North Carolina Bounces Back With Big Win Over Gonzaga

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 17th, 2018

After getting blown out at Michigan as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Roy Williams made some terse comments about the current state of his team — basically saying that North Carolina “stinks,” and that he was doing a poor job coaching his squad. In the Tar Heels’ first real test since that evening, his team laid the wood on Gonzaga, 103-90, Saturday night in the Smith Center. Senior forwards Luke Maye and Cam Johnson led the way as Williams’ team once again looked the part of a legitimate national contender.

Luke Maye won his individual battle with Rui Hachimura in North Carolina’s weekend victory over Gonzaga. (photo credit: goheels.com)

After a very successful junior campaign, Maye has to date had a disappointing senior year. His key offensive numbers are down – both in terms of scoring (14.3 versus 16.9 PPG) and shooting (45.0% versus 48.6% FG) — but he got the better of Gonzaga All-America candidate Rui Hachimura on Saturday night. Maye finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds in the winning effort while Hachimura contributed 17 points and six rebounds. One area where Maye has improved this season is at the free throw stripe. After making all seven of his tries against Gonzaga, he is now shooting 79.5 percent on the season (after converting only 62.4 percent of his freebies a year ago).

North Carolina also made a season high 13 three-pointers against the Zags with Johnson chiefly responsible (6-of-8 3FG). Williams has been waiting for a break-out shooting performance, saying after the game, “I’ve been telling Cam [Johnson], Kenny [Williams] and Luke [Maye] that you guys are our best shooters — how ’bout trying to be our best makers?” A regular strength of the North Carolina program is its work on the boards and that was hugely evident on Saturday as well. Gonzaga entered the contest ranked among the 50 best offensive rebounding teams in college basketball, but the Zags managed to only grab five of its 33 misses against the Tar Heels. Meanwhile, North Carolina converted 14 offensive boards into 27 points. As Mark Few said afterward, “They just pounded us on the glass, too. […] The shots we did get them to miss, they usually got the rebound and put it back in.”

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Rushed Reactions: #2 North Carolina 84, #15 Lipscomb 66

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on March 16th, 2018

RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) is in Charlotte this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

Joel Berry II and North Carolina struggled early but eventually cruised past Lipscomb.
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

  1. It took North Carolina awhile to get going but the game ended up like we thought it would. North Carolina did not look good for the first 16 minutes of this game. At that point, Lipscomb led the Tar Heels by two points and had outplayed them by forcing a number of turnovers (eight). But a 12-1 North Carolina run to close out the first half changed the game for good. Lipscomb never seriously threatened to make it a game again as North Carolina methodically pulled away. However, Roy Williams knows North Carolina can’t afford to play so poorly for another half in this NCAA Tournament or that will be the end of their dream of back-to-back National Championships.
  2. The Tar Heels got solid performances from their secondary players. For North Carolina to make it to San Antonio, the Tar Heels’ stars — Joel Berry, Luke Maye and Theo Pinson — must play well, obviously. But Roy Williams will also need major contributions from their supporting cast each game. Today, the Tar Heels got offensive production from Kenny Williams (a game-high 18 points) and Cam Johnson (12 points) as well as encouraging play from their young bigs. Sterling Manley took advantage of his size  to post six points and 10 boards, while fellow freshman Garrison Brooks tallied seven points on 2-of-3 shooting.
  3. Lipscomb acquitted itself well in its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bisons gave North Carolina all it could handle early, even holding a lead late into the first half. Lipscomb hurt the Tar Heels from three-point range, sinking four of its first eight attempts, but after that initial burst from deep, the Bisons missed their last nine tries of the first half. The smaller Lipscomb competed well on the boards too, holding the taller Tar Heels to just three offensive rebounds in the first half. In the end, North Carolina’s talent was just too much, however, for the Bisons.

Player of the Game. Theo Pinson, North CarolinaAs usual, Pinson did some of everything, scoring 15 points, snatching 10 rebounds, dishing seven assists and recording a block and a steal.

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