Five Takeaways From UNC's Victory Over Alabama
North Carolina followed a familiar script, working through some early struggles before pulling away in the second half for a 76-67 victory over Alabama on Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Garrison Brooks tied his carer-high with 20 points while Armando Bacot posted his third straight double-double, finishing with 12 points and 15 rebounds.
With the victory, Carolina (5-0) moves on to face Michigan in tomorrow's semifinals at 1:30 p.m. (ESPN).
Five observations from the win over the Crimson Tide (2-3):
Brandon is Back
Brandon Robinson's effect was immediate for the Tar Heels as the senior returned from a sprained ankle to score a career-high 12 points and grab six rebounds in 26 minutes.
More importantly, Robinson made 3 of 6 attempts from 3-point range, helping Carolina space the floor on a day it didn't have much success from beyond the arc, hitting 5 of 14 attempts overall.
Robinson's one turnover was fewest among Tar Heels who played more than 20 minutes — a sign of exactly what he brings to the Carolina offense as a steady hand and a deep understanding of what Roy Williams wants from him.
The Bigs are Back, Too
It's been a while since Williams and the Tar Heels could look to the interior for dominant offensive performances on a consistent basis, but Bacot and Brooks are quickly becoming one of the nation's best post duos.
Last time out, it was Bacot's 22 points and 14 rebounds that paced the Tar Heels.
Today, it was Brooks, who put forth the best offensive performance of his career while providing his usual leadership and defense.
Bacot didn't force the issue early, finishing 0/2 from the field with eight rebounds in the first half. In the second, he allowed the game to come to him, turning defense to offense and making a few hustle plays.
Leaky Black has been open about his need to become more assertive on offense, and given his background as a point guard, it's natural that he'd look to set up teammates first.
Carolina certainly needs him to distribute sometimes, but at 0/2 with zero points and one assist in the first half, he wasn't involved in the offense nearly enough.
That switch flipped quickly in the second half as Black was confident in knocking down a jumper at the 17:14 mark, then made a couple of aggressive plays to finish at the basket.
Black got called for an offensive foul on one drive, but more important than the result was the fact that he put his head down and went hard.
In all, Black finished 4/9 from the field with nine points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block.
He's got the talent to affect games in every area, and Carolina needs him to be assertive to make plays for himself, and in turn, setting up others. Plus/minus isn't necessarily a great stat, but Black's +14 was best for the Tar Heels today.
This was Carolina's most balanced offensive effort of the season, but the Tar Heels are still miles from where they need to be to compete for an ACC title.
Tempo tied the high mark this season at 78 possessions, but it's almost unthinkable that a Roy Williams team hasn't surpassed the 80-point mark at least once over its first five games.
Carolina left some points on the free throw line, going 13 of 21, and shot just 29 of 71 from the field, but turnovers are partially to blame as the Tar Heels finished with 20.
Just as there has been in each of the first four games, there were silly passes, too many dribbles and overall poor decision-making at time.
Cole Anthony, who shot 4 of 13 from the field, was responsible for six of the turnovers and forced a little too much at times.
The good news for Carolina is that all of this stuff can be corrected.
For the offensive issues that have persisted, Carolina has progressed with its rebounding in each game before completely dominating today, beating Alabama 60-31.
The Tar Heels' 23 offensive rebounds equaled the Crimson Tide's 23 defensive boards, and ended up providing 23 second-chance points. That number could improve, but it's a step in the right direction for a team that wasn't pleased with its overall rebounding two weeks ago.
Carolina got 22 combined rebounds out of Anthony, Black and Robinson.