Heels doing Tar Heel things).

  • The first five field-goals were scored by five different players (Brooks, Anthony, Bacot, Keeling, Justin Pierce).
  • After making their first three shots of the game, Carolina only hit seven of their final 29 in the first half (31.25%). The second half was a different story though, as the Tar Heels percentage in the second half (62.96%) was double that of the first half.
  • Scary moment early in the first half as Bacot came off with what appeared to be a lower left leg injury. Thankfully he checked back in just a couple minutes later,  immediately recorded a defensive rebound, and then dished an assist to Leaky Black to put Carolina back in the lead.

  • Cole Anthony does a lot of things really well. He had a monster rebound with 7:00 left in the first half. He had a great finish around the rim, and through contact, two minutes into the second half. It will be fun to watch him this season. And enjoy it, because it’s going to be the only one with him.

  • Some other Carolina scoring records to watch this year as it relates to Cole Anthony: Most points in any game by a freshman is 40 (Tyler Hansbrough – 2006 / Harrison Barnes – 2011). The most points scored by a Tar Heel in a single game is 49 (Bobby Lewis – 1965). Most points scored by a freshman in a season is 600 (Joseph Forte – 2000-01).

  • Andrew Platek is going to be an important member of this team. Sometimes scoring. Sometimes just making good, smart fundamental basketball plays. He had eight points, four rebounds, and two assists tonight. You saw several of those good basketball plays tonight: tipping a rebound he couldn’t corral to a teammate, nabbing a couple offensive rebounds, throwing a nice alley-oop to Bacot for a thunderous dunk. Here’s that alley-oop:

 

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 UNC-Wilmington on Friday, November 8. Tip is at 7:00ET on FLO Sports (a streaming service that you will need a subscription for).

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-72 road win over Duke on Wednesday night.

Highlights:

  • How absolutely sublime that in a year when all anyone can talk about is Duke’s freshmen, it was Carolina’s senior leadership that won this game. Luke Maye finished with 30 points (his first 20-point game against Duke), 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two turnovers. Cameron Johnson had 26 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers. And while Kenny Williams didn’t have the scoring numbers, he drew three charges, had five rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers. Maye has scored 20+ in four of the last six games, while Johnson has 27 and 26 points in the last two.
  • While the seniors had really strong games, the freshmen unfortunately struggled. Coby White finished with six turnovers and nine points, but on 3-for-14 shooting. He did corral five rebounds, dish out three assists and have two blocks. Nassir Little was essentially a non-factor and Leaky Black is still in street clothes.
  • With the freshmen struggling, it was up to the juniors and sophomores to help out. With White struggling, Seventh Woods provided 12 strong minutes. He scored five points, drew a charge, passed out three assists and had two steals. One of those steals led to the vicious Garrison Brooks dunk right before halftime. Speaking of Brooks, he was the other unexpected scoring contributor – 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and two steals.
  • The aforementioned Brooks dunk right before halftime was part of the most important sequence of the game. With 1:30 remaining before halftime, Duke cut the Carolina lead to five. Over the next 90 seconds, the Heels went on a 5-0 run to rebuild a double-digit lead. On two occasions early in the second half, Duke cut the lead back to nine, but the Heels led by double-digits for the remaining 18 minutes of the game. A week after Duke’s impressive comeback against Louisville, Carolina knew they had to keep playing. Every time Duke made a push, the Heels responded right back.
  • If you told me before the game that Carolina was going to shoot 2-for-20 from three and that Coby White was going to shoot 3-for-14 and have six turnovers, I would have thought there was no way Carolina wins. This team has been so dependent upon the outside shot this year.
  • Carolina wasn’t the only team to struggle from deep. The two teams combined to shoot 3-for-34 from three in the first half. Duke wound up shooting 8-for-39 for the game.
  • Part of the reason Carolina was able to overcome those shooting woes was their points in the paint. The Heels scored 30 of their first 32 points in the paint (12 of which were second chance buckets). Duke allows 30.0 points in the paint per game this season. Carolina more than doubled that number, finishing with a whopping 62.
  • And part of the reason Carolina was able to get those inside points was a knee injury to Zion Williamson less than a minute into the game. It’s unfortunate for the young man, who is a transcendent athlete. Hopefully he’ll be okay. It was obvious (with apologies to Tre Jones) that Williamson is the one who sets the defensive tone for Duke. Without him, the Blue Devils are extremely vulnerable defensively; particularly in the paint. The Williamson-less Blue Devils we saw tonight reminded me more of last year’s poor defensive team than the unit I’ve seen this year in Durham.
  • An important factor in Williamson’s absence was the freedom it allowed Luke Maye. Maye, who would have had a much more difficult time navigating Williamson’s defense, quickly scored six points against the replacement (Jack White) and was then off and running to a 30-point game.
  • Duke fans will say the injury cost Duke the game (and it certainly had a great impact), but the same could be said for Carolina’s game against Virginia last week. A game in which Carolina came much closer to winning than Duke did tonight. Even without Zion, Duke still has three of the top 10 freshmen (and two of the presumptive top-five NBA Draft picks) in the country. Plus, the game was played at Cameron (a.k.a. Hansbrough) Indoor Stadium.
  • It’s so vitally important to get off to a good start on the road (see Carolina’s 18-0 opening against Wake on Saturday). The Tar Heels jumped on top early, never trailed and built a double-digit lead seven-and-a-half minutes into the game.
  • 160 total points were scored in the game. Only 44 of those points (27.5 percent) were scored by someone not named Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, RJ Barrett or Cam Reddish.
  • Carolina is now 7-0 in the ACC in road games. The remaining two are at Clemson and at Boston College. Only one team has ever gone 9-0 on the road in ACC play – Virginia in 2017-18.
  • This was the 11th time in the Roy Williams / Mike Krzyzewski era that Carolina and Duke have met as top-10 opponents. After tonight’s win, Carolina now holds a 6-5 advantage in those games.

  • With the win (and given the tiebreaker over NC State), Carolina is now guaranteed no worse than the seventh seed in the ACC Tournament, including a first round bye.
  • The Heels are tied for first in the ACC with Virginia and Duke. Carolina’s next two games are against Florida State and Syracuse, the teams tied for fourth (and two games back in the loss column). The results of those two games will go a long way to determining who winds up with the top four seeds in the ACC Tournament (which comes with a first and second round bye). Carolina has the scheduling advantage of playing both these games in the Dean Dome.
  • Carolina now has victories over two of the four current projected number one seeds (Duke and Gonzaga) and came a few plays away from a third (Virginia). Duke has two wins over Virginia, but, outside of that, the Tar Heels arguably own the best pair of wins in the country.
  • Something to keep your eye on: Cam Johnson can’t seem to catch a break on the nagging injury front. This was the third game he’s missed part of because of an injury. Tonight he hurt his left ankle when stepping on a photographer four minutes into the second half. He came back in a couple minutes later and promptly hit a mid-range shot and later drew a charge. However, he appeared to re-tweak the ankle in the last minute of the game. Hopefully Cam will be okay for the quick turnaround against Florida State on Saturday.
  • Many celebrities were on hand for the game. Most notably was President Obama. Others included Spike Lee, Todd Gurley, Greg Olsen and Ken Griffey Jr.

 

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 Florida State on Saturday, February 23. Tip is at 3:45ET on CBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. UT-C (11/13/16)

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Photo Cred: Jeffrey A. Camarati

Quick Hitters from Sunday afternoon’s 97-57 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga. It’s always good to get a win against a tough mid-major and UT-C is favored to win the Southern Conference.

  • It was a sloppy first six-seven minutes of the game for the Heels, who finished with 15 turnovers on the day. But after that point, the team, led again by Joel Berry’s example, locked in on defense and then began to overwhelm the Mocs in the paint.
  • Isaiah Hicks once again doing a good job with active feet, not reaching in, and therefore staying out of foul trouble. His first foul came with 7:49 left in the first half. He once again finished with three fouls, so that will need to be cleaned up, but Isaiah played 27 minutes in this game.
  • Could it be that after several years of “soft” Carolina teams, the 2016-17 team will be hard-nosed? A trait this year’s team seems to espouse more than last year’s is a scrappy determination to get after the ball. There were so many Tar Heels diving on the floor after loose balls that even Psycho T would have been proud. Along with this will hopefully come the killer instinct to put teams away, as the Heels did on Sunday.
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Kenny Williams helped set the hard-nosed tone for the Tar Heels against UT-C. Photo Cred: Jeffrey A. Camarati
  • Who’s going to fill the void left by Theo Pinson? Kenny Williams is certainly making his case with hustle play after hustle play. He was everywhere in this game. Williams also hit his first three of the season; much earlier than his first three of his freshman year. During the post-game press conference, while looking at the stats, Coach Williams said of Kenny Williams, “Four for seven, six rebounds, 11 points, five assists, one turnover, three steals – that’s a Danny Green kind of stat sheet right there.” That’s extremely high praise for the sophomore.Just before halftime, we got a taste of the non-Theo Pinson small ball line-up: Nate Britt, Joel Berry, Kenny Williams, Justin Jackson, and Kennedy Meeks (with Isaiah Hicks subbing in for Meeks just before the half).
  • Luke Maye checked out with 12:16 left in the second half with a noticeable limp. Hope he’s okay.
  • After barely missing a double-double against Tulane (nine points, 15 rebounds), Kennedy Meeks had already achieved a double-double midway through the second half of this game and ended with 14 points and 12 rebounds. More importantly, Meeks became the 73rd Tar Heel to score 1000 points in his career.
  • There were 26 assists on 34 made field goals (76.5%). Friday night the total was similar: 23 assists on 34 made field goals (67.6%). This is a good sign of early team dynamics.
  • It’s just two games into the season, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m going to really like this team.

Quick Hitters – Syracuse (NCAA Tournament – Final 4)

Quick Hitters from tonight’s 83-66 win over Syracuse in the Final Four:

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  1. First off – congrats to Brice Johnson. First Tar Heel to ever have 400 rebounds in one season. Broke Tyler Hansbrough’s record of 399. He has 408 for the season.
  2. Carolina has won every game in this NCAA Tournament by at least 14 points. Tonight’s 17 point margin was the biggest for the Tar Heels in a Final Four.
  3. The Heels had trouble getting the ball to the high post in first half. Interestingly, the guards (Joel Berry in particular) had great success penetrating the zone with dribble penetration.
  4. 3 pointers? We don’t need no stinking 3 pointers. 0-10 from 3 in the 1st half, while shooting 17-25 from 2. The team did end up hitting 4 (3 from Paige, 1 from Pinson) during a critical stretch of the 2nd That first 3 from Paige could not have come at a better time as Syracuse had cut the lead to 7. The 3 point shooting was offset by a 50-32 advantage in the paint and a 43-31 rebounding advantage.
  5. Brice Johnson picked up his 2nd foul with 9:05 left in the 1st half and the score tied at 16. As per usual, he sat the rest of the half. This was scary – one of those things that causes you to lose in the Final Four. The Heels not only survived this stretch but pushed out to and 11 point lead by halftime.
  6. In the tournament, it’s always fun to see an unexpected player step up. With Isaiah Hicks mired in foul trouble, Joel James had 6 quality minutes. He had 4 points, including a zone-friendly 15-footer from the free throw line. He had 3 rebounds, one of which was a huge defensive rebound.
  7. With a minute to go in the first half, Grant Hill talked about Syracuse being worn down by the “physical play of the Tar Heels”. These guys are tough! And someone in the media thinks so!
  8. Syracuse shot abysmally from the free throw line (4-13).
  9. Syracuse rolled out the full-court pressure that keyed the comeback against Virginia. The first time this happened, UNC scored in about 4 seconds. Carolina did have a couple turnovers on the pressure later in the game, but handled it really well for the most part.
  10. Joel Berry continues to display a keen knack for when to distribute and when to get to the rack and score. Despite an unusual 0-4 from deep, Joel quietly had a really nice game – 8 points, 7 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 steal, and only 1 turnover, in 34 minutes.
  11. Marcus Paige had one of the prettiest touch passes I’ve ever seen at the 14:11 mark of the 2nd
  12. There were at least 3 made 3-pointers in this game that bounced on the rim multiple times before falling in.
  13. Another great job getting key players in foul trouble. Gbinije and Richardson (the two leading scorers) both had 4 with 4:02 to go.
  14. Syracuse was visibly fatigued in this game. By the time they went consistently to the full court press, there just wasn’t anything left in the tank. We understand experiencing that in the Final Four – 2008 against Kansas. It’s going to be hard for any team to have the energy to stay with Carolina. Especially this Syracuse team who only played 7 guys; one of which had 5 minutes, one had 19, and the other 5 players had 30 minutes or more.
  15. The Tar Heels experienced a brain lapse midway through the 2nd It will have to be a complete 40 minute game on Monday night. Villanova will make us pay for a lull of that nature.
  16. Syracuse made the Final Four on the strength of their defense. In their first 4 NCAA Tournament games, they had allowed 51, 50, 60, and 62 points, for an average of 55.75 points. The Heels scored 83 points tonight. In those same first 4 games, Syracuse allowed field goal percentages of 39.6, 29.7 43.6, and 41.5. The Heels shot 53.8% tonight.
  17. Don’t look now, but Kennedy Meeks has strung together 3 strong games in a row. Tonight he had 15 points and 8 rebounds, 5 of which were offensive.

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The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 5

Well, we can’t call this column “The Path To Houston” anymore. Why? Because the Tar Heels have made it to the Final Four! So today (and Monday if all goes well), we’ll now call this column “The Path To Houston (Glory), Part 5”. For the second game in a row, the Tar Heels will match up for the third time this season with an ACC foe: the 10th-seeded Syracuse Orange. At this point, however, you can throw the seeds out the window because there are only 4 teams left playing, and they are all playing at an extremely high level. Here’s what you need to know for Saturday night’s match-up.

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Final Four: Syracuse

  • 23-13 (9-9)
  • 10th in ACC
  • Stat Leaders (of contributing players)
    • Points: Michael Gbinije – 17.6
    • Assists: Michael Gbinije – 4.4
    • FG%: DaJuan Coleman – 54.1
    • Rebounds: Tyler Roberson – 8.4
    • Steals: Michael Gbinije – 2.0
    • Blocks: Tyler Lydon – 1.8
    • Minutes: Michael Gbinije – 37.9

Previous 2015-16 Games

  • Game 1 – January 9. @ Syracuse. 84-73 UNC. This was Boeheim’s first game back from suspension, was a home game for the Orange, and the Tar Heels had never gone 4-0 under Coach Williams to start ACC play. It had all the makings of the Saints first game back in the SuperDome after Hurricane Katrina, in which the Falcons didn’t stand a chance. The game was tied at 58 with 6:31 to go, and was only a 2-point game (66-64) with 3:19 to go. The Tar Heels then went on a 18-9 over those final minutes to win by 11. The key was not shooting over the vaunted Orange zone(18.8 3PT%), but attacking it from the inside. Brice Johnson had a career-high 8 assists (Paige also had 8 assists), 5 of which came in the final 8:13 of the game as he picked apart the zone from the high post. 7 of the 8 were for dunks or layups. 4 went to Isaiah Hicks who finished the night with 21 points.
  • Game 2 – Febrauary 29. Senior Night. @ North Carolina. 75-70 UNC. On this night, Syracuse showed a more determined effort to stop the ball from getting into the middle of the zone. Marcus Paige once again had 8 assists against the Orange. Brice Johnson had 14 & 10 for just another, ho-hum *yawn* double-double. Tar Heels led by as many as 13 in the 2nd They never trailed, but Syracuse cut the lead to 3 several times within the last 7 minutes, including :07 to go. It was Joel Berry who sent his senior teammates to a senior night victory with two free throws to ice it.

Game Notes

  • Depth – Syracuse’s doesn’t have much. Their depth is very similar to that of Duke. 5 players average 30+ minutes a game with 2 other players averaging 17 and 10 minutes a game. Despite the lack of depth, the zone helps the Orange stay out of foul trouble. At the same time, UNC’s depth and pace should wear out the thin Syracuse bench.
  • 337 – Syracuse’s rank in defensive rebounding percentage. 3 – North Carolina’s rank in offensive rebounding percentage. The Tar Heels must exploit this advantage.
  • In the last 6 NCAA Tournament games as NRG Stadium in Houston (Where the Final Four will be played), the competing teams shot a combined 27.6% from 3. Guess who relies on that shot? Syracuse, Oklahoma, and Villanova. Guess who doesn’t rely on that shot? The North Carolina men’s basketball team. Advantage Tar Heels.

The Record Book

  • Brice Johnson needs 1 rebound to set the Carolina record for most rebounds in a season. He currently has 399 and is tied with Tyler Hansbrough. This would also make Brice the only player in program history with 400 rebounds in a season.
  • Marcus Paige has made 292 3-pointers in his career. He is already #1, but could be the first Tar Heel to hit 300.

Syracuse Starters

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Trevor Cooney 6’4” 195 36.3 12.7 2.5 2.4 34.1 34.9 80.6 1.53 1.58 0.17
Malachi Richardson 6’6” 205 34.3 13.3 4.3 2.1 36.4 35.2 72.7 2.14 1.17 0.28
Michael Gbinije 6’7” 200 37.9 17.6 4.1 4.4 46.8 39.9 66.2 2.81 1.97 0.36
Tyler Roberson 6’8” 226 30.8 9.0 8.4 1.4 48.4 0.00 58.8 1.56 0.78 0.67
DaJuan Coleman 6’9” 268 17.5 4.9 4.7 0.4 54.1 0.00 66.2 1.14 0.69 0.86

Syracuse Key Reserves

Player Ht Wt MPG PPG RPG APG FG% 3-PT% FT% TPG SPG BPG
Tyler Lydon 6’8” 210 30.3 10.2 6.3 1.1 48.4 40.9 78.3 1.28 1.08 1.81
Franklin Howard 6’4” 190 10.6 1.7 1.4 1.8 29.5 11.1 53.8 0.87 0.55 0.13

The Numbers

  North Carolina Syracuse
KenPom Rank 2 22
Points per game 83.0 70.1
Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) 123.1 (1st) 111.1 (50th)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank) 95.3 (22nd) 94.3 (16th)
Tempo (Rank) 71.4 (62nd) 65.7 (319th)
Field Goal% 48.2 42.6
2P FG% 54.1 47.2
3P FG% 32.1 36.1
3PA% 26.8 42.2
FT% 74.7 69.4
FT Rate 33.0% 35.9
RPG 40.7 35.9
Offensive Reb Rate 40.3% 33.4%
Defensive Reb Rate 70.0% 65.1%
APG 17.8 13.7
BPG 4.4 4.4
SPG 6.8 8.1
TPG 10.7 11.9
TO Rate 15.3% 18.2%

2 X-Factors:

  1. Carolina’s 3 point shooting. In the first two games against Syracuse, the Tar Heels shot 18.8% and 24.0% from downtown. So far in the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels, as a team have shot 38.2% (26-68) on 3-pointers. Though they’ve done a good job getting to the middle of the Syracuse zone this year, if Carolina can hit 3s and extend the zone, this game could get ugly.
  2. How do Syracuse’s freshmen handle the Final Four stage? From a Syracuse standpoint, it will be interesting to see how freshmen Malachi Richardson and Tyler Lydon (who have both been playing well) respond to playing in this Final Four atmosphere. Will the lights overwhelm them, or are they too young to know any better? Richardson, while inefficient, has been a big time scorer. Lydon has really come on of late, especially on the defensive end. Although he comes off the bench, Lydon is getting starter’s minutes.

Main Key to the Game:

Though Carolina has been shooting the 3 ball better, the most important piece of this game will be getting Brice Johnson the ball early and often at the free throw line. From there he can take (and make) that 15-footer all day or pick the zone apart. Carolina’s ability (or inability) to get the ball to the middle of the zone most likely determines which of these teams will be playing for the national championship on Monday night.

Soak It Up

This is it. The final weekend of the 2015-16 college basketball season. No matter what happens in NRG Stadium, this will be the final time we will see this edition of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, and Joel James will only pull on their Tar Heel #5, #11, and #42 jerseys once more, maybe (hopefully) twice more. As fans, we find it easy to get wrapped up in defining a season by the final game. Whether or not Carolina can win tomorrow against Syracuse and subsequently knock off Villanova or Oklahoma on Monday night, this will go down as one of my favorite (if not the favorite) teams of all time. So here’s what I want to say: before we get enraptured in the games this weekend, make sure to take time to stop, appreciate this team, and soak it up.

Make sure to think back on the careers and development of Paige, Johnson, and James.

 

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Marcus Paige, Joel James, Brice Johnson, & JP Tokoto with Coach Roy Williams for their freshman picture

 

The biggest thing I’ll remember from this year is the Marcus Paige emotional roller coaster. Here is my stream-of-consciousness thinking of Mr. Paige’s senior year thus far: “Marcus is finally healthy and primed for a huge All-American senior year; reminiscent of his sophomore campaign! He broke his hand. Oh no! Which hand??? His non-shooting hand? Okay. Whew. Dodged a bullet. When will he come back? How will the team play until then? 5-1 with an undesirable, but understandable loss in a true road game at Northern Iowa. How will he look when he finally suits up? 20 points, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover in 34 minutes at home against Maryland, an early contender for the national championship? We’ll take it. Marcus is ready to go. Then the slump. Poor Marcus. His shot looks so pretty, why won’t it go in? He’s not hitting his free throws either. Oh man he hit a couple 3s this game, he’s back!! Nope he’s not. Well the good news is Marcus is still doing everything else he should as a teammate. I just hate for his senior year to play out this way. Maybe, just maybe he’ll pick up in March. Yes – 4 of 7 from deep against Notre Dame in the ACC semifinals. Here we go. Marcus is on in March. Spoke to soon. 0-7 from deep against Virginia. But man did he do a number guarding Brogdon. 2 solid, but unspectacular, games to start the NCAA tournament. But then Indiana, ohhhhh the Indiana game. With each successive 3 to start the game, I jumped higher and yelled louder. 21 points, 6 assists, 0 turnovers. That’s Marcus Paige. He’s back.” Marcus might score 30 points against Syracuse or he might score 0. The Tar Heels might win and the same stats are possible against Oklahoma/Villanova. Either way, Marcus Paige will be one of my five favorite Tar Heels of all time.

NCAA BASKETBALL: FEB 01 North Carolina at Louisville
February 1, 2016: North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams speaks with North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) during the game against The Louisville Cardinals and North Carolina Tar Heels at The KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, KY. Louisville defeated North Carolina 71-65. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire).

Raise your hand if you thought Marcus Paige would have the struggles he’s had this year and yet, the Tar Heels would find themselves in the Final Four as the favorites to cut down the nets. The reason is because of two words: Brice Johnson. Let me use some numbers, so that we can try to wrap our heads around what a historical year he’s had. With his next rebound (just one), Johnson will have 400 for the season and will become the single-season rebounding leader in North Carolina Men’s Basketball history (and is on the doorstep of moving into the top 10 in ACC single season history). Just stop and think about that. For every rebounder that’s ever put on a UNC jersey, he has the most rebounds in any one season. And it’s not just this season. Brice is 1 of only 8 Tar Heels to have 1000 career rebounds. The others on the list are some gentlemen named Hansbrough, Perkins, Lynch, Cunningham, Jamison, Kupchak, and Daugherty. Heard of any of them? He’s currently number 6 on that list and has a realistic shot to move past Antawn Jamison for 5th. And it’s not just the rebounds, it’s also the points. Brice has scored 648 points this year, good to tie him with NBA champion Harrison Barnes’ 2011-12 campaign for 18th in one season. He will definitely continue moving up this list; whether UNC plays 1 or 2 more games will determine exactly how much further. Along similar lines, Johnson has moved into 19th on the career scoring list, again with extremely realistic chances to continue moving up. This also means that this team boasts 2 of the top 20 scorers in Carolina history (Paige is currently at #12). The combination of scoring and rebounding a lot means that Johnson has accumulated 23 double-doubles this season, again the most in a single-season in UNC history. He currently is averaging 17.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg this year. Only 4 Tar Heels have averaged a double-double since 1975-76. Their names? Antawn Jamison, Sean May, Tyler Hansbrough, John Henson. Mr. Brice Johnson, we thank you for giving us one of the greatest single years any player has ever had in Chapel Hill. I think all that yelling Roy has done just might have made a difference.

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I will remember this year as the year that the “not tough” Tar Heels suffered 6 losses (to this point), but only by a combined 22 points. And they never lost by more than 6. And they had a lead at some point in EVERY GAME THEY PLAYED. In fact, the Heels also had a least a tie in the 2nd half of every game they played. Probably the most impressive of these stats is that, of Carolina’s 38 games to date, they’ve held a 2nd half lead in every game but one (@ Virginia).

I will remember the collapse at home to Duke. As that game wore on, and the Heels struggled to create separation, I thought, “there’s no way we lose this game”. However, there were images of Austin Rivers floating in the back of my head. I will readily admit that after that loss, I really wondered what this team would amount to come tournament time. But now we have answer. The Tar Heels of the 2016 ACC Tournament were a thing of beauty. This team is tough.

I will remember this as a Carolina team that returned almost completely intact (we miss you JP!) and added a couple nice pieces in Luke Maye and Kenny Williams. I will remember this as the year that a Carolina team with no “superstars” and possible NCAA sanctions looming moved past several years of uncertainty (early departures after 2011-12, the PJ Hairston debacle, Paige’s injury-riddled junior year, etc), joined together, and rose above it all to make the Final Four with as good a shot as you’re going to get at winning a national championship.

It’s been a great year. We still have 1, maybe 2, games left. So soak it up Tar Heel fans and let’s enjoy this epilogue.

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Quick Hitters – Notre Dame (NCAA Tournament – Elite 8)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-74 win over Notre Dame in the Elite 8:

  1. First off, biggest play of the game was the steal by Theo Pinson with 12:22 left in the game. Although Marcus Paige had just hit a jumper to stop a 12-0 Notre Dame run and put the Tar Heels back in the lead 53-52, the Irish had all the momentum. Theo’s steal ignited the bench and things progressed positively from there.
  2. The crucial juncture of the game was the 12-0 Notre Dame run midway through the 2nd half to take a 52-51 lead. Rather than packing it in, the veteran Tar Heels responded in kind, with a 12-0 run of their own and never looked back. All of this run happened with Brice Johnson on the bench, having just picked up fouls 2 & 3 (the latter of which was a technical).RAURLXFSQQASTCA.20160328040042
  3. Getting back to Theo Pinson, he provided a huge spark this evening. His stat line was solid, but not overly impressive if you didn’t see the game: 6 points on 2-2 shooting, 2 rebounds (both offensive), 4 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers. But if you did see the game, you know how important every one of those stats was. Almost all of this stat line came in 2 critical stretches of the 2nd half – all after the Brice Johnson technical. Stretch #1 (12:22-8:37). Situation: Notre Dame has just reeled off the 12-0 run to take the lead and gain momentum. Carolina could fold, or respond. Enter Theo: The 1 steal in the stat line is the aforementioned biggest play of the game at 12:22. Subsequently, although he missed both free throws (which provided the craziest play of the game when Isaiah Hicks had a left-handed tip-in from 5 feet out off the 2nd miss), he drew the 3rd foul on Zach Auguste at 10:57. He then secured his first two points with a lay-up at 10:01 while guarded by the now-saddled-with-3-fouls Zach Auguste who couldn’t play aggressive defense. Next, at 9:21, off a beautiful, standard-issue Kennedy Meeks full court outlet pass, Pinson threw a nice alley-oop to Hicks for one of his 4 assists. Then, at 8:40, he corralled an offensive rebound in traffic (with all 5 Notre Dame players surrounding him) and put it back for points 3 and 4. Stretch #2 (2:07-1:39). Situation: The Tar Heels are maintaining a pretty comfortable 10 point cushion, but the game is not out of reach. Enter Theo: At 2:07, Justin Jackson snags an offensive rebound and kicks it back out to a wide-open Pinson at the top of the key. Pause. Syracuse was in the exact same situation just a few hours earlier. Up 6, Tyler Lydon got an offensive rebound and kicked it out to a wide-open Michael Gbinije at the top of the key. He promptly fired a 3. With a fresh 30 on the shot clock. Up 6. With 2:37 to in the Elite 8. Would Theo suffer the same fate? No, he pulled the ball out, found Berry and the Tar Heels ran clock until the Irish decided it was time to start fouling. At 1:54, Justin Jackson missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Theo had a tip-out to Joel Berry for offensive rebound number 2. To wrap up stretch #2, Pinson was fouled at 1:39 and sank both free throws in a 1-and-1 situation to give Carolina a 12 point lead. Mr. Theo Pinson earned his trip to the press conference on this night.
  4. With 25 points and 12 rebounds tonight, Brice Johnson broke a record and tied a record. The double-double was his 23rd of the season and is the most by a Tar Heel in one season. The 12 rebounds gives him 399 on the season, which places Brice in a tie with Tyler Hansbrough’s 2007-08 season for the most by a Tar Heel in one season. Should Brice secure 1 rebound against Syracuse he would hold the single-season rebound record and be the only Tar Heel to ever get 400 in a season.
  5. At this point, I’m convinced Marcus Paige was sandbagging all season. In all seriousness, so glad for Marcus and the re-start that the tournament has allowed him.
  6. Coming into the game this Tar Heel team had the best assist-to-turnover ratio and the lowest turnovers per game average of any Tar Heel team since turnovers were first recorded in 1981-82. Carolina only had 6 turnovers tonight (versus 17 assists), so both those numbers should continue to improve.
  7. Big play when Demetrius Jackson hurt his ankle. He was clearly at least somewhat hobbled and Joel Berry was able to take advantage on several drives to the hoop.
  8. This is the first time I remember seeing Brice’s emotions affect the game in such a monumental way. Getting a 2nd foul was no big deal, but the subsequent technical foul (& therefore 3rd personal) which sent him to the bench really hurt. It was in the middle of the Notre Dame 12-0 run and could have potentially effectively ended the North Carolina men’s basketball season. Fortunately, his teammates picked him up and it didn’t end up hurting. Brice was quick to take the blame at the top of the press conference.
  9. Another solid game from Kennedy Meeks. Although he only played 15 minutes, he scored 10 points on 4-4 shooting and hit both free throws he shot.
  10. The “burn” offense. Great tactic from Mike Brey. Certainly a source of frustration for the Heels in the 1st Also allowed the Irish to stay in the game while Zach Auguste was on the bench in foul trouble. All the same, for the most part, the Heels showed great defensive patience and stayed dialed in for the full shot clock. I should also say, I’m not sure Notre Dame was still using this tactic down 12 with 5 minutes to go. I think they should have abandoned this approach much sooner than they did, but that’s why they pay Mike Brey and not Isaac Schade.
  11. Tonight, the Irish had the highest FG% (55.1%) against the Tar Heels all season. Previous to this, the Heels had held 28 straight opponents under 45%. This was only the 2nd time all season a team has shot over 50% against Carolina.
  12. Hats off to Notre Dame. Back-to-back Elite 8s. Came in with a great game plan tonight and executed it. They are a classy program, who works hard and plays the game well. Certainly going to miss watching the departing players in the ACC.EEPNYHUDSNAOMRW.20160328021838