For the first time in the month of December, the Tar Heels have won a basketball game. It may have been an ugly win, but a win is a win and the Tar Heels are able to head into the Christmas break with a big momentum boosting win.
The overall performance may not pretty, but what the freshmen did on Saturday sure was. The freshman trio of Armando Bacot, Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis combined to score 41 points on Saturday, including 29 of the team 38 second points.
It started with Bacot, who bounced back from a 3-20 stretch in the last two games, to dropping at team-high 15 points on an efficient 5-7 from the field and also ripping down a team-high 12 rebounds. This was huge for a guy who just hadn’t looked the same since his ankle injury against Ohio State.
For the second straight game, Francis impressed, despite just hitting one of his eight field goal attempts. Even with his struggles shooting the ball, Francis got this Tar Heel offense going once again by speeding up the tempo and attack the basket, leading to ten shots at the free throw line, nine of which he hit. After going nearly 1,000 days between games due to injury, Francis has become an important part of a Tar Heel team that has needed some young stars to emerge.
The best performance of the night, though, came from Harris, who scored all 14 of his points in the second half and help spark the run that help lengthen the lead back out to double-digits. In just 17 minutes on the floor, Harris knocked down five of his seven shot attempts including two 3-point shots. Harris has helped give the Tar Heels that perimeter shooting touch that the rest of the team has lacked this entire season.
While the 74-64 win was sloppy at times, the play of the freshmen, especially Harris and Francis, has jump started an offense that was struggling as bad as any Tar Heel offense in recent history. If they can continue to build on this performance, the Heels should be able to keep themselves competitive in the ACC until Cole Anthony returns.
-In the last two games, the Tar Heels bench has combined to score 84 points. For comparison purposes, the Tar Heels bench scored just 139 points combined in the first ten games of the season.
-The Tar Heels have picked up the pace in the last two games. The team held a big advantage in fastbreak points, outscoring the Bruins 16-4.
-For the third time in the last five games, the Tar Heels were outrebounded. The Heels finished -5 on the glass, as the Tar Heels ripped down just 37 rebounds to UCLA’s 42. This shows just how well the Tar Heels played on this defensive end, though, which allowed them to pull out the crucial victory.
-The Tar Heels created a season-high 22 turnovers and converted those turnovers into 22 points on the offensive end. This Tar Heel offense benefits from being able to get and run and the best way to do that is by creating turnovers.