Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 78-70 home win over Florida State on Saturday afternoon.
- Congratulations to Hall of Famer Roy Williams on becoming the fastest coach in history to his 900th victory (and what a game to be the record-setter!). He is the fastest both in terms of number of games (1,161) and seasons (33). The previous record holder for number of games was Mike Krzyzewski, who reached 900 in 1,183 games.
- Coach Williams becomes the fourth Division I coach to win 900 or more games, joining Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, and Bob Knight. Williams needs just two more wins to tie Bob Knight for third all-time.
- Carolina had lost to their last 10 AP-ranked opponents dating back to last season. That’s the second-longest such run of games for the UNC program in the AP Poll era. But that streak is no more.
- The Seminoles are the first ranked team Carolina has beaten this season. Per ESPN researcher Bryan Ives, the victory carries on an impressive streak: The Tar Heels have now defeated an AP-ranked opponent in 55 straight seasons. Other notable schools aren’t even close: Duke – 38 straight seasons, Indiana – 38, Kentucky – 32, UCLA - 27, Kansas – 22.
- Things looked really bleak at halftime (both for this game and the postseason). Carolina lost to Marquette mid-week (the first Quad 3 defeat of the season). Now, the Tar Heels are down 12 to the top team in the ACC. If you lose this game, you essentially have to beat both Syracuse and Duke and win a game or two in the ACC Tournament to feel good about your NCAA Tournament resume. However, with the win, UNC picks up its most impressive win of the season. The Tar Heels probably still need to beat at least Syracuse or Duke (ideally both) to truly feel comfortable, but this win alone probably takes the Heels off the bubble for the time being (and maybe for good).
- Prior to the game, I wrote myself a note to pay attention to see if the small number of fans would play a factor in the game. And did they? Absolutely. While it did not feel that way in the first half, the second half Tar Heel blitzkrieg felt fully fueled by those in attendance. For example: What a boost of confidence that must have been for Walker Kessler to hear the crowd chant his name as he was having the biggest game of his Tar Heel career.
- Speaking of young Mr. Kessler. What a perfect time for him to show up in a big way. His second-half spark was the likely the biggest factor in the comeback. Armando Bacot was saddled with three halftime fouls so Kessler started the second half in his place and took full advantage of the opportunity. He has been steadily making strides in recent games, but tonight’s performance showed exponential growth. Kessler set career highs in points (20; 14 of which came after halftime), rebounds (eight), and blocks (four). He made nine field goals; no other Tar Heel made more than three. Kessler is now averaging 11.8 points over the last five games.
- If Kessler wasn’t the biggest catalyst for UNC, free throw shooting is the other option. In many ways, Carolina has been downright abysmal at the line this season. Turns out, they were just saving it all for today. The Heels made a season-high 27 free throws and shot their best percentage of the season (90.0 percent). They had four different 1-and-1 situations in the game and hit all eight of those free throws. UNC also hit all 14 second half free throws and 18 straight total dating back to the first half. The Tar Heels literally didn’t miss a free throw as FSU was fouling down the stretch. They went 8-for-8 in that time, which included three 1-and-1 opportunities.
- Not really a good way to slice it, turnovers continue to be a massive roadblock to this team’s success. Carolina finished with 21. Thankfully, after 14 first half turnovers, the Tar Heels only had two in the first 14:00 of the second half. It’s amazing what can happen when you hang onto the ball. Sometimes the youth in the backcourt rears its ugly head – Caleb Love and RJ Davis were responsible for 11 of the 21 turnovers.
- But maybe, just maybe, turnovers are a good thing for this Carolina squad (*he said in jest*). Here’s a weird stat: the Tar Heels are 3-0 this season when committing 20-plus turnovers
- Vs. Stanford (Maui Invitational) | 24 TO | W 67-63
- At Miami | 20 TO | W 67-65
- Vs. FSU | 21 TO | W 78-70
- UNC’s assist percentage was 47.8 (11 assists on 23 baskets), the lowest in the last six games.
- While the Tar Heels found success at the free throw line, the opposite was true from beyond the arc. The team was a combined 5-for-23, with all five makes coming from either Kerwin Walton (three) or RJ Davis (two).
- The game at Florida State was one of only two times this season the Tar Heels were out-rebounded (29-30), albeit by just one. Today the Heels out-rebounded the Seminoles by eight (44-36). Additionally, this was the second-highest offensive rebounding percentage of the season (52.6 percent). We all know how important those numbers are to the success of the Tar Heel attack.
- The Carolina bench has been on fire of late. In the last four games they’ve scored 40, 45, 37, and 37 points. That’s an average of 39.75 points a game. The majority of that damage is coming from Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler.
- After shooting just 25 percent in the first half (7-for-28), the Tar Heels doubled their field goal percentage after halftime (50 percent, 16-for-32). It took Carolina 28 field goal attempts to hit seven shots in the first half. It only took nine second half field goal attempts to make the same number.
- Well guess what? Another first half double-digit deficit. This was game number 23, and the Tar Heels have trailed by double digits in 11 of them (just shy of half). Here’s a list of each of those games and the biggest first half deficit:
- Big day in blocks and steals. Nine blocks ties the season high (Charleston). Walker Kessler had four of those. Carolina had 11 steals, one off the season high. The Tar Heels now have double-digit steals in three straight games. Prior to this, they hadn’t done so in even two straight games.
- It’s also worth mentioning that Florida State had 16 steals of their own, the most Carolina has surrendered this season.
- Carolina made their first two shots and then missed the next 12. Florida State went on a 10-0 run in that span. That also means that Carolina has started 2-for-14 from the field in each of the past two games.
- Leaky Black was more aggressive than usual in the first half and was rewarded with three trips to the free throw line. He missed the first two shots (the first two free throw attempts of the day for Carolina), but made the next four.
- The circumstances surrounding Armando Bacot’s second foul were dubious. FSU had just hit a three to make the score 19-14 with 8:45 to go before halftime. Bacot made a driving lay-up plus the foul on the other end. Only problem: What should have been a blocking foul on FSU was whistled as an offensive foul against Bacot. The Seminole defender’s foot was clearly on the line of the restricted area, meaning by rule the play could not be ruled a charge (picture and video proof below). Instead of it being called that way, Bacot had to go to the bench with his two fouls. FSU came down and got two free throws. Also, instead of the score being 19-16 with a Bacot free throw opportunity to make the game even closer at 19-17, the score was actually 21-14.
- Another iffy call occurred down the stretch. A Seminole defender was fully out of bounds and while working to step back in, took the ball without having established himself back in play. The refs didn’t adjudicate this one right either.
- The start to the second half really was something to behold. Carolina went on a quick 10-0 run to cut the 12-point lead to 41-39; all 10 of which came from Kessler or Love. The Heels extended that run out to 17-3 before things settled in. But at that point, the Tar Heels were in the lead.
- The second half run included many beautiful plays, but perhaps none so exquisite as Leaky Black absolutely threading the needle ahead to Kessler on the break for a dunk with 9:00 to go. That bucket stretched the lead to seven, which at that point, was the largest lead of the game.
- Another pivotal turn-of-events occurred between 4:30 and 4:00. FSU cut the lead to three at 64-61. Caleb Love committed a turnover but got a chase down block and Armando Bacot ended up scoring back on the other side. So instead of 64-63, the score turned into 66-61. The lead was never closer than four the rest of the way.
- A learning lesson for Caleb Love that thankfully didn't end up hurting the Tar Heels in the win column. Love got a steal with 0:22 left, Carolina up eight, and in the double bonus. Rather than pull the ball out and run some precious time off the clock, he tried to finish in the midst of multiple Seminole defenders. He didn't score and no foul was called, so FSU had the ball going the other way. Here's the play:
- Huge win. Can’t be overstated how helpful this was to Carolina’s NCAA Tournament hopes. Three days after their worst loss of the season, the Heels pick up their biggest win of the season. That said, UNC has to quickly re-group and get ready to go work at decimating Syracuse’s zone once again on Monday night.
Roy Williams postgame press conference
Players postgame press conference
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a road game against Syracuse on Monday, March 1. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN.
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