Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 99-54 home win over Louisville on Saturday evening.
- Despite Louisville’s recent COVID pause (their second lengthy hiatus of the season), this game shaped up to be a real “measuring stick” of how the Heels could stack up against the upper echelon of the conference. Carolina responded with what was probably their most complete game of the season.
- This win doesn’t punch your ticket to the NCAA Tournament, but you would rather win (and convincingly so) at the beginning of the home stretch of the regular season so as to not put yourself in a precarious position during the last two weeks of conference play and the ACC Tournament.
- However, the dominance of this win launched Carolina from 53 to 33 in the NCAA’s NET rankings. The Heels also jumped all the way to 29 at KenPom.
- Huge ACC standings implication from the win: Carolina leapfrogs idle Clemson and Louisville into fourth place. Why does that matter? The top four teams all receive double byes in the ACC Tournament.
- The Tar Heels keep alive their undefeated record at home; now up to 8-0.
- Prior to the game, and given the 19 days since Louisville last played, I assumed they would be rusty out of the gate, but find their sea legs as the game wore on. The exact opposite was true. With the score tied at 18 midway through the first half, and Louisville looking much better than expected, the Tar Heels outscored the Cardinals 81-36 the rest of the game. Sure, Louisville was shorthanded, but you still have to go out and take care of business and not let off the gas.
- Carolina did just that. They held a 19-point halftime lead and, after a sloppy first four minutes of the second half, the Tar Heels went into overdrive and eviscerated their opponent the rest of the way.
- UNC set a new season high in scoring with 99. The previous high was 91 at Duke. They scored 48 in the first half, the most in the opening 20:00 this season. This played tied the previous season high:
- As part of the points onslaught, Carolina also set a season high in field goals made with 42. The previous high was 37 vs. NC State. In fact, it was the most baskets a Tar Heel team had made since hitting 45 against Elon on November 9, 2018.
- Coming into the game, Louisville led the ACC in field goal percentage defense at 40.1 percent. Carolina ended up shooting a season high 60.9 percent (42 -69), besting their previous season high of 54.4 percent (37-68) vs. NC State. The Tar Heels also set a new mark for their highest field goal percentage in a half this season. In the second half they shot 64.7 percent (22-34). The previous high was 60.7 percent (17-28) at Pitt.
- Here’s an odd dichotomy for you: Despite recording their highest field goal percentage of the season, the Tar Heels also set their lowest free throw percentage of the season: 38.9 percent (7-18). All 11 misses came from the trio of Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe, and Walker Kessler. Despite an uptick from the free throw line in the Northeastern game (13-16, 81.3 percent), Carolina has shot 65-121 at the free throw line in the last seven games (53.7 percent). It didn’t cost them tonight, but it certainly could in the coming weeks.
- Let’s get one other ugly number out of the way before we get back to the good stuff. Carolina committed five turnovers in the first 3:27 of the second half, four of which were by Caleb Love. The good news is that those were Love’s only turnovers of the game and that the Tar Heels only had one more turnover the rest of the game, to finish with 11. Love actually chased down one of the turnovers for a block:
- You don’t see this very often, but Carolina led Louisville in blocked shots 8-0 until the Cardinals picked up two in the waning minutes of the game.
- A game after setting a new season high in bench points with 40, the Tar Heels’ bench decided to one-up themselves by chipping in 45 points tonight.
- 21 of those 45 bench points came from an efficient Day’Ron Sharpe performance. The freshman compiled those 21 points on 10-14 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds (eight of which were offensive), had one assist, one turnover, two blocks, and one steal. All of that in just 17:17.
- Walker Kessler was also quite efficient. He notched double digits in scoring (10) for the second time in as many games. Kessler also contributed four rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks, and just one turnover. All in only 11:33. That’s two freshmen big men doing exactly what they need to do off the bench.
- Kerwin Walton continues to be an unexpected revelation that has really helped mold this team into what it is. He tied his career high with 14 points – in the first half. Walton finished the game with 19 points, made a career high five three-pointers (including sinking each of the first four), and had some good defensive moments (despite not being known as much of a defender at this point in his career). He has now made multiple threes in seven straight games and 11 of the past 13.
- Walton seems to consistently string a couple good plays together. He had an incredible stretch in the first half: tipped out a missed free throw to Caleb Love and nailed his third three when the ball came back around to him. On the next Louisville possession he got a strip as the shot clock expires to force the turnover. Walton then hit his fourth three on ensuing possession. Early in the second half, Walton got a block and then a lay-up on the other end to set a career high with 16 points.
- It was good to have Anthony Harris back in action after he missed the Northeastern game while recovering from a concussion suffered against Virginia.
- This game was an important rebounding battle between the top two rebounding teams in the ACC. Carolina set the tone early by grabbing seven offensive rebounds in the first 8:00. The Tar Heels finished +11 on the boards at 45-34. As previously mentioned, Sharpe grabbed eight offensive boards by himself; five of those came in the first 11:30 of the game.
- Because of their lead, the Tar Heels didn’t need much three-point shooting in the second half, but they did make two of five after knocking down six of 13 in the first half. The even better news was that Louisville shot just 1-for-16 from beyond the arc.
- Kudos to Armando Bacot who picked up his third foul just 72 seconds into the second half. He stayed in the game and scored four of Carolina’s first six points in the half as the Tar Heels were working to hold off an early Louisville push. Brooks then took up the mantle and scored six of the next 10.
- Five different Tar Heels made it to double-figures in the scoring column. Sharpe led the way with 21, Walton was just behind with 19, followed by Bacot (14), Brooks (12), and Kessler (10).
- Of the 97 points scored by the regular rotation players, 65 were scored by true freshmen.
- Speaking of the freshmen, this was a sequence on a Louisville possession just before the under-4:00 media timeout of the first half: four true freshmen and a redshirt freshman on the floor. Walker Kessler blocks a shot, Louisville recovers. Anthony Harris then tips a pass which Kessler dives on the floor to recover in the corner and calls a timeout to regain possession for his team. The result was more freshman goodness as Kessler passed big-to-big for a Sharpe dunk.
- It was a nice sight to see some classic Carolina pace-pushing on display. Here are first half examples of running after both a make and a miss:
- Louisville make: Louisville gets a fast break layup off a live ball turnover with 7:06 left in first half. Brooks inbounds to Black who gets upcourt in three dribbles and drops a bounce pass to Sharpe for a vicious dunk with 7:00 left. Six seconds.
- Louisville miss: Harris and Love inadvertently both get a rebound. Love winds up with it with 4:25 left before halftime. Five dribbles and five seconds later Walker Kessler is throwing down an alley-oop. 35-25 lead. Here’s the play:
- How about another example of Carolina basketball looking like Carolina basketball and making things happen just before halftime? 5.2 seconds left in first half. Louisville inbounding on the baseline. Garrison Brooks tips the inbounds pass to Caleb Love who is able to blow by a defender and get an exclamation point dunk just before the first half buzzer. 48-29 Heels at the half. Here’s the play:
- Despite a sloppy first four minutes of the second half, the initial possession of the half worked to help set the tone defensively for Carolina: Louisville starts with the ball in the second half. Nearly a steal by Leaky Black. Possession ends with a forced shot and Carolina rebound just before the shot clock expires. Great way to pick up where you left off in the first half.
- Thanks to the big lead, the walk-ons had the opportunity to play several minutes this evening; a special treat in a season that hasn’t afforded them much playing time. Kudos to Creighton Lebo who has taken full advantage of the recent opportunities by scoring in three straight contests.
- The Tar Heels continue to share the ball at a high level. They set a season high with 29 assists. The previous high was 22, against both Iowa and Pittsburgh. In fact, all 10 of the regular rotation players recorded at least one assist and eight had multiple. 29 assists on 42 made field goals translates to a 69.0 assist percentage, the third highest of the season. UNC has now been 55 percent or higher in assist percentage in four straight games and 50 percent or better in 11 of the last 13.
- In his last four games, Leaky Black has 12 assists and just two turnovers.
- Thanks to the scheduling of another non-conference opponent (Marquette), Carolina will get to play Wednesday, before welcoming Florida State to town on Saturday. Hopefully there will be some floor-slapping going on with Wojo in the building on Wednesday.
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 home game against Marquette on Wednesday, February 24. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN2.
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