Tag Archives: UNC

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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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Auburn (NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 97-80 season-ending loss to Auburn on Friday evening in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • What a fun season it’s been. This team really took us on a ride; rounding into form by winning 17 out of 19 games prior to this loss. That streak lead to a shared ACC regular season championship. The only two losses in those 19 games were to fellow one seeds Duke and Virginia.
  • The abrupt and harsh ending that the NCAA Tournament delivers is always jarring. The unexpected loss will put a sour taste in the mouth of Tar Heel fans for some time. Seeing Kenny Williams on the sideline in tears after checking out for the final time is one of the most heartbreaking images you’ll ever see.
  • Who would have thought that the unheralded class of Kenny Williams and Luke Maye would wind up as one of the most accomplished classes in the history of North Carolina basketball? But that’s where we find ourselves. This is a credit to the coaching staff. It’s high time that the college basketball world begins to fully appreciate Roy Williams for the coach that he is.

  • While not as talented as the 2012 team, the external injury circumstances that led to that teams’ demise seem to have struck again this year at just the wrong time in the form of Nassir Little and Cam Johnson’s illness, Coby White’s tweaked ankle, and Kenny Williams’ hamstring.
  • At the same time, those are excuses and take away from Auburn’s three-point barrage in the second half. Fully healthy or not, Carolina simply didn’t have the defensive answers to slow down what the Tigers did after halftime.
  • Going back to the illnesses / injuries, it was clear that Little and Johnson were not themselves on Friday night. Little did not have his usual otherworldly explosion to the rim – he was blocked twice on dunks that would never have happened on a normal night. Johnson, will still tying for the team lead in scoring and having three steals, seemed a step behind all night. After tweaking his ankle five minutes before halftime, Coby White stayed in the game but didn’t possess his usual blow-by capabilities.

  • By hitting two three-pointers in his final game, Cam Johnson finished the season with 96, the second most in a single season in Carolina history. What a pick-up he was for Roy Williams’ club over the previous two years. With all due respect to Pittsburgh and their program, Johnson is a Tar Heel.
  • The Tar Heels finish the season with 312 made three-pointers as a team, the most in program history for a single season.
  • Unfortunately, the story on this night was Auburn’s three-point shooting. After Carolina did a reasonable job guarding deep shots in the first half, the Tigers exploded for 12 threes after halftime (on just 18 attempts).
  • Coming into the game, rebounding appeared to be a plus for the Tar Heels, while three-point shooting was a plus for the Tigers. Curiously, Auburn matched Carolina in rebounds in the first half (21) while Carolina matched Auburn in threes in the first half (five).
  • With many players struggling to make baskets, it was great to see Kenny Williams shoot well in his final collegiate game. The senior finished with 10 points, including hitting two threes. The Tar Heels will struggle to replace his defensive grit and determination next season.
  • Hard to believe but Luke Maye finishes his career with the 10th most rebounds in Carolina history (942). He also recorded 377 rebounds this season, the seventh most in a single season in the Tar Heel record book. Maye is the only player in program history to have two entries in the single-season top 10 rebounding list. Maye finishes his career tied with Kris Lang for 39th on the all-time Carolina scoring list with 1392 points.
  • After dominating their first two NCAA Tournament opponents on the glass, Carolina could not take advantage of a poor rebounding Auburn team, only holding a 40-36 advantage in that category.
  • What contrasting styles between the North Carolina / Auburn game and the Texas Tech / Michigan game from Thursday night. The Heels and Tigers had combined for 14 points just 1:45 into the game. The Red Raiders and Wolverines took 10:39 to achieve the same.
  • Other than back-to-back ill-advised shots around the 6:00 mark, when Carolina seemed poised to make a last push, Brandon Robinson had another solid showing. He finished with nine points, hit two threes, grabbed four rebounds, had three assists, and zero turnovers (against a team build to force them). Robinson’s continued development over the summer will be an important key to Carolina’s success in 2019-20.
  • Carolina didn’t play a great first half, but did enough to put themselves in position to take over in the second half (similar to the Iona game). However, a 14-0 run from Auburn that spanned the end of the first half and beginning of the second half gave the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish. The Heels never again got any closer than six.
  • The part of the game that you hate to see: Auburn’s Chuma Okeke suffered a non-contact injury to his left knee with 8:08 left in the game. Okeke’s knee buckled as he drove to the basket. While he eventually hobbled off the court under his own power, the injury had the appearance of an ACL issue. Best wishes to Okeke in his recovery.

Roy Williams, Kenny Williams, Luke Maye post-game press conference:

While there will sadly be no more Quick Hitters this season, stay tuned throughout the off-season for updates on recruiting decisions, potential transfers, NBA early entry decisions, roster composition for 2019-20, and more.

On a personal note, thanks so much for continuing to read my work. I love getting to write about North Carolina basketball and would do it just for myself, but it’s an honor to do it for others as well. I’m so thankful for everyone who reaches out to say how much they enjoy reading. Your kindness is overwhelming.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Washington (NCAA Tournament – 2nd Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-59 win over Washington on Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • The Tar Heels advance to the Sweet 16 for the 29th time in program history; the most all-time. While a Sweet 16 appearance is not the ultimate goal, let’s keep it in perspective: There are only 16 of the 353 D1 men’s basketball teams still playing and Carolina is one of them. That never gets old. See for yourself:
  • Cameron Johnson made three more three-pointers to run his season total to 94. That ties him with Marcus Paige (2014-15) for the third most in a single season in Carolina history. In second place is Shammond Williams with 95.
  • Luke Maye just keeps piling up career accolades. Against Washington, Maye set NCAA Tournament career highs in both points (20) and rebounds (14). His 20 points move him into 40th on the all-time Carolina scoring list (1379). His 14 rebounds move him into 11th on the all-time Carolina rebounding list (935). If Maye grabs seven rebounds against Auburn, he’ll move past Eric Montross into 10th.
  • Wrap your brain around this: Luke Maye is the only person in program history to have two entries on the Carolina single season top ten rebounding list. Maye now has 370 rebounds this season; ninth-most in a single season for a Tar Heel. The next person Maye would pass on that list is…himself from last season. Depending on how far the Heels go in the NCAA Tournament, Maye has a shot at recording just the second 400 rebound season in Carolina history (Brice Johnson – 416 in 2015-16).
  • The Tar Heels have been dominant on the boards thus far in the NCAA Tournament. Iona? Doubled them up (52-26). Washington? Doubled them up as well (48-24). That’s a total of 100 rebounds for Carolina vs. just 50 for their opponents.
  • A couple scary injury moments in this one. Garrison Brooks took an elbow to the mouth in the first half, which damaged two of his teeth and required stitches. Brooks missed the rest of the first half while being attended to, but came back out and had a solid second half. Not coincidentally, thanks to Brooks’ steady defense, his first half absence was the only point at which it seemed like Washington could potentially make a run.

  • The other injury occurred in the opening moments of the second half when Kenny Williams got a steal on Washington’s first possession. Unfortunately, he appeared to tweak his left hamstring. After being evaluated, Williams eventually returned to the game. Thankfully he has several days to recover before playing Auburn on Friday night.
  • Don’t look now, but Nassir Little is rising (#NassirRising). With 19 points against Iona and 20 against Washington, he has his highest two game scoring output of his Tar Heel career. There was a stretch in the second half when he scored 11 straight for Carolina, including a monster block.
  • Coby White broke out of his shooting slump early and often. He hit 4-for-5 from three in the first 11 minutes of the game. White finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists, a steal and several drives to the hoop against a defense geared at “stopping three-pointers and layups”.
  • White wasn’t the only player to shoot better from deep. As a team the Tar Heels shot 9-for-21 (42.9 percent) from three, the best percentage since playing Wake Forest on February 16.
  • As per usual, Carolina played great zone offense, sharing the ball and operating out of the opening at the free throw line. Quietly, Cam Johnson had seven assists and zero turnovers. This was the most assists he’s had as a Tar Heel and tied his career high.
  • Once or twice a game, Carolina will execute a picture-perfect fast break. With 11:20 to go before halftime, Nassir Little grabbed a rebound, threw a long outlet pass to Cameron Johnson, who hit Brandon Robinson for the lay-up.
  • This Tar Heel team is really difficult to guard because the scoring comes from so many different players and in so many different ways. In five of the last six games, at least four Tar Heels scored in double figures.
  • Washington scored the first bucket of the second half to cut the Carolina lead to five. From there, the Heels went on a 13-0 run over the next 4:30 to push the lead to 18. Washington would never again get within single digits. That is how an experienced team closes an NCAA Tournament game.

Roy Williams, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament against Auburn on Friday, March 29. Tip is at 7:29ET on TBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Iona (NCAA Tournament – 1st Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 88-73 win over Iona on Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Highlights:

  • With Luke Maye’s 16 points tonight, three different Tar Heels have scored 500 points this year (Cam Johnson – 580, Coby White – 530, Maye – 502). That’s happened seven previous times in program history. Those seasons each worked out pretty well: 3 National Championships (1992-93, 2008-09, 2016-17), 1 National Runner-Up (1980-81), 2 Final Fours (1994-95, 1997-98), and 1 Elite Eight (1986-87).
  • Roy Williams is now 29-0 all-time in the 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament.

  • Cam Johnson has made 91 three-pointers this season. He is just the fifth Tar Heel to hit 90 threes in a single season. Justin Jackson (105), Shammond Williams (95), Marcus Paige (94), and Joel Berry (93) are the other four.

  • Coby White now has one or fewer turnovers in four of the last five games. He had achieved this just three times in his 28 games prior.

  • At halftime, both teams had 14 defensive rebounds. The difference was that Carolina also had 14 offensive rebounds to Iona’s two. The Gaels only managed 10 more rebounds the rest of the game, none of which were offensive. Overall, Carolina doubled up Iona on the glass 52-26 and had 25 second chance points to the Gaels’ three.
  • Interestingly, no Tar Heel had double-digit rebounds, but all five starters had between six and nine.
  • This projected to be a high-scoring game with both teams in the top-50 in tempo according to KenPom. However, Iona decided to slow the game down and try to take Carolina out of transition. It worked in the first half with the Heels only scoring two fast break points in that stretch.
  • A big part of why Iona’s plan worked is that they hit 10 three-pointers in the first half while Carolina struggled to run offense against the Gaels’ match-up zone. The second half, however, was a different story. The Gaels hit their second three-pointer of the second half, before missing their next 12 by which point the Heels were up by 18.
  • It’s always a question how freshmen will respond to their first NCAA Tournament game. While most of the team was struggling in the first half, it was Coby White and Nassir Little who led the way offensively. White scored eight of the team’s first 12. Nassir Little picked up his second foul with 8:49 left before halftime, but stayed in the game and proceeded to score Carolina’s next three buckets. Little finished second on the team in scoring with 19 (behind Johnson’s 21) on an efficient 9-for-13 shooting.

  • While being less of a factor than his classmates, Leaky Black saw his first game action since spraining his ankle on January 29 against Georgia Tech. He secured three rebounds in the last four minutes of the first half and played well other than a turnover in the closing seconds before halftime.
  • The seniors were the primary culprits of the first-half woes. The three combined to shoot 6-for-22, including 1-for-8 from three point range. But then the second half happened. After halftime, Carolina went on an 11-3 run to grab a 44-41 lead. All 11 of those points were scored by the senior trio, who shot a combined 10-for-15 (4-for-6 from deep) in the second half. After the 11-3 run, Iona scored the next two points before the Heels reeled off a backbreaking 19-4 run to essentially put the game out of reach.
  • It was another balanced scoring night for the Tar Heels, with five Tar Heels in double figures and Kenny Williams chipping in eight.
  • Speaking of Kenny Williams, keep an eye on his right knee. He checked out of the game with just a couple minutes remaining and had the training staff check him out.

  • The second round will be an interesting match-up against Washington, whose head coach, Mike Hopkins, was a long-time Syracuse assistant and runs Jim Boeheim’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense. It’s worth noting that since Syracuse came to the ACC, the Tar Heels are 8-1 against the Orange (the only loss coming in the teams’ first ACC match-up). In those games, the Tar Heels have averaged 20 assists per game and assisted on 69.2 percent of made field goals. In the three most recent meetings, those numbers jump to 21.3 assists per game, while assisting on an absurd 81.0 percent of made field goals.

Roy Williams, Nassir Little, Cameron Johnson postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Washington on Sunday, March 24. Tip is approximately 2:40ET (following Iowa/Tennessee) on CBS.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Duke (ACC Semifinal)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 74-73 loss to Duke on Friday night in the ACC Tournament semifinals.

Highlights:

 

  • Carolina might have lost this game (and what a game it was!), but if these Tar Heels aren’t worthy of a one seed, I don’t know what the committee is looking at.
  • It would have been obviously nice to win this game and wrap up a one seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the Tar Heels have to walk away from this one feeling like they didn’t play anywhere close to their best basketball and were still one play away from beating the most talented collection of college basketball players (notice I didn’t use the word team) in America. And, as a reminder, it’s incredibly hard to beat a team three times in a season.

 

 

 

 

  • Despite the missed shot from Coby White at the end of the game, did you catch what happened? As soon as the buzzer sounded, Seventh Woods ran directly to where White was to console his fellow point guard. That is TEAM. That is FAMILY.

 

 

 

  • Carolina shot just 4-for-26 from three. Two of those came in the first three minutes of the game. Not going to win many ball games that way. Several of the 22 misses were poor shot selection or settling when a potential better shot was available. For example, Cam Johnson had the shorter Jordan Goldwire on him, but Carolina only exploited this mismatch once. Additionally, the Heels had depth and conditioning on their side but got away from those things.
  • Anytime you lose a close game like this you remember the little things: Coby White uncharacteristically missing the front end of a 1-and-1. Carolina stripping the ball in the final two minutes, but it rolling right past everyone to a wide open lay-up for Jordan Goldwire. Carolina stopping Zion Williamson on Duke’s last possession, but allowing him the offensive rebound and put-back.
  • Carolina turned the ball over just eight times tonight. Over the last four games, the Heels have averaged 9.5 per game. With the fourth best pace in America, that’s an incredible number. Coby White did come back down to earth in the turnover department tonight, committing three.
  • UNC had a 13-point lead with 6:24 left before halftime. Zion Williamson immediately came down and hit a three (Duke’s first of the game) and by the time that halftime rolled around, Duke had tied the game at 44. It was likely in this stretch where the Heels had the mental lapses that ultimately cost them the game.
  • The Tar Heels won the rebounding battle 44-39, the offensive rebounding battle 16-10, and second chance points 16-12. Yet it felt like Duke killed Carolina in offensive rebounding and put-backs time after time, including the go-ahead (and eventual game-winning) bucket from Zion Williamson.
  • Kenny Williams did another remarkable job guarding RJ Barrett. He scored 15 points, but took 15 shots to do so. Williams didn’t have an incredible scoring night, but did contribute nine points (including the only three-pointer Carolina made in the second half), three assists and just one turnover.
  • As a team Carolina once again drew multiple offensive fouls on Duke, including two on Barrett that sent him to the bench in the first half.
  • Luke Maye had a double-double, 14 points and 13 rebounds. He is now the 12th member of the 900 rebound club in Carolina history. Maye sits at 912 rebounds right now and needs 30 more career rebounds to make it into the top ten (Eric “Big Grits” Montross is 10th with 941).
  • Uncharacteristically of a Roy Williams-coached basketball game, only eight players saw the court tonight: The usual five starters plus Nassir Little, Brandon Robinson, and Seventh Woods.

 

 

  • Similar to Thursday night, Cam Johnson got off to another hot start. He started off 3-for-3, including two threes, for Carolina’s first eight points. He scored 14 points in the first 8:10 and finished with 23 to lead the Heels in scoring. After going 5-for-5 from the free throw line, his percentage in those shots is back up into the 80 percent range.
  • Brandon Robinson had another productive night, in just eight minutes. He scored five points on 2-for-2 shooting, drew a charge, and had two assists.
  • There are so many big plays back and forth that could be detailed from the second half during which neither team led by more than four points over the final 9:30. In fact, the teams traded one point leads twice in the final 2:30. A great game, that didn’t end the way the Tar Heels wanted. But a reminder: The ACC Tournament is not the ultimate goal. In fact, you should also remember that each of Roy Williams’ three National Champion seasons at Carolina have come on the, ahem, heels of a semifinal loss in the ACC Tournament.

 

 

 

 

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game.

Next up is the NCAA Tournament starting on either Thursday, Marcy 21 or Friday, March 22. Opponent, date, tip time, and TV channel will be announced on Sunday, March 17 during the NCAA Selection Show on CBS, which starts at 6:00ET.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Louisville (ACC Quarterfinal)

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

Highlights:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

 

 

 

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

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