Tag Archives: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Syracuse (ACC Tournament – 2nd Round)

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 81-53 loss to Syracuse on Wednesday night in the ACC Tournament 2nd Round.

Highlights:

Condensed Game:

  • Tonight was a fitting end to one of the most confounding seasons in Carolina basketball history. The Heels turned in a lackluster performance, reminiscent of the Wake Forest game earlier in the season, and consequently faced their biggest deficit (30) in a season full of them. Syracuse jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back.
  • Carolina has played Syracuse 10 times since the Orange joined the ACC. The Heels’ assist totals in those 10 games are: 25, 19, 20, 25, 22, 18, 17, 24, 22, and 13 (the lone loss). In wins, Carolina has averaged 21.3 assists per game. In the lone loss, the total was 13 assists. With that in mind, the threshold of assists we were looking for tonight was around 15. Unfortunately, Carolina only managed nine.
  • After a nine game stretch in which Christian Keeling scored nine or more points in every outing, his career ends with just six points over his final three contests. In those three games he shot a combined 2-for-15, including 0-for-4 and zero points tonight. While it didn’t affect his performance in each of those three games, the ankle injury Keeling suffered yesterday certainly played a role in tonight’s scoreless effort.
  • After shooting so well during Carolina’s three-game winning streak, Cole Anthony went 9-for-34 (26.5%) in his final three collegiate games. In that same span he tallied 10 assists and 16 turnovers.
  • Carolina turned the ball over on two of their first three possessions and finished with 18 for the game. That number is exactly double their assist total (18 to nine) and just two shy of having as many turnovers as made baskets (18 to 20).
  • Carolina has often struggled from the free throw line this season, but thankfully ended on a high note, making 11 of 13 (84.6%).
  • Garrison Brooks’ streak of scoring 20 or more points ends at seven games. Brooks finished with a Carolina high 18 points tonight. The junior was in tears on the bench after checking out for the last time. You have to believe he will do everything he possibly can to ensure that next season is not a repeat of this one. Here’s an example of what we hope to see a lot of in 2020-21:

  • Armando Bacot was a couple points and rebounds shy of notching his third straight double-double (eight points, seven rebounds). He finishes his freshman campaign second all-time in Carolina history for double-doubles in a freshman season (11 to Antawn Jamison’s 13 in 1995-96).
  • Three point shooting had been a boon for Carolina over the last several games. Not so tonight. The Heels were 0-for-7 from deep in the first half and managed just two in the second half (one each from Black and Anthony) to finish 2-for-16.
  • The Heels suffered from several mental lapses. On three separate occasions in the game, Carolina fouled a three-point shooter. Twice in the first half, Carolina goaltended balls that weren’t going anywhere near falling through the hoop (Anthony and Black). You just can’t make mental mistakes like that and expect to win.
  • An early inauspicious sign for Carolina was Leaky Black and Brandon Robinson each picking up two fouls within the first four minutes of the game. Black picked up his third foul later in the first half. Unlike last night’s explosion, Robinson was never able to get on track and finished his final collegiate game scoring just four points, not hitting a three, not getting any assists, and committing four turnovers. Thankfully, Robinson has a career full of great memories, which will trump this one.
  • With 6:47 remaining in the first half, Leaky Black hit two free throws to cut the Syracuse lead down to four. From there Syracuse went on a 19-2 run (including a flagrant foul on Cole Anthony) to essentially put the game out of reach. From that 21-point halftime lead, Carolina never got closer than 16 points in the second half.
  • One of the few highlights of the night: With 7:15 remaining in the first half, Cole Anthony had a really nice spin move and lay-up to bring Carolina within six points of Syracuse. Unfortunately, the bad-decision making version of Anthony showed up on several occasions tonight as well. He hoisted several early shot clock threes as the game was getting out of hand, rather than working for the correct shot.
  • Carolina scored 22 points in the first half. Literally none of them were outside the paint (16 points in the paint, six free throws).
  • One thing I won’t miss about Cole Anthony is how often (and how demonstratively) he complains after being called for a foul. That’s just not a good way to ingratiate yourself to referees, especially when you have not yet earned the cache to do so.
  • In a shock to no one, Armando Bacot twisted his ankle late in the first half. Thankfully he was able to come back out and play the second half, but clearly wasn’t up to his usual level of play.
  • Syracuse just plain and simple out-hustled Carolina throughout the game. The Heels had nowhere near their usual crisp passing and effort displayed against Syracuse.
  • After scoring just two first half points, Leaky Black poured in 12 in the second half for a career high 14 total points.
  • Always hard to see seniors play their last game; especially those who have been a Tar Heel for four years (and contributed to a National Champion team). So first, a big thanks to Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce for coming to play their final collegiate season in Chapel Hill. It obviously didn’t turn out the way either player was hoping, but such is sports. Thanks to Robbie O’Han and Caleb Ellis for the hard work they put in to prepare the rotation regulars for games. Thanks to Shea Rush for four years of commitment and dedication to being part of this program. And finally, thanks to Brandon Robinson for a memorable Carolina career. He started out a national champion and finished with an up and down senior season, thanks in large part to the injury bug, which just would not leave the senior alone.

Roy Williams, Garrison Brooks, and Leaky Black postgame press conference:

This loss ends Carolina’s 2019-20 season since they won’t have any postseason opportunities. Stay tuned to the Tar Heel Hoops Blog throughout the offseason for updates on NBA Draft declarations, incoming freshmen, and more.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Wake Forest

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 93-83 home win over Wake Forest on Tuesday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Congratulations to the seniors, whose final home game will always be remembered as a win. On this night six players were honored – Brandon Robinson, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, Shea Rush, Caleb Ellis, and Robbie O’Han. Since that equates to six players, Caleb Ellis was the odd-man-out who didn’t get to actually start the game.
  • It’s no coincidence that the current three-game winning streak coincides with Cole Anthony having his first three games of the season in which he shot 50 percent-plus from the field.
  • Carolina’s leading rebounder tonight was…Leaky Black. Black grabbed eight rebounds.
  • Armando Bacot went through shootaround but it was ultimately decided that he wouldn’t play.
  • The Tar Heels committed a season-low seven turnovers tonight, including only one in the second half.
  • The 35 first half points broke Carolina’s streak of scoring 40-plus points in four straight halves. But they then exploded for an absurd 58 points in the second 20 minutes. As part of the ridiculous second half, Carolina was shooting over 70 percent with 6:00 still to go. For the game, they wound up shooting 50.8 percent (31-for-61).
  • Christian Keeling did not continue his hot shooting in the first half, but scored eight straight for the Heels during a three-minute stretch midway through the second half. He did not hit double-digits but has scored nine or more points in nine straight games.
  • An underappreciated aspect of this Carolina team is their ability to draw charges. Tonight they drew four – two from Justin Pierce and one each from Christian Keeling and Cole Anthony.
  • Cole Anthony’s efficiency continues to skyrocket. In the past two games he has tallied 14 assists and just three turnovers. In those same games he has scored 25 and 28 points respectively. In the past three games he has connected on 12 of his 20 three-point attempts. His floor management grows every game. Really would love to see how the team would have fared if Cole hadn’t been injured.
  • Garrison Brooks continues to astound. He had three and-one opportunities in the first half (connecting on two of them). He has five straight games of scoring 20-plus points and three straight games of 25-plus points. In that five game stretch, Brooks is shooting 63 percent from the field. Brooks and Anthony combined for 53 of Carolina’s 93 points tonight. Also to Brooks’ credit, he picked up his second foul with 6:53 left in the first half, continued to play through the rest of the first half plus nearly all of the second half and yet never picked up his third foul.

  • Speaking of fouls, Wake typically makes a living at the free throw line, however Carolina outpaced the Demon Deacons tonight. In fact, in the second half, the Heels were in the bonus for the final 9:30 while Wake never reached the bonus.
  • Carolina had an aberrational strong three-point shooting performance against Syracuse, going 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) from deep. The fear tonight was that the three-point shooting would regress to the mean or, worse, resemble Carolina’s 1-for-16 performance from the first time they played Wake. To the contrary, it got better. Tonight they shot 10-for-17 from deep, good for an astounding 58.8 percent. Anthony and Robinson did the majority of the work in this category, contributing four and five made threes respectively.
  • Cole Anthony had some spectacular plays this evening. A flip pass over his head to Brooks for a lay-up plus the foul with just over 5:00 to go in the first half was a standout. Another stellar play was an absurd reverse lay-up about seven minutes into the second half. Here are both plays:
  • The first half featured several mini-runs. When the Carolina regulars came in for the first time, they reeled off 12 straight. Wake responded with an immediate 7-0 run and another 7-0 just a bit later.
  • The entirety of the game felt like one of those where the Heels were in control the whole time, but Wake was right there with them. Every punch Carolina landed, Wake had an answer. But in the end Carolina made the plays (and free throws) they needed in order to hold on. Have these Heels turned the corner? Do they now know how to close out an opponent?
  • Oh these Tar Heels! They are doing just enough here at the end of the conference portion of the season to give you a glimmer of hope for a run in the conference tournament. First, though, we turn our attention to Duke on Saturday.
  • Brandon Robinson Senior Night speech:
  • Shea Rush Senior Night Speech:

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 Duke on Saturday, March 7. Tip is at 6:00pm ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Syracuse

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 92-79 road win over Syracuse on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Carolina once again dissects Syracuse and their vaunted zone. Today they tallied 25 assists on 33 made baskets (75.8 percent). In the 10 games the Heels and Orange have played since Syracuse joined the ACC, Carolina has averaged 20.5 assists per game and has assisted on exactly 70 percent of their made baskets.
  • After a season of losing leads, Carolina has now held on down the stretch in back-to-back games. The Heels were composed and held their poise in the face of Syracuse pressure throughout the second half. In fact, of their four second half turnovers, not a single one was a result of full-court pressure.
  • Against NC State earlier in the week Carolina had to grit out the final minutes. Not so today. Carolina held a double-digit lead for the final 15:00 of the game.
  • Garrison Brooks’ strong play continues. He now has 20+ points in each of his last four games and after some rough patches from the free throw line this season went 8-for-8 today (22-for-24 over the last two games). Today he recorded his first double-double in the past seven games (26 points / 14 rebounds) and his 11th on the season. Those 14 rebounds gave him a career high. Brooks also tallied four assists and two blocks.

  • Christian Keeling stayed hot and recorded his highest point total as a Tar Heel (18). He has hit multiple threes in three straight games and has reached double-digit scoring in six of his last eight. During those eight games, he is shooting 56.9 percent (41-72) and averaging 13.1 points.

  • Carolina’s free throw woes this season have been well documented, but the stripe was good to the Heels today (15-17).
  • Several injury notes from today. After playing 8:47 Armando Bacot hurt his ankle and did not return to action. We wait to learn of his availability for Tuesday against Wake Forest. Brandon Robinson and Christian Keeling also both had to leave the game with ankle issues, but both came back to play.
  • With Bacot injured and Brooks taking a breather on the bench, the Heels had a stretch where the line-up was Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Brandon Robinson, Justin Pierce, and Leaky Black. It was one of those games where Leaky has played both the one and the five.
  • Given all the scoring issues this year, the Heels are starting to find something of a groove. They have now scored 40+ points in four straight halves. Additionally, they shot over 50 percent as a team today (33-for-64, 51.6 percent).
  • Cole Anthony seems to be really rounding into form. After not shooting 50 percent from the field in a game all season, he has now done so in back-to-back games.
  • The freshman had a strong all-around day. He totaled 25 points and buried a career high seven three-pointers. Anthony also dished seven assists (one off his career high), had two steals, and even blocked a shot. Here’s a look at those three pointers:
  • Justin Pierce’s numbers don’t always jump off the page, but he tends to find ways to make hustle plays. Today he drew two offensive fouls within his first couple minutes of action. Fellow grad transfer Keeling drew one of his own in the first half as well.
  • As tends to happen against the zone, Carolina held the edge in rebounding (39-29). Early in the first half Brandon Robinson skied for an incredible rebound which he dumped off to Brooks for a lay-up.
  • Carolina built their big first half lead behind a 16-0 run (20-2 extended) that took the game from tied at 17 to a 33-17 advantage. Unfortunately, Syracuse responded with their own run of 11 straight points and the Heels eventually took a five point lead into the locker room at the half.
  • Since coming back from his various injuries, Brandon Robinson has struggled to shoot. It was an encouraging sign to see him hit two first half threes today.

  • It’s no secret that these Heels struggle to shoot the three, and the first half today was no different as they connected on just two of 12 attempts. The second half, however, was an entirely different story. Carolina made six in the first six minutes of the second half and finished the half shooting 9-for-14, a blistering 64.3 percent.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is senior night against Wake Forest on Tuesday, March 3. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ACC Network.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Notre Dame

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-76 road loss to Notre Dame on Monday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Déjà vu? Nope. Groundhog day? Nope. Time travel? Nope. We really do keep witnessing the same miserable ending over and over again. Yes, most of the blame is on the Tar Heels for their play down the stretch in these losses, but how can you help but feel awful for these young men?

  • This was a game of runs. The Heels missed eight shots in a row in the first half, allowing Notre Dame to take a nine-point lead. Thankfully Carolina was able to get the lead down to three at the half. Notre Dame scored the first bucket of the second half but Carolina went on a 13-0 run to take an eight-point lead (19-3 extended run). Notre Dame eventually went on their own 9-0 run to cut the lead to five. The Irish kept chipping at the lead, but never led until the final bucket with :02.4 to go.
  • This was also one of those “Carolina-had-this-big-a-lead-with-this-much-time-left” games. The Heels held a 15-point lead with 8:15 remaining, a nine-point lead with 4:15 to go, and a four-point lead with the ball and just 66 seconds remaining. Another way to look at it: Carolina led from 16:35 of the second half until Notre Dame hit the kick-out three for a 77-76 lead.

  • Carolina will look back and rue several things, including two failed defensive rebounds in the final 90 seconds which both directly led to Notre Dame points.
  • Were the Tar Heels victim to another incorrectly adjudicated foul situation (for the third time in a late-game scenario)? Cole Anthony air-balled an ill-advised three with :21 left. Leaky Black nearly tracked down the offensive rebound, but was called out of bounds as he attempted to save the ball. Black’s right foot was clearly out-of-bounds, but only because he was quite clearly bumped by Notre Dame’s Nate Laszewski. If called, that would have been Laszewski’s fifth foul and he would not then have been able to hit the game winner (because he would have fouled out and because Leaky Black would have shot two free throws for a potential four-point lead). Here’s the play in question:

  • Much can and will always be said about Cole Anthony. He led all scorers tonight with 23, and despite some interesting decisions down the stretch posted his best assist-to-turnover ratio of the season at 6-to-1.
  • It’s interesting that Carolina was on the brink of a victory despite Armando Bacot scoring just two points (the first Tar Heel bucket of the second half). The freshman reeled in a typical 10 rebounds, but will need to contribute more offensively.
  • Leaky Black continues to put up productive, and diverse, stat lines. Tonight he recorded double-digit rebounds (10) for the first time in his career. He’s had at least one assist, block, and steal in five of the past six games. Black also contributed nine points tonight, including a no-hesitation three-pointer and 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
  • Garrison Brooks continues to be the most consistent performer on the year. He has back-to-back 20+ point games for the second time this season (22 tonight). Unfortunately, Brooks took exactly one shot (1!) over the final 8:30 of the game. The team has to find a way to continue getting shots for its best offensive players in crunch time. A very similar thing happened with Garrison Brooks during the stretch of the Duke game.
  • Christian Keeling’s double-digit scoring streak stopped at four games, but he managed nine in this one including the first bucket of the game just five seconds in.
  • The starting line-up was the same for the second game in a row with Christian Keeling taking the spot Andrew Platek had been occupying. However, Brandon Robinson was back tonight after missing four games. Robinson came off the bench to play 25:24. The starting five going forward will likely include two of Christian Keeling, Leaky Black, and Brandon Robinson.
  • The Tar Heels got their turnover issues mostly in check tonight. They committed just four in the first half, but added eight in the second half (including several costly turnovers down the stretch). The team got back to having more assists (18) than turnovers (12), however Notre Dame committed just six.
  • Carolina did their usual work on the backboards, routing Notre Dame 47-31, which included 18 offensive rebounds. These rebounds allowed the Heels to double up the Irish in second chance points, 16-8.
  • Similar to the Wake Forest game, Carolina missed just two free throws, both of which came from Garrison Brooks late in the first half. That also means that Carolina made every free throw they shot in the second half, including both ends of 1-and-1 on two separate occasions.
  • Curiously, Andrew Platek only played 4:32. That’s quite the fall for a player who was starting as recently as two games ago.

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 Louisville on Saturday, February 22. Tip is at 4:00pm ET on ESPN or ESPN2.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Virginia

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

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

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

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Notre Dame on Monday, February 17. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC @ Wake Forest

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 74-57 road loss to Wake Forest on Tuesday night.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Do you want to know how cruel this game is? On a night where Carolina got absolutely blown out (aside from a late push), they went 14-for-16 (87.5%) from the free throw line. That would have been quite useful on Saturday night.
  • Garrison Brooks played with an eye injury suffered against Duke on Saturday. Brooks’ issue was less about pain and more about an inability to see. He wore protective goggles during the game and was clearly hampered.
  • Brooks suffered an additional injury late in the first half when a Wake Forest defender flailed his arm and caught Brooks in the mouth. The Tar Heel junior had to get two stitches in his mouth.
  • Armando Bacot suffered some type of right hand injury and came out of the game for a time, before returning with some of his fingers taped together for stability.
  • Walker Miller not only played meaningful first half minutes, but started the second half to give Brooks time to recover from getting stitches.
  • You love to see Brooks learning more and more about what it means to be a vocal leader. Even though he wasn’t starting the second half, he huddled with the starters to give them some last minute coaching and encouragement.
  • The Tar Heels found themselves down at halftime. By 18 points. To Wake Forest. Who started the game at 3-10 in the ACC. This is Carolina basketball in 2020.
  • Part of the reason Carolina played so well on Saturday is that the ball moved well amongst the five players on the court. Tonight it didn’t and the Heels managed just four assists in the first half and finished the game with only nine.
  • Wake Forest started the second half on a 7-0 run to open up a 25-point lead. A 10-2 extended run made it a 26-point lead for the Demon Deacons – the biggest deficit the Heels have faced all season.
  • Despite the massive deficit, the Heels cut the lead down to nine points with 2:37 to go (and missed a three-point shot to make it six). Unfortunately, the late game push was too little, too late.
  • Christian Keeling was the lone individual offensive bright spot for Carolina. He hit double-digits for the third game in a row, this time dropping 15 points (his season high). Over those three games, Keeling has shot a combined 17-for-31 (54.8%) from the field.
  • Garrison Brooks, despite his impaired vision, shot much better from the free throw line tonight – 7-for-8. Curiously, these were his only seven points of the game.
  • The Tar Heels had multiple scoring droughts in the first half, including the first 3:30 of the game.
  • Andrew Platek inexplicably only played the first 54 seconds of the second half. Neither he, nor Coach Williams made any mention of the reason in their postgame comments.
  • Carolina and Wake were very close in their made field goals (21 and 23 respectively). The difference tonight was a sizable three-point discrepancy. The Tar Heels shot a putrid 1-for-16 from deep, while the Demon Deacons connected on nine of 23. That shooting stat alone is a 27-point difference.

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Virginia on Saturday, February 15. Tip is at 8:00pm ET on ESPN.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Duke

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 98-96 home overtime loss to Duke on Saturday night.

Condensed Game:

 

Highlights:

 

  • I sit here on my couch five hours after the game ended and I am still numb. I am still confused. I am still heartbroken. None of that compares to how the players and coaches must be feeling.
  • Bottom line: if you hit your free throws you win this game. Overall, Carolina went 21-for-38 (55.3 percent) at the free throw line. The most painful thing is that the Heels made just five of 10 in the final 1:11 of regulation. If the Heels make any of those five misses, Tre Jones is never in the position to potentially send the game to overtime.
  • Speaking of that end-of-regulation scenario, how (painfully) ironic that it was nearly identical to the end of the Clemson game? Against Clemson, Carolina forgot to foul up three in the waning seconds and gave up the game-tying three. Against Duke, Carolina did foul (maybe a little too quickly) and everything went the Blue Devils’ way to force overtime.
  • Sticking with free throws, you really have to feel for Garrison Brooks. He went 0-for-7 against Boston College. If he makes any of those, Carolina wins. Tonight he went 0-for-5 (including missing the front end of a 1-and-1. If he makes any of those, Carolina wins. Outside of the missed free throws and five turnovers, Brooks played a really strong game. He shot efficiently (9-for-12 for 18 points) and played solid defense on Player of the Year candidate Vernon Carey.
  • Guess how many shots Garrison Brooks took over the final 8:50 of regulation and the 5:00 of overtime? TWO (And both were off broken plays. On the first, Pierce randomly found Brooks in the lane when he got trapped on the baseline. On the second, Brooks received the ball in a late shot clock situation and had to hoist a shot. There were ZERO times when he received an intentional post feed in a scoring position, which had worked so well earlier in the game.
  • How many times has it happened this year? Carolina builds up a double-digit lead, only to fumble it away at the line or with late turnovers. Tonight, the Heels led by 13 with 3:55 left, 10 with 2:10 left, seven with 1:11 left and five points with 20 seconds left in overtime. It’s like there’s this one missing piece, this one play and if Carolina could just get that they would come out on top.
  • Okay, let’s talk about some positive things. We must turn the tide. Christian Keeling is having his best stretch as a Tar Heel. Against Florida State and Duke, two of the best three teams in the ACC, he has scored double digits back-to-back for the first time all season. In those two games he has hit 10 of his 17 shots, two of three three-pointers, and all five of his free throws.
  • Fellow grad transfer Justin Pierce also had a good night, scoring 11 points. The two combined for 24 points in their first ever Duke game.
  • Pierce scored five straight points for Carolina in what looked like it would be the most important stretch and turning point of the game prior to the outcome being what it was. With 1:51 left before halftime and Carolina clinging to a four point lead, Armando Bacot picked up his second foul and went to the bench to join Garrison Brooks and Leaky Black in the two-foul club. Seldom used Walker Miller came in to guard Vernon Carey, who already had amassed 16 points. In those 111 seconds, Carolina stretched the lead to nine (plus-five in this span) with a line-up of Cole Anthony, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, Andrew Platek, and Walker Miller. Each team had three possessions. Duke missed a three, hit two free throws (Carey), and had a turnover. Carolina had a Pierce lay-up, a Pierce three, and a Platek (incredibly athletic double-pump) lay-up. Holding off Duke in this stretch to close out the front half (and instead expanding the lead) should have been a huge deal, but instead it will be shelved right alongside Marcus Paige’s three in the 2016 National Championship game. Here’s Platek’s lay-up:

 

  • Also lost to history will be Brooks’ block on Cassius Stanley with seven seconds remaining in regulation to stop Stanley from tying the game. In the moment, it felt like a game-saving play. Sadly it will just be a footnote.
  • Despite all three of Brooks, Bacot, and Black having two first half fouls, the Heels managed the foul trouble (mostly) wisely and none fouled out in regulation (although Bacot and Black both did in overtime). In his postgame comments, Bacot lamented that he could have secured one of the free throw rebounds had he been in the game. Roy Williams pointed out that Leaky’s defense on Tre Jones would have been beneficial when Jones put the Duke team on his back.
  • Let’s go back to Walker Miller. What must have been going through his head when Bacot fouled out, Brooks was back in the locker room with an injury and he had to step to the free throw line in a tie, overtime situation against Duke? Miller made one of two (although the first nearly dropped as well) to give the Heels a one-point lead which would not be relinquished until the final six seconds of overtime.
  • Duke landed the first punches in overtime, taking a five-point lead just one minute into the extra session. While it appeared the Heels might be out of gas, they responded with an 11-1 run to take a five point lead with 20 seconds left. Unfortunately they never scored again and the Blue Devils reeled off seven straight for the final 98-96 tally.
  • You never want to blame the refs (especially when you miss 17 free throws), however the previously mentioned Duke 7-0 run was helped by an egregious no-call with 12 seconds left and Carolina up one. Brooks inbounded the ball to Platek, who was bumped, resulting in the ball going out of bounds and being awarded to Duke. So rather than shooting two free throws with 12 seconds left and leading by one (with a chance to go up by three), Carolina had to defend, which lead to the game-winning play. Here’s the no-call:

 

  • Andrew Platek will be quite frustrated with himself for shooting 1-for-4 from the free throw line at the end of regulation and feel like he cost the team the game, but he did some great things. Earlier in the second half, he hit both parts of a one-and-one. On two important plays in the second half, he doubled on Carey, who spun right into the waiting Platek. The first occurrence resulted in a Duke turnover. The second time Carey bulldozed Platek and picked up his fifth foul.
  • As strange as it sounds, Vernon Carey fouling out was a blessing in disguise for Duke. The freshman big man scored 18 in the first half, but had as many points as I did in the second half (zero). He fouled out with Carolina up 13 (77-64) and over the course of the final four minutes of regulation, Duke outscored the Heels 20-7. Carey’s absence opened up the floor for Duke to attack off the dribble, which they did at will.
  • So many good things to be said about what happened in the first 37-38 minutes of the game. Carolina played with intensity. They moved the ball well: assists on 10 of the first 14 field goals. They had a balanced scoring attack: seven Tar Heels scored multiple baskets in the first half and five finished in double-figures. They gang rebounded: seven players had four or more rebounds. Every time Duke punched or threatened, Carolina answered. They were disruptive on defense. Bacot ran the floor really well. On more than one occasion, I uttered: “That’s a Carolina fast break!” Here’s a great example of one of those fast breaks (Kendall Marshall pitch-ahead style):

  • Cole Anthony felt like he was more in the flow of the offense tonight. There was more cohesion. He took fewer shots, made a higher percentage of those shots, got more teammates involved, grabbed 11 rebounds, and hit nine of his 10 free throws. Of course he’s only played 12 college basketball games, so he still made some freshman mistakes. One in particular came with 2:00 left in regulation. Carolina was up nine and Duke applied pressure. Anthony got sped up and didn’t pull the ball back out when he got across the timeline to run some clock, but rather pushed on towards the basket for a difficult and contested lay-up. Duke quickly converted the miss into a three-pointer. Down to a six-point lead with 1:45 to go. From there the game turned into the parade to the free throw line, which we already know how that turned out.
  • As has happened seldom this year, the Tar Heels both hit the 80-point plateau (and in fact scored a season high 96) and achieved a 50 percent field goal success rate. In fact, the first half Carolina shot 59 percent and scored 44 points (the most Duke had given up in a first half this season).
  • Leaky Black played a solid and diverse game before fouling out. He finished with eight points, seven rebounds, and a career-high nine assists; just a few plays shy of a double-double. Black also seems to have a knack for hitting the first shot of the game. He’s done so multiple times this season, and did so again tonight.
  • Something to keep an eye on: Tonight we saw Leaky Black play some point guard, and Cole Anthony slide over to shooting guard. Not sure if it will be a look Coach Williams employs more, but could be a good wrinkle in the offense.
  • A painful number to see: Carolina led the game for 41:50. Duke led for just 1:47. The game was also tied for 1:23.
  • Just to say it again: Carolina had a double-digit lead as late as 2:07. Very (very) eerily similar to the Clemson loss.
  • Joel Berry was honored at halftime tonight and his jersey hung in the rafters. Great to have him in the house for a game where his late-game sure-handedness and clutch free throw making ability would have come in handy. Here’s video of the halftime ceremony:

 

Roy Williams postgame press conference:

 

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Wake Forest on Tuesday, February 11. Tip is at 8:00pm ET on ACC Network.

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Quick Hitters – UNC vs. Miami

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 94-71 home win over Miami on Saturday afternoon.

Condensed Game:

Highlights:

  • Congratulations to Coach Roy Williams who, with today’s victory, passed Coach Dean Smith for fourth in all-time Division 1 career coaching victories (880 to 879). Feels good to have that out of the way, doesn’t it? Hopefully with that monkey off the back, Carolina can get things going. If you didn’t have a chance to read my article about Coach Williams and Coach Smith, you can do so here.
  • Happy birthday to me! I turned 36 today and Carolina broke their five game losing streak (and six game ACC losing streak). Perhaps, for good luck, I should celebrate my birthday every day the Tar Heels play.
  • As weird as it sounds to say, this was Carolina’s first win in the month of January 2020. The Heels’ last win was against Yale on December 30.
  • The big Tar Heel lead allowed Coach Williams to limit the minutes of some of the starters, Garrison Brooks in particular. Brooks played 27:19 today, marking the first time he’s been under 30:00 since game eight of the season against Ohio State. The reason minute-reduction was so important is that Carolina turns around and plays at NC State on Monday.
  • Brooks’ double-double streak ends at six games. At first blush, this is a disappointing statement. However, I would suggest to you that this is good news, because it means his teammates are helping carry the load. It’s nice for Brooks to not have to shoulder so much.
  • His frontcourt partner, Armando Bacot, on the other hand did record a double-double. In fact, Bacot’s line was very nearly a triple-double as he finished with 19 points (on efficient 8-for-11 shooting), 12 rebounds, and seven assists. For good measure, Bacot added two blocks and had just one turnover. Here’s one of the seven assists:

  • After missing the previous game with soreness from his car accident, Brandon Robinson returned to action today and scored a career high 29 points. He did so on just 16 shots, including an impressive 6-for-10 from three. Here’s highlights of Robinson’s performance:
  • Finally! For the first time all season (this was game number 19), the Tar Heels shot 50% or more for the entire game. The 55.0% (22-40) shooting in the first half was a great mark, but the 62.1% (18-29) in the second half brought the final tally for the game up to 58.0% (40-69). The individual half percentages clock in as the second and third highest numbers of the season, behind only the 64.3% (18-28) Carolina shot in the second against Notre Dame in the season opener.
  • If you shoot that strong a field goal percentage you also probably score a whole truckload of points. That conjecture turned out to be factually correct. Carolina obliterated their previous season high (83 vs. GT) by finishing with 94 points. The Heels passed the previous mark on a Justin Pierce three-pointer with 6:01 left in the game. Today was just the third time Carolina has eclipsed 80 points this season, but the first time to do in a victory. Here’s Pierce’s three that set the new season mark:

  • Over the course of the last four games, Andrew Platek has moved into the starting line-up and amassed 17 assists against just four turnovers in those games. For the season, his assist-to-turnover ratio is an absurd 3:1.
  • Bacot’s free throw shooting has grown dramatically through the season. Through the first 12 games of the season, he was shooting 54.2% (26-48). In the seven games since he has shot 78.6% (22-28) to bring his season average to 63.2% (48-76).
  • If you watch enough North Carolina basketball, you’ll learn that Roy Williams teams typically move the ball rather adroitly against zone defense (which the depleted Miami roster employed for most of the game). Today was no different. Carolina assisted on 17 of 22 made baskets in the first half and finished with a season high 32 assists on 40 made baskets. For the game, nine different players recorded an assist. 32 assists is also tied for the most ever in a game in the Roy Williams era.
  • The Carolina “missed-games-due-to-injury” meter is now up to 61 missed games through 19 games played. Jeremiah Francis was once again in street clothes today. The Heels got no sympathy from Miami though, as the Canes are going through similar woes and only had six scholarship players available on Saturday. One of those missing-in-action was Chris Lykes who has wreaked havoc the past couple years against the boys in baby blue.
  • The Tar Heels dominated the glass 41-21. They were also efficient at getting offensive rebounds and turning them into second chance points (17 points on 10 offensive rebounds). Miami only had two offensive rebounds, the first of which came with 13:07 left in the game.
  • Justin Pierce followed up his strong performance against Virginia Tech by chipping in nine points, five rebounds, and four assists. Fellow grad transfer Christian Keeling also had nine points, and looked more confident today. Both players were just one point away from joining Robinson, Brooks, and Bacot on the double-digit list.
  • Carolina has struggled to hold onto leads of late (lost three of last four after having a double-digit lead at some point in the game). That double-digit lead threshold was reached early today as the Heels jumped out to a 15-4 lead. The encouraging fact is that that lead did not stay stagnant, but rather ballooned to 24 by halftime (the largest lead of the season to that point). Carolina showed good resolve in growing the margin to as much as 34 with around seven minutes remaining.
  • This might be painful to hear, but if Carolina had hung onto two of those losses (Clemson and Virginia Tech, for example), they would be 4-4 in the conference and sitting in 7th place rather than tied for 12th with Notre Dame and Wake Forest.
  • Although the Heels finished the game with 12 turnovers, 10 of those came in the second half with the game well in hand. That means Carolina committed just two turnovers in the opening frame.
  • Three-point shooting was a plus today. Five different players connected from deep (Platek, Keeling, Black, and Pierce each had one; Robinson had six). The final percentage was 43.5% (10-23) and at the point when Robinson hit his sixth three, Carolina was shooting 50% from outside the arc.
  • Leaky Black is starting to hunt for and find his outside shot more and has connected on seven threes in the past five games. It might not seem like much volume, but even the threat of him pulling the trigger creates more space for Carolina’s strongest current assets (Brooks & Bacot) to operate inside.
  • Good to see KJ Smith get back on the court after not playing in the previous two games.

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 NC State on Monday, January 27. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.

Twitter: tarheelhoopblog
Twitter: isaacschade
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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. Florida State

Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 77-59 home win over Florida State on Saturday afternoon.

Highlights:

  • Hangover from Duke game? Nah. If anything, the Heels were even more focused. Perhaps they were desperate to prove that Wednesday’s result wasn’t just some aberration due to Zion Williamson’s absence. Besides, in the Roy Williams era, Carolina has never (NEVER) lost the game after the first Duke game. After today’s win the Heels are now 16-0 in those games. So what was there to worry about?
  • It might not seem like it to casual fans, but given the circumstances, this might have been the biggest win of the season. Carolina is coming off the emotions of the Duke game. FSU was on an 8 game winning streak. The stakes were high given the ACC standings and the need to keep pace with Virginia and Duke, while keeping Florida State, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Louisville at bay.
  • This is back-to-back Saturdays in which Cam Johnson had a big game coming off an ankle injury. Last week he dropped 27 on Wake Forest, including seven made threes. Today he got his second double-double of the year with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
  • By the way, is there a more underrated player in the country than Cameron Johnson? Is it because of the legend of Luke Maye? Or perhaps the hype given to freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little? Hopefully Johnson will begin to get the national attention he deserves based on the year he’s having.
  • Staying with the theme of working back from ankle injuries, Nassir Little has appeared to still be hampered by his even though he has been playing. Today, however, was a different story. Little attacked from the second he got on the court and wound up making more free throws than anyone else in the game attempted. In fact, Little had two monstrous dunks. One came in the first half when he drove and dunked over one of the Seminole behemoths inside. The other was on a put-back when nobody bothered to box out the most athletic man on the court. Little finished tied with Johnson for a game-high 18 points. Here’s both dunks:
  • Those 18 points, along with production from the rest of the bench were hugely important against a deep Florida State team. You think Roy Williams plays a lot of people? Leonard Hamilton plays a lot of people. Nine Seminoles made it to double-digits in minutes. And although the Seminoles led the bench scoring category, as expected, Carolina kept it to a respectable 33-24.
  • Against Florida State, Carolina often struggles with length and athleticism. And yet today Carolina dominated the interior numbers. After what many considered to be an aberration on Wednesday night due to the Zion Williamson absence, the Heels proved they score in the paint with anyone by leading that category 28-12 over the Seminoles. Additionally, thanks to a strong gang rebounding effort, the Heels topped that category 47-32 (including a 13-6 lead in offensive rebounds).
  • Florida State makes a habit of living at the free throw line. A big question coming into the game was, “Can Carolina stay out of foul trouble and keep the Noles off the line?” By way of answer, the Heels made 18 free throws and FSU attempted 16. Sooooo….”yes”.
  • The three point shooting got off to another sluggish start. Carolina hit two of 11 in the first half, but finished a respectable 7-for-20. Early in the season, the Heels really struggled to win games where they didn’t shoot well. This week they beat the number one and 16 teams in the country while shooting a combined 9-for-40 from three. Good for the Tar Heels. Bad for the rest of the country.
  • After these most recent two wins, the Heels are 7-3 against ranked teams this season. Importantly, after a 2-2 start in those games, Carolina has won five of the last six.

  • Coby White played a sluggish first half but came out and scored six of his 10 points early in the second half to help push the three-point halftime lead out.
  • Thanks to the results of Saturday’s other games, the top three ACC teams (Carolina, Virginia and Duke) are each 12-2 and hold a three game lead over the next closest teams in the standings. Additionally, if Carolina beats Syracuse on Tuesday, they’ll have locked up no worse than the third seed and a double bye in the ACC Tournament.
  • Thanks to yet another strong defensive showing, Carolina’s defensive efficiency is now catching up to the offense. The Heels are just one of five teams nationally in the top ten of both offensive and defensive efficiency in KenPom. They are seventh in offense and tenth in defense. The other four teams are Virginia, Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky.

  • Garrison Brooks continues to grow in his discipline as a player. In other games this season, two first half fouls would have completely taken him out of his game. Today he didn’t commit any other fouls and in fact was responsible for drawing the third fouls on both Seminole big men in the second half.
  • Brandon Robinson didn’t have a huge statistical game, but he did have an important stretch midway through the first half. He also snatched a BIG TIME rebound away from 7’4” Christ Koumadje a couple minutes later in the first half.
  • Florida State hit a three with 10:36 remaining to cut the lead to four. This was as close as the game had been since just after halftime. Over the course of the next 90 seconds Carolina went on an 8-0 run, which included two Luke Maye threes. The run extended out to 16-1 and Florida State didn’t hit another field goal until 1:57 remained in the game.

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 Syracuse on Tuesday, February 26. Tip is at 9:00ET on Raycom and WatchESPN.

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