Tag Archives: UNC Basketball

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

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

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

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

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Virginia on Sunday, December 8. Tip is at 4:00ET on ACC Network.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Oregon (Battle 4 Atlantis)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-74 win over Oregon in the consolation game of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday afternoon.

Highlights:

 

  • Big time win for Carolina to close out the Battle 4 Atlantis with a 2-1 record. Heading into the upcoming Ohio State, (at) Virginia, (at) Gonzaga gauntlet, that 2-1 record provides a lot more cushion than 1-2 would have. Additionally, this win will be a nice resume-boost come March.
  • Congratulations to Coach Williams (877) for passing Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp (876) for 5th place on the all-time D1 coaching victories list.

  • The stat that made the difference in the game: Coming into today, Carolina was hitting 60.3% (82-for-136) of their free throws, good for 324th in the country. What has been a weakness all season, turned into a strength today: The Tar Heels hit 20 of their 21 charity stripe attempts (95.2%). This number included 11-for-11 in the second half.

  • The Tar Heel bench is beginning to look like the MASH unit on the sideline for the Looney Tunes in Space Jam. The infirmary has already claimed Jeremiah Francis, Anthony Harris, and Sterling Manley. Leaky Black sprained his foot against Michigan, and while he was able to start the game, was only able to play 8:30 (all in the first half). Garrison Brooks suffered a corneal abrasion (a surface scratch) against Michigan and had to wear what looked like shop glasses to protect his eye. Brandon Robinson suffered from Joel Berry syndrome: He stepped on a Ducks’ foot and re-tweaked his bad ankle. We await a status update on all three Tar Heels.
  • Garrison Brooks was able to overcome his Cyclops-like condition to play 32 minutes, score nine points (on 4-for-6 shooting), pull down 10 rebounds and block three shots. His combination inside with Armando Bacot is becoming a dominant force.
  • When Brandon Robinson tweaked his ankle, he immediately ran back to the locker room (2:30 into the second half) and appeared to be in a great deal of pain. However, he checked back in just 1:30 of game time later. Robinson was able to manage a career high 13 points, hit three three-pointers, dish four assists, block a shot, and grab two steals. Perhaps most importantly, Robinson played some key (and certainly painful) defensive possessions against Oregon’s dynamic point guard, Payton Pritchard. The most crucial of these possessions came with 20 seconds remaining and Carolina clinging to a three-point lead. Robinson did a marvelous job staying with Pritchard and forcing him into a deep three; however, discerning viewers caught Robinson crouching on the sideline in a great deal of pain after the possession.
  • Hard to believe we haven’t talked about Armando Bacot’s performance yet. Bacot, just like Brandon Robinson, set a career high with 23 points. He also had a career high six blocks. The combination of the points and his 12 rebounds (seven of which were offensive) gave Bacot his fourth double-double in five games. The big freshman was just four blocks shy of a triple-double. Most impressively Bacot, shooting just 41% on his free throws this season, hit nine out of 10. This performance at the line will be imperative for the type of inside game he plays.

  • Carolina has struggled with three-point shooting. The team got off to an encouraging 4-for-8 start today, made by four different players (Cole Anthony, Brandon Robinson, Justin Pierce, and Christian Keeling). Unfortunately, the Heels only hit two of their final 15 attempts and finished with a 26.1 percentage for the game.
  • The Tar Heels were saddled with a good deal of foul trouble. Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, and Garrison Brooks each had four fouls while Brandon Robinson and Justin Pierce each had three. Curiously, no other Tar Heels committed a foul.
  • Anthony’s foul trouble, paired with Leaky Black’s injury, forced KJ Smith into playing 8:16 (by far the most game time he’s seen as a Tar Heel). Smith didn’t contribute much on the stat line, did have two assists and just one turnover. One of the assists was a beautiful drop-off to Armando Bacot for a dunk. Anthony’s fourth foul came with 10:16 remaining but Smith’s steady play allowed the freshman to stay on the bench until after the under-4:00 media timeout.
  • The foul trouble and injuries also created some unconventional line-ups. When KJ Smith checked in at 10:16, he was paired with Brandon Huffman, Garrison Brooks, Christian Keeling, and Brandon Robinson.
  • Let’s talk about the blocks. Carolina had nine IN THE FIRST HALF. They finished the game with 12. The most impressive of these was the highlight of the game when 6’3” Cole Anthony went up to reject 6’7” Shakur Juiston in transition.

  • The second most impressive highlight was also from Mr. Anthony. Just a minute before his block, Anthony deflected an Oregon attempted inbounds pass, chased down the loose ball, and threw down a one-handed slam in transition.

  • Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce both had a more dynamic first half, finishing with seven points each. However, Carolina will need the two grad transfers to put together a complete game in order to achieve this teams’ goals. Keeling and Pierce combined to shoot 0-for-9 in the second half. Keeling, in particular, looks uncomfortable or unsure of his shot. Keeling comes in with the reputation of a scorer, and will hopefully soon settle in and find his touch (and confidence).
  • Here’s what a senior adds: With around 13:00 minutes remaining in the game, Keeling missed a three and in the rebound action the ball rolled toward the baseline. Brandon Robinson, bad ankle and all, was able to save the ball and throw it directly to Garrison Brooks for a lay-up plus an and-one foul shot (which Brooks made).
  • Now seven games into the season, Carolina is still yet to hit 80 points or shoot 50% from the floor. Quite the anomaly for a Roy Williams-coached club.
  • The events surrounding the final media timeout of the game were quite interesting. As previously mentioned, this is when Cole Anthony checked back in. Carolina had mounted a 10 point lead which Oregon whittled down to six. The play that led to the under-4:00 media timeout was an incorrectly adjudicated out-of-bounds call which gave Oregon the ball, to go with the momentum they had already built up. This seemingly incorrect decision contributed to the closing moments becoming more tense than they otherwise might’ve been. The other curious happening during this media timeout was that someone involved in the on-court timeout entertainment apparently stole the game ball.
  • While they were the flashiest, Cole Anthony’s dunk and block weren’t the most important moments of his play. Saddled with four fouls, the freshman scored six of Carolina’s final eight points after Oregon cut the lead to one with 1:30 left. Most impressively, four of these points were pressure-filled one-and-one free throws. The final two points were also one-and-one free throws, completed by none other than the gritty Brandon Robinson.

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

 

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Big 10 / ACC Challenge at home against Ohio State on Wednesday, December 4. Tip is at 9:30ET on ESPN.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Michigan (Battle 4 Atlantis)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 73-64 loss to Michigan in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving Day.

Highlights:

  • First off, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Despite a disappointing couple hours on the hardwood, thankfully this is a day where we are reminded of the things in life that truly matter. I pray that it was a day filled with family and friends (and eating way too much food).
  • As you can imagine from a loss in which Carolina was down by 24 at one juncture in the second half, there are many negatives to dwell on from the nine-point loss to Michigan; chief of which is the fact that the Tar Heels scored exactly two points in the first 9:00 of the second half. Michigan went on a 19-0 run during this stretch.
  • On a day like this, you also have to search for silver linings: From that 24-point deficit, rather than folding, Carolina fought back and eventually reduced the margin to as few as eight. Unfortunately, despite some opportunities to cut further into the lead, the offensive ineptitude displayed through most of the game (and season) once again reared its ugly head.

  • In a season already filled with free throw struggles, today’s performance at the line was statistically the worst of the year. Carolina shot 10-for-20 (50%). While it’s difficult to expect 100%, missing 10 free throws in a game you lose by nine is a tough pill to swallow.
  • One of the biggest issues today was defending screens. Michigan involved Carolina’s bigs in action at the top of the key and then drove at will to the basket. On too few occasions did another defender slide over to provide help defense.
  • At the same time, three different Tar Heels drew charges against the Wolverines – Christian Keeling, Andrew Platek, and Cole Anthony.
  • Rebounding, which has been an overwhelming advantage for Carolina, was less so today. The Heels won the rebounding category, but just 36-34. That is not enough separation to make up for a poor shooting performance like today’s.
  • To that end, Carolina once again failed to score 80 points or shoot 50% from the field.

  • Carolina reduced their number of turnovers from 20 on Wednesday down to just 11 on Thursday. However nine of those came from just three players – three each for Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, and Cole Anthony.
  • Carolina got off to a hot start, going on a 13-2 run after Michigan scored the first basket of the game. Four different Tar Heels scored on the first four possessions – Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson, Cole Anthony, and Armando Bacot. In fact, all five starters scored in the first seven minutes.
  • The Tar Heels fouled out Michigan’s dynamic playmaker Zavier Simpson with 5:11 left in the game. Simpson was limited to 17 minutes of action. Sadly, Carolina couldn’t take advantage of the senior point guard’s absence, because his back-up David DeJulius filled in more than admirably.
  • On the flip side, Carolina did a good job not fouling. They only committed one through the first 15:00 minutes of the second half. The flip side is that that number might be a by-product of not playing tough enough defense.
  • Similar to Coby White last year, Cole Anthony is learning his way as Carolina’s point guard. When to push. When to hunt his shot. When to get others involved. The same will be true next season when another freshman (Caleb Love) is likely the starting point guard. Patience.
  • No rest for the weary. The loss to Michigan precedes an extremely difficult five game gauntlet (Oregon, Ohio State, Virginia, Wofford, Gonzaga). If you take out the game against Wofford (3-4 record), that’s games against teams currently ranked #7, #8, #10, and #11 whose combined record is 27-1.

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 Battle 4 Atlantis against Oregon on Friday, November 29. Tip is at 11:30am ET on ESPN.

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Twitter: isaacschade
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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Alabama (Battle 4 Atlantis)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 76-67 win over Alabama in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas on Wednesday afternoon.

Highlights:

 

  • What a relief to see Brandon Robinson back in action. Stats aside, the most important thing Robinson brings is senior leadership; evidenced by Robinson getting in the face of superstar freshman Cole Anthony late in the game when Anthony was upset.
  • But let’s also not forget what Robinson will contribute statistically to this team. He scored the first points of the game on a three from the left wing. Robinson played 26 minutes, scored a career high 12 points, shot 3-for-6 from deep, had six rebounds, two assists, and just one turnover.

  • Here’s Robinson talking about his return:
  • Having another reliable body in the backcourt also lowers the number of minutes necessary for other Tar Heels to play. This is particularly important in a three-games-in-three-days tournament. Cole Anthony, in particular, played a season-low 32 minutes.
  • With the victory, Coach Williams ties Adolph Rupp for fifth on the all-time list with 876 career victories. Congratulations to Coach!

  • Given the Tar Heels’ early-season offensive struggles, finding ways to steal extra possessions is imperative. One such way is rebounding. Wrap your mind around what Carolina had already accomplished coming into today’s game:
    • 25 RPG (1st in nation)
    • 25 D-RPG (1st in nation)
    • +19.5 Rebound margin (1st in nation)
    • 00 O-RPG (T-9th in nation)
  • Today’s results against a similarly strong rebounding Alabama team will only grow Carolina’s advantages in those categories: 60 total rebounds, 37 defensive rebounds, 23 offensive rebounds, and +29 rebounding margin. For context, while Carolina had 23 offensive rebounds, Alabama managed just 23 DEFENSIVE rebounds.
  • Each starter had at least six rebounds and every player who played at least one minute had two or more rebounds.

  • For the first time all season, Carolina allowed a team to shoot over 40% in a half. Alabama shot 43.8% in the second half (14-32). However, Carolina still hasn’t allowed an opponent to shoot 40% for the entire game.
  • This defensive effort is important, because the Tar Heels have failed to reach 80 points in any game this season. Bama was the first team to break the 65-point barrier against Carolina, scoring 67.
  • Free throw shooting continues to be a bugaboo. Carolina shot 61.9% (13-21) for the game. The team is shooting 62.1% (72-116) on the season.
  • Turnovers have been another Achilles heel. The team committed 20 today. Six from Cole Anthony. Five from Garrison Brooks. During one stretch of the first six minutes of the game, the Tar Heels had four straight turnovers.
  • As seems to always happen, a shooter went nuts against the Heels. Alabama’s John Petty, Jr. hit five threes in the first half, accounting for 15 of his teams’ 31 points in that 20 minutes. As a team, the Crimson Tide shot 5-for-10 from deep in the second half.
  • Four Tar Heels scored in double-figures. Garrison Brooks tied a career high with 20, 13 for Cole Anthony, while Brandon Robinson (career high) and Armando Bacot each had 12. Leaky Black was on the door step with nine points (and added nine rebounds).
  • Armando Bacot secured his third straight double-double. This time he had the aforementioned 12 points (all in the second half) and grabbed a career high 15 rebounds.

  • The “tip-out” is a staple of Carolina’s offense. The Heels had four successful tip-outs today, three of which came during free throw rebounding action.
  • The highlight of the game came on the baseline out-of-bounds (BLOB) play immediately following the second half under-4:00 media timeout. Leaky Black set a great pick to free Garrison Brooks for a vicious one-handed alley-oop jam off the Cole Anthony inbound pass.

  • Andrew Platek continues to do positive things. With 5:30 left in the first half, he outran and overmatched a Crimson Tide player for an offensive rebound. He found Garrison Brooks in the lane for the bucket.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the semifinal of the Battle 4 Atlantis against Michigan on Thanksgiving Day. The Tar Heels and Wolverines play for the third time in the past three years, having split the previous two. Tip is at 1:30ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Elon

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 75-61 home win over Elon on Wednesday night in the Smith Center.

Condensed Game:

Shorter Highlights:

  • Elon led this game 32-33 at halftime. Carolina opened up the second half with an 8-0 run which extended to a 16-2 run, and eventually 21-5 for a 53-38 lead. At that point it appeared the Tar Heels would run away with the game; building as big as a 16-point lead with 5:50 remaining. But Elon stripped the lead to seven in the waning minutes, before Carolina pushed back to the final 14-point cushion. This type of “cruise control” down the stretch is not an option for the 2019-20 iteration of the Tar Heels.
  • The schedule is about to get much more difficult. Next up is Alabama. Then Iowa State or Michigan. Then Gonzaga (#8), Southern Miss, Seton Hall (#13) or Oregon (#11). Then Ohio State (#10). Then at Virginia (#7). After a (hopeful) breather at home against Wofford is at Gonzaga (#8) and UCLA. Yikes. That means four of the next seven games could be against top 10 teams.
  • The Tar Heels had some obscene numbers in the frontcourt categories. Carolina outrebounded Elon by 31 (THIRTY-ONE!). The tally was 56-25. Additionally, Carolina held a 46-14 advantage on points in the paint.
  • With Cole Anthony struggling to score tonight (which was bound to happen eventually), another player had to step up offensively. What a perfect time for Armando Bacot’s breakout game. The freshman big man finished with a career high in points (22) and rebounds (14). He now has back-to-back double-doubles. The Tar Heels will need this consistency in the aforementioned upcoming stretch against higher-level competition.
  • It seemed like Elon was going to set the world on fire after hitting their first five shots (four of which were three-pointers), the Phoenix went just 5-for-22 the rest of the half; including not making a field goal from 9:42-2:03.
  • Elon’s shooting woes caused them to be the latest victim against Carolina’s defense. Get this: no opponent has shot 40% or better on field goals in a single half so far this season. Here are the numbers to prove it:
    • Notre Dame (11-34 | 32.2% and 13-34 | 38.2%)
    • UNC-Wilmington (12-34 | 35.3% and 13-38 | 34.2%)
    • Gardner-Webb (10-27 | 37.0% and 11-30 | 36.7%)
    • Elon (10-27 | 37.0% and 10-36 | 27.8%)
  • An anomaly to the early season: Carolina has not yet hit the 80-point mark in a game (76, 78, 77, 75). Conversely, none of Carolina’s opponents have scored more than 65 (65, 62, 61, 61).

  • Free throw shooting still needs work. Tonight Carolina was 14-for-23, 60.9%
  • Bacot teamed with his frontcourt counterpart Garrison Brooks to score nearly half (36) of Carolina’s 75 points. No other Tar Heels scored in double-figures.
  • Cole Anthony came ever-so-close to recording just the third triple-double in Carolina history. He finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. For the record, Jason Capel and Brendan Haywood were the others to do it, and both happened within 13 days of each other in the 2000-01 season.

  • The Cole Anthony “rebound-and-run” is a great fast break and should pay dividends all season long. A couple examples from tonight’s game were a pitch ahead to a streaking Andrew Platek for a lay-up and a dish to Christian Keeling for a three.
  • The team is still learning to play defense together, but they are quite obviously buying-in on the defensive end. Some first half examples: Platek rebound in traffic with 13:00 remaining, block and save by Anthony at 10:30 left, keeping the dribbler in front and blocking his shot by Keeling at 5:30, nice footwork by Bacot after getting switched onto a guard with 4:39 left, and Cole Anthony drew an incredible charge on a one-on-one fast break with 4:21 before halftime. Here is the charge:

  • Kenny Smith, Jr. entered the game with 1:30 remaining and Carolina holding a nine-point lead. An interesting move from Coach Williams to get the point guard some “game pressure” action. Certainly a forward-looking move.
  • Still no Brandon Robinson. Coach Williams mentioned in his radio show this week that he would love to get Robinson some game action before the Bahamas trip, but it wasn’t meant to be. The depleted Tar Heels’ line-up could certainly use his presence for the three-games-in-three-days slate during Thanksgiving week.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Battle 4 Atlantis, in the Bahamas. First game is against Alabama on Wednesday at 2:30ET on either ESPN or ESPN 2.

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Gardner-Webb

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-61 home win over Gardner-Webb on Friday night in Chapel Hill.

Condensed Game:

Shorter Highlights:

  • With the win, Coach Williams is in sole possession of 6th place on the all-time Division I wins list with 874. Next up is Adolph Rupp (5th place – 876) followed by the one-and-only Dean Smith, in 4th place with 879.

  • What was a tight three-point lead at half time ballooned to a 14-point lead early in the second half behind an 11-0 spurt for Carolina out of halftime. While Gardner-Webb cut the lead to as few as four in the second half, the game never felt in doubt.
  • Cole Anthony’s double-double streak to start his career ended tonight, but that allowed Armando Bacot to record his first truly impactful game of the season. There was concern through the week whether Bacot would be available after suffering a head injury last week against UNC-Wilmington. Not only did Bacot play, but he recorded 12 points (on an effective nine shots) and 11 rebounds for his first career double-double.

  • While Mr. Anthony did not get a double-double, he did score 28 points, 11 of which came at the free throw line. He also showed off an array of silly basketball skills that one human shouldn’t be allowed to possess. Here are some examples:
  • Anthony has a knack for using his hands extremely well on defense. On the second offensive possession Anthony lost the ball but got back on defense and stripped the ball away from the defender. On another play, he was beat by his man in the half-court but reached over the ball handler’s head to pin the ball against his chest and ultimately out of bounds to Carolina.
  • Here’s another example: It’s not often you see your shooting guard throw an alley-oop to your point guard, but such is life when Cole Anthony is your point guard. Late in the game, with the Heels on the break, Christian Keeling threw the lob to Anthony for the emphatic flush. For your viewing pleasure:

  • How about one more example: Cole Anthony is a very nice safety net in late shot clock situations. One instance in particular, late in the shot clock Anthony had the ball on the left wing. Everyone in the Smith Center and all the fine people watching at home knew what was coming. Yet even with two Gardner-Webb players bearing down on him, Cole Anthony buried a three.
  • Anthony and Bacot combined to score 40 of the 77 points (I’ll save you the trouble of pulling out your calculator – that’s more than half). You love to see that type of immediate offensive production from your freshmen. But more consistent threats will have to emerge for the Tar Heels to reach the heights they all want to reach.
  • You know that thing of how Carolina usually dominates on the glass? Tonight was no different. The Heels were +19 in rebounding margin with the totals sitting at 44-23.
  • Gardner-Webb struggled to score early in both halves. Identically so, in fact. The Runnin’ Bulldogs first points of each 20-minute segment came with 15:26 remaining.
  • To that end, Carolina certainly has things to work on, on the defensive side of the ball. However, Carolina has held each of its first three opponents to under 40% shooting. All six halves and all three games in total have been under 40% field goal shooting. Tallied together, Carolina’s opponents have shot 70-197 (35.5%) on field goals.
  • One thing is clear early on about Justin Pierce: he has taken Roy Williams’ exhortation to pound the offensive glass to heart. The graduate transfer currently leads Carolina with eight offensive rebounds.
  • Garrison Brooks wasn’t as productive tonight as he has been in the first couple games. He did, however, have a steady six points, six rebounds, and five assists. The numbers dip tonight can be attributed to foul trouble, which appeared to prevent Brooks from ever getting into a steady flow.
  • Speaking of Brooks, he apparently must have drunk some Luke-Maye-improve-your-free-throw-shooting juice. Maye showed steady growth through his career (42.9%-57.9%-62.4%-77.4%). Brooks has done the same, going from 58.7% his freshman year, to 63.9% last year, and is currently shooting 82.4% on the young season.
  • On a similar note, the Tar Heels were much improved tonight from the line, thanks in large part to Anthony’s 11-for-13 performance. After shooting 58.8% and 53.3% from the line in the first two games, Carolina bounced back to shoot 76% tonight.
  • Christian Keeling had his most productive game as a Tar Heel. He missed the first shot of the game and air-balled another three-pointer a couple minutes later. Coach Williams continues to show perseverance in the matter, running a set play for Keeling to start the second half. Keeling buried a 15-footer to start the second half scoring. Keeling scored nine, had four rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal – all highs for his Carolina career. On of the assists was this great pitch-ahead to Garrison Brooks:
  • Oh yes, about one of those Christian Keeling blocks. With just under two minutes left in the game, Keeling chased down the play and swatted the ball from behind with authority. With Anthony and Keeling both measuring at 6’3”, it gives Carolina a nice size advantage on the perimeter. Here’s the block:
  • The second half was extremely foul-laden. Watching the game, it felt reminiscent of the second half of the 2017 National Championship game.
  • Andrew Platek needs to improve defensively in terms of keeping the dribbler in front of him. That said, he was everywhere on the court. He didn’t necessarily light up the scoreboard, but he did contribute nine points. He got loose balls. He made solid outlet passes. He showed veteran leadership, talking to Christian Keeling after a play. Platek’s body language shows that he’s becoming more confident on court – willing and ready to take a shot (like the one that pushed the lead back to seven after Gardner-Webb had just cut it to four), drive to the basket, or rotate around on help defense.
  • One of the funnier moments of the game occurred with 14:40 remaining. Bacot established great post position. Leaky fed him. Turnaround right hand baby hook. Good. Coach raised his hands for a good while as if to say, “Do you see what good things happen when you get the ball inside?” The gesture was certainly not lost on the Tar Heels.
  • Update on “Injury Watch 2019”: Sterling Manley, Jeremiah Francis, and Anthony Harris are all still in street clothes. Brandon Robinson was in uniform, but isn’t expected back til around the trip to the Bahamas. Outside of Robinson, Coach Williams has said that Harris is the closest to coming back.

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 Elon on Wednesday, November 20. Tip is at 8:30ET on ACC Network Extra.

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

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ UNC-Wilmington

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-62 road win over UNC-Wilmington on Friday night.

Highlights:

 

  • While it hasn’t always been pretty in these first two games (which is to be expected given all the newcomers and injuries), Carolina is now 2-0, with an ACC Conference win and a true road win on their resume.
  • Same as last year’s games to start the season at Wofford and Elon, you aren’t going to find many (if ANY) other major conference teams who will voluntarily play a true road game in a tiny gym at a place like UNC-Wilmington. This is the genius of Roy Williams: Go play in a tough place in November to prepare your team for the rigors of road games (10 of them now) during conference play. There’s a reason the Tar Heels almost always have a winning road record.
  • Against Notre Dame, only seven players saw significant court time. Cole Anthony played 37 minutes and Garrison Brooks played 39. This was due to a combination of playing an ACC opponent to start the season and injuries to multiple Tar Heels who would otherwise be on the court. Tonight’s game, plus the next two (Gardner-Webb, Elon) should all allow Roy Williams to tinker with line-ups, get more players into the game, and not have to play anyone 35-plus minutes.
  • Some of that planned minute-management went down the drain tonight when Armando Bacot took an elbow to the head midway through the first half and was held out the rest of the game. According to Coach Williams’ postgame comments, team medical personnel are concerned about a potential concussion. Here’s video of the injury:

  • Getting back to odd line-ups, remember to withhold your exasperation as you see strange combinations playing together. That’s precisely what these games are for. As always, Coach Williams is preparing his team for March, not November and December. Finding the right mix of personnel on the court now is essential for ultimate success later.
  • Three different Tar Heels logged double-doubles: Cole Anthony (20 points, 10 rebounds), Justin Pierce (18 points, 12 rebounds), and Garrison Brooks (18 points, 12 rebounds).

  • While it’s hard to believe, this is actually Brooks’ first career double-double. He was one rebound shy against Notre Dame. If Brooks can average around 10 and 10, combined with his stellar defensive play, he will put his team in a good position to win.

  • While Anthony’s showing wasn’t as dynamic or efficient as his first collegiate game, he did finish with the previously mentioned points and rebounds, plus three assists, two steals and one block. His main issue tonight was inefficient shooting; 3-for-12 on two, 4-for-11 on threes and curiously 2-for-7 from the free throw line. And he can also do this:
  • In fact, free throws are an issue that just about the entire team needs to work on. Through two games, Carolina is shooting just 26-47 (55.3%) as a team. Oddly enough, other than Andrew Platek who is perfect on two attempts, Garrison Brooks (a career 61.6% free throw shooter) is leading the team (10-for-13, 76.9%).
  • The Tar Heels hoped for more production out of their grad transfers tonight and they got it in spades from Justin Pierce, who did a little bit of everything tonight, including cementing his double-double before the halftime buzzer sounded. Pierce’s points and rebounds have already been mentioned, but what was impressive was the way in which he went about both. The points came on an efficient 7-for-12 shooting, including 4-for-7 from deep. Of his 12 rebounds, half were of the offensive variety, which you know his coach loves. Pierce also chipped in two assists and a block, while not turning the ball over. Here’s Pierce talking about his performance:
  • Christian Keeling, on the other hand, hasn’t gotten untracked yet. He appears to be pressing too hard. He’ll find his way though. He’s too good of a scorer to be held down for long. Stick with him Tar Heel fans!
  • Carolina enjoyed a size advantage over UNC-Wilmington, but was unable to take full advantage. The Heels did win the rebound battle, but only by a margin of six (54-48). The Seahawks actually outscored Carolina in the paint, 34-30.
  • Carolina is doing a good job rebounding with a balanced approach. In both games, at least four players have had seven or more rebounds.

  • After surrendering 18 turnovers against Notre Dame, Carolina was able to cut that number in more than half tonight (eight). No single player had more than two turnovers.
  • Andrew Platek has quietly put together back-to-back solid performances. He is averaging seven points, had a career high four assists tonight, and looks much more confident than at any point in his first two seasons. He will need to continue to play “high IQ basketball minutes”, especially while other members of the backcourt rotation work to get healthy.

  • Brandon Huffman played 7:30 tonight. He had four points and four boards. If Sterling Manley is unable to play this year, either Huffman or Walker Miller will have to provide valuable minutes. Huffman seems to be in the lead at this early point in the season.
  • Curiously, for a large chunk of the first half, Carolina had taken more threes than twos. For example, 11 of the first 21 shots were behind the arc. Some of this is Bacot’s absence, some of it is 2019’s style of play; but whatever the case the Heels need to stop settling and get the ball inside more. That’s the progression of the season.
  • The Heels have had some cold shooting halves, particularly the first 20 minutes. Carolina has not eclipsed 32% field goal percentage in the first half of either game thus far. As Cole Anthony settles in, as Brandon Robinson comes back from injury, when Christian Keeling starts to find his mark, when the ball goes inside more, these numbers should start to change.
  • Milestone win:

 

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 Gardner-Webb on Friday, November 15. Tip is at 9:00ET on ACC Network (TV) and the TuneIn App (Radio).

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

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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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Brandon Robinson Injury Update and Repercussions

North Carolina senior guard Brandon Robinson sprained his right ankle with 12:19 remaining in the first half of the Tar Heels’ lone public exhibition Friday night against Winston-Salem State. The injury occurred after Robinson blocked a shot and a Winston-Salem player rolled up on his ankle upon landing back on the court.

According to a press release from the University of North Carolina, “X-rays taken on Saturday were negative for a fracture. There is no timetable for [Robinson’s] return.”

Robinson started the exhibition game and had already scored eight points by the time the injury occurred. The Douglasville, GA native, along with junior Garrison Brooks, brings the greatest level of returning experience and maturity to the 2019-20 Tar Heels.

The first regular season game is on Wednesday, November 6 against Notre Dame in the Smith Center.

What does the injury mean for the beginning of the regular season?

Starting Line-Up

In the exhibition game, the other starters were Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot. Graduate transfer Justin Pierce started in Robinson’s place in the second half.

Pierce and sophomore Leaky Black (this year’s “Danny-Green-Theo-Pinson-jack-of-all-trades-Swiss-army-knife” player) are the two most likely candidates to start at the ‘3’.

Two factors point to Pierce receiving the starting nod on Wednesday against Notre Dame:

First, Coach Williams has mentioned that the coaches are slowly working Black back into playing form after his severe ankle injury last season against Georgia Tech.

Second, with Seventh Woods transferring to South Carolina and freshman guards Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis still recovering from high school injuries, Black is the primary point guard back-up to Cole Anthony. Therefore, the coaching staff will want to preserve as much of his energy as possible.

My prediction is that Pierce starts, but that Black will receive ‘starter’s minutes’.

Join the Club

The Tar Heels are already without the aforementioned Harris and Francis, as well as junior big man Sterling Manley and junior guard KJ Smith.

Robinson will likely join them in street clothes for an unknown period of time.

It’s a good thing Carolina has depth because it will be tested.

Depth

What about that depth? As already discussed, Robinson’s absence means more minutes for both Pierce and Black. The other player who should see an increase in minutes is junior Andrew Platek. Christian Keeling already figured to play a large share of Carolina’s 200 available minutes in a game, but he will likely see an uptick for the time being as well.

Affects

Early season injuries to experienced players can often be a blessing in disguise as they allow less-experienced players to gain valuable minutes. However, in a season with new faces everywhere, the on-court consistency that a veteran like Robinson provides is invaluable. Hopefully he can provide the same leadership from the bench for however like he is sidelined.

Team Chemistry

It’s no secret that Roy Williams teams take the early months of seasons to build chemistry and figure out roles and fit; sometimes to the detriment of the win column. Depending on the length of Robinson’s absence, it could be difficult to work him back into a team that has already found its way.

Hopefully the ankle heals quickly and we get to see a long and fruitful senior season from Brandon Robinson.

 

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Winston-Salem State (Exhibition)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 96-61 home win over Winston-Salem State on Friday night in the Tar Heels’ lone public exhibition game.

Highlights:

  • Let’s not bury the lede: Brandon Robinson’s ankle is the biggest question on everyone’s mind. With 12:19 left in first half, Robinson blocked a shot and the Winston-Salem State player rolled up on Robinson’s right ankle. Robinson never returned to the bench (which is not surprising given the typical caution shown in these situations in an exhibition). In his post-game press conference, Coach Williams said Robinson would have x-rays on Saturday morning.

  • Add B-Rob to the litany of injuries. The 2019 Tar Heels should have depth and talent. But they are banged up right now. Entering tonight’s action Sterling Manley, Anthony Harris, Jeremiah Francis, and KJ Smith were already out of commission.
  • Before his injury, Robinson played confidently and aggressively. He found his way to the free throw line for six shots in the first seven minutes of game time.
  • Three rule changes to be aware of heading into the season:
    • After an offensive rebound, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds instead of a full 30.
    • The three-point line moves from 20’ 9” to the International (and very specific) distance of 22’ 1 ¾” straightaway and 21’ 7/8” in the corners.
    • Since the 2015-16 season, coaches had been disallowed from calling live-ball timeouts, but they will now be able to do so in the last two minutes of regulation and any overtime periods.
  • Remember that with the ACC Network also comes a 20-game conference schedule. In order to help promote the new network, the powers that be decided that each team (except guess who) would start the season with a conference game and play another early in December (at Virginia for Carolina).
  • Over the past three season, the Heels have ranked 1st, 3rd, and 1st nationally in rebound margin. Will this trend continue? Although it was against an overmatched opponent, Carolina out-rebounded Winston-Salem State by 23 (56-33). Returning to a traditional two big-man line-up should help. As should having strong rebounding guards like Leaky Black and Cole Anthony.

  • We expend a lot of energy in the off-season wondering who will start. The answer (at least for Friday night), was what most people anticipated: Cole Anthony (1), Christian Keeling (2), Brandon Robinson (3), Garrison Brooks (4), Armando Bacot (5). Justin Pierce started in place of the injured Robinson in the second half.
  • First off the bench were Andrew Platek, Justin Pierce, and Leaky Black after the first dead ball timeout.
  • Carolina drew at least three charges, the first of which came from Cole Anthony. That’s the type of play that will continue to earn the trust and respect of teammates.

  • An early playing time observation: Looks like Platek will get more playing time this year.
  • With Seventh Woods’ departure to South Carolina, the back-up point guard minutes were up for grabs. Black played those minutes tonight and did well.
  • Justin Pierce is a Tar Heel already – he missed a lay-up off a nice pass from Cole Anthony but still pointed to Anthony for the nice look. He didn’t miss this one though:

  • Roy Williams, while plenty of upset about many aspects of the game, must be happy to have a two-big starting line-up again. Brooks and Bacot both registered double-doubles. Additionally, Brandon Huffman wasn’t far off, with eight each of points and rebounds…in just 11 minutes.
  • Speaking of filling stats, Leaky Black and Cole Anthony are both on triple-double alert. Anthony finished with 11 points, five rebounds, seven assists, one block and four turnovers. Black had nine points, five rebounds, seven assists, one block, one steal, and one turnover.

  • After being held scoreless in the first half, Christian Keeling exploded for 14 in the final 20 minutes.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the first game of the season (and the first conference game!) in the Smith Center against Notre Dame on Wednesday, November 6. Tip is at 7:00ET on ACC Network.

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