Quick Hitters of North Carolina’s 84-74 road win over NC State on Saturday afternoon.
- North Carolina played (and won) its third consecutive ‘can’t lose’ game, in terms of NCAA Tournament participation, setting up another ‘can’t lose’ game on Monday night against Syracuse.
- UNC carried out this strange game of wire to wire. The Tar Heels would take a big lead, NC State would cut it, and then Carolina would push it back right away. It was a game UNC ultimately won by 10 that looked like a game they won by 20. Here is the progression of the swings from top to bottom:
- UNC 10 points up – 15:35 to go in the first half
- Until 19 – 12:18
- Until 11 a.m. – 9:36 a.m.
- Until 16 – 5:56
- Until 9 – 3:35
- Up to 17 – half time
- Until 11 – 18:25 left in the second half
- Until 10 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
- Until 1 p.m. – 10:47 a.m.
- Until 25 – 7:19
- Until 14 – 4:18
- Until 19 – 2:19
- Up to 10 – Final
- Because of those wild swings, the Tar Heels missed a golden opportunity to give the starters some rest before Monday. For example, Caleb Love has played literally every 40 minutes (for the second game in a row) and has now played 58:28 out of a possible 60:00 in the last three games.
- With the victory, Carolina has won eight of its last nine against State, and eight of its last nine at State.
- By virtue of the victory (and the tiebreaker over Virginia), Carolina secured a top-five seed in the ACC tournament. The magic number is one (a win at Carolina or a loss at Wake) for the Tar Heels to land a top-four seed (and a double bye).
- Also by virtue of this ACC road win, Hubert Davis guaranteed that he would finish his first season with a winning conference road record. The Heels are 6-3 right now with only one road game left.
- By the end of the regular season, Carolina will have faced three teams on their senior night. They’ve already ruined the first two (at Virginia Tech, at NC State). It would be nice to spoil a third (and a retirement party) next Saturday.
- Armando Bacot and Brady Manek were a combined 17-22, but it looked like they didn’t get enough tries. State went into the zone for much of the second half and it enticed Caleb Love and RJ Davis into settling for threes and jumpers rather than handing the ball to the big guys. By the way, that doesn’t bode well for Monday night.
- It’s hard to believe there’s more to add to the Bacot tradition this year, but there is. He dropped a bucket and two rebounds before having a game-high 30 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks. If he hadn’t committed a fourth foul with 6:28 to go, he probably would have reached 30 and 20. Still, it was the first 25/15/5 game in Carolina history. These figures also mean that Bacot recorded its 22n/a double-double of the season and 40and of her career. He is now one shy of equaling Brice Johnson’s single-season record at Carolina.
- You may recall that in Game 1 against NC State, the Heels held Dereon Seabron to two points; his only game without scoring in double figures this season. If he hadn’t scored an insignificant eight points in the 4:18 final, Carolina would have limited him to single digits again.
- A major factor in limiting Seabron was Leaky Black. Unfortunately, Black landed awkwardly after contesting a shot with 4:31 left in the first half. He collapsed on the pitch clutching his right knee, which is never a good sign of a non-contact injury. Immediately, the brain goes to the ACL. Luckily, there was no structural damage to the knee and it turned out to be hyperextension. All indicators are that Black will be able to play on his senior night on Monday.
- If my count is correct, this is the third straight quickie where I said, “Where would Carolina be without Brady Manek?” The graduate transfer was one of three Tar Heels to score 16 points, and did it on 6-9 shooting, 2-5 on three, 2-2 on free throws, plus six rebounds, and maybe most importantly led the team with five assists. .
- I’ve been paying a lot of attention to bench contributions lately. This specific area of interest came up boldly on Saturday due to Leaky Black’s absence. The “bench” has risen to the occasion if we define “bench” as “Puff Johnson”. The second picked the perfect time to have his best game as a Tar Heel. The combination of the other three bench players who saw minutes (Dontrez Styles, D’Marco Dunn, Kerwin Walton) combined for zero points on an 0-2 shot, zero three-point or free throw attempts, four rebounds, one assist, three turnovers, and zero steals or blocks. Johnson, meanwhile, had 16 points on 4-9 shooting, 2-4 on three, 6-7 on free throws, five rebounds, one assist, one turnover and one steal.
- Johnson started in place of Black in the second half. If for some reason Black can’t go on Monday, Styles or Johnson will likely start in his place. I’m going to give Johnson the advantage.
- An ongoing concern: Carolina has averaged 14.3 turnovers per game in the last six games after averaging just 9.3 in the previous six.
- Carolina had its second-highest offensive rebound percentage of the season at 46.4%, just behind the 48.1% mark it set against UNC-Asheville.
- The Heels have been absolutely on fire from the free throw line the past three games: 13-15 at Virginia Tech, 11-13 against Louisville and 21-23 at NC State. In those games combined, UNC is shooting 88.2 percent (45-51).
- In fact, if the season ended today, the team would have had the second-highest free throw percentage in program history. The Heels are shooting 76.5 percent (407-532), trailing only the 78.3 percent of 1983-84 (551-704).
- Getting off on the right foot on the road is always important. Carolina certainly did today, jumping to a 20-3 lead, including a 16-0 run. What’s even more impressive is that all five starters have scored in those first 20 runs (which is even more remarkable considering Bacot has scored eight of the first 11).
- Can anyone tell me why NC State head coach Kevin Keatts thinks he can just walk around the field? He spends way too much time on the pitch and outside the coaching box. He was warned at least once to turn back.
- It’s not specific to Carolina, but worth mentioning: All of the top six AP college basketball teams lost Saturday; the first time this happens.
The score of the box
Hubert Davis post-match press conference
Players’ post-match press conference
Don’t forget to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Syracuse on Monday, February 28. Tip is at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
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