Doesn’t winning feel so good? I only ask because it had been a while since the Tar Heels and the fans had known what that felt like after a gruesome five game slide that produce to gut-wrenching losses and two blowout losses. After a phenomenal effort came up just short on Wednesday night against Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels responded with an even better performance on Saturday afternoon, dominating Jim Larrangha’s short-handed Miami Hurricanes from the opening tip.
The Tar Heels put together their best first half of the entire season, scoring 51 points and shooting 55.0% from the field, numbers that have failed to be reached in a half all season prior to today. Unlike in some of the games that we’ve seen this season, the Tar Heels were able to follow the great first half with a great second, as the team shot a remarkable 62.1% from the field in the second half, falling just short of the 100 point biscuit mark, but coming the closest to it they have all season.
While Garrison Brooks has been the go-to-guy on the offensive end here lately, but Saturday was Brandon Robinson’s time to shine. After missing the game on Wednesday with some neck stiffness related to an earlier car accident, Robinson returned to put together a career best performance on Saturday, scoring 29 points on 11-16 shooting, including a 6-10 mark from beyond the arc after an 0-3 start from deep to begin the game. His huge performance combined with Armando Bacot’s big day, 19 points and 12 rebounds, to help the Tar Heels dominate the Hurricanes on the offensive end against the zone defense of Miami, a defensive scheme that has caused huge issues for this team all season prior to this game.
All of this resulted in a milestone victory for legendary coach Roy Williams. After tying his mentor Dean Smith’s career wins mark back in December against Yale, Saturday’s victory helped him pass the legendary Smith’s 879 win mark in front of the home crowd in the Smith Center. Roy is now alone in 4th in career wins by a head coach in Division I history and now sits just 22 wins away from Bob Knight’s mark of 902 wins, a number he should be able to reach sometime next season. Roy, while you may not want to hear it, we all know that Dean has a big smile on his face right now because of just how happy he is to see you reach this milestone.
-The Tar Heels had a remarkable 32 assists in this game on Saturday, a number that tied for the most in a single game under Roy Williams. For a team that has struggled moving the basketball as much as they have, this is a huge confidence boost for them going forward.
-The Tar Heels not only had their best overall shooting day of the season on Saturday, but also one of their best days from three-point range of the year as well. The Tar Heels knocked down 10 of their 23 three-point attempt, the second time the team has hit double digit threes in a game this season. The only better performance from deep this season: the opener against Notre Dame.
-Christian Keeling had the best performance of his short Tar Heel career on Saturday off the bench for the Tar Heels. In 16 minutes of play, Keeling scored nine points on 4-6 shooting and was a +8 when on the floor on Saturday.
-The Tar Heels have struggled to find bench scoring since Anthony Harris went down with a season ending injury. On Saturday, the bench finished with 22 points, led by Keeling and Justin Pierce, who also finished with nine points.