Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 70-67 home win over Yale on Monday night in the Smith Center.
- With the victory, Coach Roy Williams is now tied with Dean Smith for fourth all-time with 879 Division 1 victories.
- In true Roy Williams fashion though, it was obvious post-game that all he wanted to do was get off the court to go check on Anthony Harris’ knee. Harris has been a welcome spark off the bench. He attacks the rim, plays tough man-to-man defense, and appears to elevate those around him. It was unfortunate to see his right knee buckle as he drove to the basket with 3:05 left in the game. His previous injury was to the left knee. Here’s Jeremiah Francis, who has been rehabbing with Harris, discussing the heartache of seeing his teammate go down:
- It sounds strange to say, but this late December game against Yale was important for March. Yale is the best team in the Ivy League, so it was critical for Carolina to hold serve at home. This was a victory against a veteran and experienced Yale squad who never went away and had a shot at the buzzer to tie the game. Coach Williams will have several teachable moments from the stretch run.
- As predicted, Jeremiah Francis started tonight, rather than KJ Smith. Joining him were usual starters Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot. One of the great strengths Francis brings is aggressive driving to the rim. When unable to find a seam, he continues to probe and look for a driving lane or a pass.
- Just like Carolina, Yale is a strong defensive rebounding team. In fact the teams had 33 defensive rebounds each. The difference came on the offensive glass, where the Heels dominated Yale 15-to-1.
- Carolina had just eight turnovers. In starting his first collegiate game, Francis had five assists and just two turnovers. No moment has seemed to be too big for him. In fact, he was the one standing at the free throw line down the stretch of the game. He hit a lay-up (plus the and-one foul shot), hit both ends of a one-and-one, but missed his final foul shot to give Yale the aforementioned opportunity to shoot a potential game-tying three at the buzzer.
- An important factor in the victory: Zero of those eight turnovers came against Yale’s full court pressure. You might recall that the Heels struggled against UCLA’s pressure last Saturday. Tonight, in 10 possessions against full-court pressure, Carolina never turned the ball over.
- The Tar Heels shot a more respectable 12-for-17 (70.6%) from the free throw line. You would love to see that number rise even higher, but anything in the seventies is a win.
- Tar Heels have now played 13 games to open the season without shooting 50% in a single game. Tonight’s number was 36.6% (26-for-71).
- Anthony Harris was not the only injury tonight; This team just cannot catch a break on the injury front. Andrew Platek was in street clothes thanks to an ankle injury. Christian Keeling rolled his ankle while saving a ball midway through the first half (he was thankfully able to come back). At one point in the second half, athletic trainer Doug Halverson was looking at Leaky Black while on the bench.
- As has become custom for the 2019-20 Tar Heels, the first points of the game didn’t go on the board until nearly four minutes in (Bacot free throws at 16:17) and the first field goal after five-and-a-half minutes of game action (14:26).
- This opening scoring drought resulted in an 11-2 lead for Yale. However, Carolina responded with an 11-0 run to take a 13-11 lead.
- Carolina’s defensive aggression set the tone for the game. While the stats don’t reveal much (four steals and four blocks), the Tar Heels were active in passing lanes, had multiple deflections, and caused multiple shot clock violations. Unfortunately, Anthony Harris was often the one setting this aggressive tone, and pending the severity of his knee injury, will be out of commission for some time.
- If you watch the Tar Heels closely on offense, you’ll notice that players are often hesitant to shoot. While yes, this team has struggled to score, it appears that at least part of the issue is mental. At some point, players will have to start unconsciously pulling the trigger.
- Justin Pierce was a revelation tonight. He was active, confident, and attacked the glass and the basket. Carolina needs Justin Pierce to be this version of Justin Pierce every game. Here’s Pierce talking about his performance:
- Pierce’s production is especially needed with Armando Bacot struggling as he did tonight. Bacot played just 16 minutes and had just two points (both from the free throw line).
- Carolina has struggled with surrendering second half runs (19-0 vs. Michigan, 16-0 vs. Wofford, 10-0 vs. Gonzaga, 12-0 vs. UCLA). Yale looked like it would do something similar tonight, scoring the first seven points of the second half. But then Carolina went on a 17-2 run and never relinquished the lead.
- Garrison Brooks has been the leading scorer in Cole Anthony’s absence, and while Brandon Robinson held that distinction tonight, Brooks continues to be the most consistent Tar Heel. He turned in a double-double with 11 points and rebounds.
- Robinson was indeed the leading scorer (career high 20 points). Carolina needs someone to shoot consistently and dependably from beyond the arc and Robinson is the prime candidate for this role. He buried five three-pointers in this one.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Georgia Tech to kick off the main portion of the ACC conference schedule. The game is Saturday, January 4 at 6:00PM ET on the ACC Network.
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