Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 74-49 home loss to Ohio State on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge.
- This game ranks as arguably one of the most lifeless performances I’ve ever witnessed from a University of North Carolina men’s basketball team. However, many factors played into tonight’s debacle. Hope is not lost. Lots of opportunity is still ahead. Coach Williams put the loss in perspective in his post-game remarks: “I’ve had my butt beat before and it’ll be beat again. I’ll live to face another day.”
- For statistical proof of the prior statement: The Heels have not hit 50% of their shots in a game this season. They barely achieved half of that tonight – 27.4% (17-62). In fact, this was the 2nd lowest single game field goal percentage of the Roy Williams era. Only the loss to Michigan State at the PK80 on 11/26/2017 was lower (24.6% – 15-for-61).
- Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris were in uniform and both warmed up. Still no Sterling Manley though; he remains in a suit on the sideline.
- Coming into the game there were questions about the availability of several Tar Heels due to injury. You don’t want to make excuses, however it’s tough to win when this is what Coach Williams sees when he looks down the bench: Sterling Manley, Jeremiah Francis, and Anthony Harris not ready for game action. Leaky Black can play but still has foot issues. Brandon Robinson’s ankle is still bothering him. Garrison Brooks is a Cyclops. Cole Anthony played but is sick, has ankle issues, and he took an elbow to the head that drew a good deal of blood. Not to mention Armando Bacot, the most imposing interior player, was done for the game after landing on an Ohio State player’s foot in the first half (Post-game, Coach Williams confirmed that he has a sprained ankle and “may be out for awhile”).
- Speaking of Bacot, we can’t assume that his presence would have changed the outcome of the game. It is however, safe to say that Bacot would have at least made the game more competitive. The freshman big man, coming off his best game of the season, had two points, four rebounds, a block, and a steal in the seven minutes he did play. Here are players speaking about how Bacot’s absence affects the team:
- For the first time all season, Carolina was out rebounded. And it wasn’t even close. Ohio State hauled in 48 to UNC’s 32.
- For the eighth game in a row, Carolina could not crack 80 points. In fact, they couldn’t even get to 50. Here’s Justin Pierce talking about the offensive issues:
- After shooting lights out from the free throw line against Oregon (20-for-21), the Tar Heels were back down around their season average. Tonight they hit 8-for-13 (61.5%).
- Tonight was the first of back-to-back games against the top-two rated defensive teams in KenPom rankings. Unfortunately Ohio State is #2 and the upcoming opponent, Virginia, is rated #1. Could be another ugly offensive performance ahead for the Tar Heels, who will almost certainly be without Bacot again.
- For those who only saw the final result, the beginning of the game was a different story: The Tar Heels forced three Buckeye turnovers on their first three possessions. Meanwhile, Carolina ran efficient offense to get Brooks an interior bucket and Leaky Black a three on the first two offensive possessions, culminating in a 5-0 lead.
- However, as often happens against Carolina, Ohio State’s first four made baskets were three-pointers. This opened up a 12-8 lead for the Buckeyes with 14:22 remaining in the first half. Tar Heels never led again.
- We did witness a first in this game: Garrison Brooks’ first career three-point attempt. With the shot clock winding down within the first two minutes of the game, Brooks had to hoist a three. His form didn’t look bad, but the shot didn’t go in.
- In the second half, with the regular rotation giving lackluster effort, Coach Williams went with a classic five-for-five substitution. This switch came with 10:42 remaining and the starters didn’t come back until more than four minutes later (6:37). The bench players actually outscored Ohio State 8-6 in this time frame, including five points and a block from Justin Pierce and drawn charges from both Walker Miller and KJ Smith. Things didn’t go much better when the starters came back and Coach Williams waved the white flag with 3:02 left in the game. Here’s Shea Rush talking about the marching orders the reserves received from Coach Williams:
- Christian Keeling is struggling to find his shooting touch. Hard to determine at this point whether he is overmatched at the high major level or if he is still trying to settle in. Whatever the case, he and Justin Pierce are the wild cards that will make or break the 2019-20 season.
- Quite honestly, with everything that went wrong in the first half, it was quite impressive that Carolina was only down two at the break. But the Tar Heels were hanging by a thread and Ohio State was able to blow the game wide open after regrouping at halftime.
- This is quite an obvious statement, but Carolina has to hope that Bacot is not out very long. When Garrison Brooks went to the bench with two fouls and 7:00 still remaining in the first half, Coach Williams had no choice but to rely on Brandon Huffman and, in the second half, Walker Miller as well. Both are nice stop-gaps to have on the bench in a pinch, but neither will be able to provide long term meaningful minutes.
Roy Williams postgame press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Virginia on Sunday, December 8. Tip is at 4:00ET on ACC Network.
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Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-62 road win over UNC-Wilmington on Friday night.
- 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).
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Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 76-65 home win over Notre Dame on Wednesday night.
- 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).
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Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 116-67 road win on Friday night over Elon.
- Let’s not bury the lead: rebounding was the story of the game. 60 rebounds for Carolina. First time to haul in 60 boards since grabbing 64 against Duke on March 5, 2016. Additionally, the Heels had more offensive boards (24) than Elon had defensive boards (21). And those offensive rebounds led to:
- A point of concern has been turnovers. That number continued to shrink tonight, with Carolina only surrendering 11. Most importantly, the point guards combined for only one of those 11.
- Garrison Brooks did not have the same numbers as he did against Wofford, but was solid. Seven points on 3-for-5 shooting, six rebounds, and three steals in 16 minutes. Sterling Manley had a much more productive night: 11 points and eight boards in 15 minutes. A combined 18 points & 14 boards in 31 minutes is great production from the center position.
- Remember last year when Cam Johnson only shot 34% from deep? Two games is an admittedly small sample size, but he is 7-for-10 so far this year. Additionally he hasn’t missed a free throw yet and is leading the team in scoring. Impressively, as well as Johnson is shooting, he’s still looking for his teammates. Against Wofford, a lob in the lane to Garrison Brooks. Against Elon, a kick out to Coby White for a three in transition. In both instances, Johnson could have taken the shot and no one would have batted an eye. But in both instances he found a better shot. Here’s Johnson talking about his shot:
- Last year, Carolina had to rely heavily on the starters for consistent offensive production. While tonight’s game was admittedly against Elon, the bench contributed 65 points.
- Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Tar Heel guards will need to do better at stopping dribble penetration (which leads to wide open threes) going forward. After allowing the Phoenix to shoot 57% from the field in the first half, Carolina buckled down in the last 20 minutes and allowed a paltry 16% field goal percentage.
- Leaky Black is the type of guy that might wind up with a triple-double on his résumé before he leaves Chapel Hill. The rangy freshman finished tonight with eight points, six boards, five assists, zero turnovers and a steal in just 15 minutes.
- 10 different Tar Heels scored…in the FIRST HALF. All 15 available players scored a point in the game (Walker Miller was out with an injury).
- Poor Kenny Williams can’t buy a basket right now. He still hasn’t made a field goal and his only point in the first two games is one made free throw. As has been documented, Williams is impacting the games in multiple other ways. His shot will come around (unless his shoulder injury from the other night is worse than we know).
- More on the point guards: Coby White (14 points, three boards, two assists, a turnover and a steal), traditionally a score-first point guard, is still learning how to balance when to hunt his shot and when to distribute. He is young, relentlessly fast, can light it up and will have a long leash. Be patient with him Tar Heel fans. Remember than playing point guard for Roy Williams is one of the most difficult things in college basketball. Seventh Woods (three points, three boards, five assists, one block and zero turnovers) looked the most comfortable I’ve ever seen him. He is in control, setting others up and making good play for himself. Here’s White talking about adjusting to the point guard role:
- Having more offensive firepower this year is allowing Luke Maye to somehow fly under the radar. He scored 24 points against Wofford and it was an afterthought. He had a near double-double tonight (eight points, 10 boards) and it’s just business as usual. He’s a career below 60% free throw shooter who is shooting 91% so far this year. The lack of attention will hopefully allow Maye to be more fresh as the season wears on.
- Is it time to talk about Nassir Little now? This guy can do a little bit of everything. Hit threes. Block shots. Dunk ferociously. Play defense. Despite an authoritative tip-dunk at the end of first half, Little’s first huge highlight reel dunk came with just under 14:00 left in the game after stealing an Elon pass and finding himself alone on the break. Little is beautifully not forcing anything at this point, just playing within the flow of the team. He is very “North Carolina”.
Roy Williams post-game press conference:
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is Carolina’s home opener against Stanford on Monday, November 12. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN2.