Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 86-76 home win over NC State on Saturday afternoon.
- As surely as the sun rises every morning, Roy Williams will not get swept by NC State. It’s an impossibility. Since Williams returned to Chapel Hill in 2003-04, UNC has never been swept by the Wolfpack. The last time the Wolfpack swept the season series was the year prior – 2002-03.
- In the first game against State, the Heels led 2-0 and never again the rest of the game. Today was nearly the mirror opposite. The Wolfpack led by as many as three in the opening minutes, but Carolina took the lead with 16:32 remaining in the first half and never trailed again.
- NC State had been on an extended COVID pause but didn’t really show any signs of it today. The bigger indicator of what was to come today was based on the Wolfpack’s home / road splits. They are 5-1 at home, but just 1-3 away from PNC Arena (now 1-4).
- Carolina is now 6-0 at the Dean Dome.
- The offense continues to progress. The Tar Heels scored a season high 86 points, and have now reached 80 in three of the last four games.
- The Heels shot 56.8 percent (21-37) in the first half, the highest field goal percentage in any half this season. They shot 54.4 percent (37-68) for the game, the first time they’ve been over 50 percent for an entire game. Carolina has also strung together three straight halves of shooting 50 percent or greater (second half against Wake Forest and both halves today).
- Carolina’s 43 first half points were the most in a first half this year.
- The double-digit halftime lead (43-33) was the largest of the season. Interestingly, today was the 15th game of the 2020-21 campaign and only the 6th time the Heels led at the half.
- It’s safe to say that Coach Williams has found his starting lineup and will stick with it (barring unforeseen circumstances). Caleb Love, Kerwin Walton, Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot have now started the last four games.
- For the first time in conference play, win or lose, the final margin was greater than seven points.
- Puff Johnson missed the game after injuring a toe on his right foot on Friday at practice. He was in street clothes with a boot on his right foot. Somewhat comically, with 1:29 left in the game, announcer Doug Sherman was talking about how Coach Williams typically shortens the rotation as the season goes on and said: “We’ve not seen Puff Johnson so far. This will be the first game he’s not played.” Well Mr. Sherman, that’s because he’s in street clothes. To be fair, with the announcers not on site, it’s much more difficult to catch things like this.
- NC State makes a living off forcing turnovers. Carolina committed 18 in the first game. Today, they limited turnovers to five in the first half and finished with 13 after getting a bit loose with the ball in the second half. That’s now four straight games of 14 or fewer turnovers and five of the past six.
- Five different Tar Heels finished with double-digit points. Armando Bacot led the way with 17, while Day’Ron Sharpe and Caleb Love were right on his heels with 16 and 15 respectively. RJ Davis and Anthony Harris each had 10, and Kerwin Walton almost joined the party, finishing with eight. Sharpe and Bacot had both already scored 12 by halftime.
- After close rebound margins in the previous two games (-1 and +2), Carolina got back to a more typical number by outrebounding State 44-30 (+14).
- There was question before the game whether State’s Manny Bates would play or not. Not only did he play, but he played 30 minutes, scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds, had a steal, and in his most important contribution of the day, blocked seven (SEVEN!) shots.
- Carolina forced two shot clock violations in the first four minutes. To the eyeball test, the team has been coming out more aggressively and dialed in on the defensive end.
- The first half was played rather cleanly. Each team committed just two fouls in the first 17 minutes and eight total by halftime.
- The negative from the lack of first half fouls came at Garrison Brooks’ expense in the second half. Carolina chose to foul with two seconds left before halftime since State wasn’t in the bonus. It was Brooks who committed the foul, but then picked up two early second half fouls and wound up playing a season low 21 minutes before fouling out down the stretch.
- It was a rough day for Carolina at the free throw line – 8-for-18 (44.4 percent). Six of the 10 misses were in the final 6:01 of the game and four of those were in the final 89 seconds.
- Going forward, another area of improvement for the Heels: Carolina did not extend the lead in the second half. They had multiple chances to really pull away, but never did.
- If I was a college basketball player and I needed some easy points I would just intentionally run into Kevin Keatts since he consistently takes up residence on the court.
- Today was another bench points blowout for Carolina – 38-12. The 38 points was the most for UNC’s bench this season.
- Caleb Love has now scored 46 points in the last three games, his most over a three-game span. He’s also scored 35 in the past two games, his most in a two-game span. Love is also growing on the defensive end, seemingly taking more and more pride in making life difficult for opposing guards.
- Anthony Harris played double-digit minutes for the first time this season (10:46). Today he showed a little bit of everything he does well. He nailed his first shot attempt, a three-pointer (also Carolina’s first of the day). A microcosm of what Harris adds to the team: right after the under-12:00 timeout of the second half, he picked up a foul. On literally the next play he got a crafty steal and took it the length of the court for a layup and a 12-point UNC lead. Here's the video (and then a second of his acrobatic plays today):
- Harris also seems to be at the right place at the right time, all the time. With 2:40 left and State still trying to chip away at the lead, he plucked a Caleb Love airball out of midair and put it back in the hoop before landing to extend the lead back to 10.
- Bacot’s team-leading 17 points were just part of what he contributed today. He had two live-ball steals that directly led to Carolina layups. He had multiple blocks, eight rebounds, one assist, and zero turnovers. Bacot continued his efficient shooting, finishing 8-for-12 on the day. He is 16-for-22 in the past two games. Get that man the ball. This block, in particular, was a thing of beauty:
- RJ Davis didn’t score at all in the first half. He caught fire early in the second half though, scoring eight of his 10 points over the course of just over two minutes; including a personal 6-0 run.
- Day’Ron Sharpe hasn’t been contributing as much as normal the past several games. He made his presence felt early and often today though, finishing with his third career double-double. Sharpe turned all three of his offensive rebounds into points; two on dunks, one on a layup. This tip-dunk was the most impressive of the three:
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 Pittsburgh on Tuesday, January 26. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ACC Network.
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