It is hard to know where to start when you beat a team like Louisville as badly as we did. I don’t think anyone saw a 99-54 blowout coming, but it was the only game that didn’t knock a couple of years off my life this season. But I figured I should start here… I was wrong when I said we didn’t find any rhythm from the Northeastern game. It is a lot better to play actual opponents than scrimmage your teammates in practice. I really commend Roy and the program for finding games to fill a couple of the ACC games we will miss out on. Not playing the Miami or Boston College game doesn’t hurt us but it would have been nice to play Clemson again and get a shot at Virginia Tech. Oh well.
I’m not really sure how Louisville went from having in their games notes that there would be scholarship athletes missing to maybe missing one rotational player and getting Malik Williams back. Yes they only had 10 players, but they had all their rotational guys and starters. Now Malik Williams was a nonfactor and they hadn’t played in 3 weeks, but we still beat a full strength Cardinals team, a team that is a projected #8 seed in the tournament. That was a good win especially in the fashion that we did it.
For those of you that say Roy doesn’t make adjustments, buckle up. The ole ball coach said he messed with the offense throughout the week and made some adjustments. The impact? Noticeably better spacing which led to a rhythm and increased passing. We had 29 assists on 42 field goals. The assists are a season high. We pounded the post all game. We had 58 points in the paint. Our big guys had 57 points in the paint and 28 rebounds. Our bigs outscored the entire Louisville team by themselves. Also worth noting is the passing between the bigs. They had 7 assists and 6 of them were from one big to another. That was vintage Carolina basketball. Kessler and Sharpe had some good chemistry and Kessler has now had 3 straight quality performances. He finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 3 assists in just under 12 minutes. He ran the floor well and was rewarded on several alley-oops. He also had an eerily similar steal to the one he had in the Northeastern game. He deflected the ball at the top of the key and ended up getting his own miss on the other end for a basket. Sharpe also got his hand in the passing lane once and was rewarded by Davis with a monster alley-oop near the end of the game. Sharpe was a man among boys in this game. He had 21 points and 11 rebounds in 17 minutes. 8 of those rebounds were offensive. Those numbers from Kessler and Sharpe are ridiculously efficient. They definitely stole the show so much that few people may have noticed that both Brooks and Bacot were in double figures as well. Bacot had 14 points and 9 rebounds. Brooks had 12 points and 4 rebounds.
The last player in double figures was Walton with 19. He had 14 points in the first half. He went 5-7 from 3. Before Walton was putting up numbers because people weren’t necessarily scouting him. Now he is scouted as the shooter on our team and is still shooting at a high percentage. What a find by Roy and his recruiting staff. Walton is special. We ended up 8-18 from behind the arc. I will take 44% from 3.
We shot 60.9% for the game, added 45 bench points, 14 second chance points, 26 fast break points, and 26 points off of turnovers. The fast break and points off turnovers go hand and hand with our defensively intensity. We had 8 blocks which was the most since the season opener and added 11 steals. There were a ton of deflected balls and good reads. A Louisville turnover led to a dunk for Love to end the first half and Kessler went diving across the floor to collect a loose ball. It resulted in Carolina gaining possession after Kessler called a timeout, a timeout that led to some praise from Roy. Good defense leads to fast break opportunities and Carolina basketball feeds off of those. Last night looked like Carolina basketball in that regard. Again our bigs did an amazing good of running the floor.
Some shade has been thrown Black and Platek’s way for not scoring. Each player’s contribution can be different each night. Platek had 5 assists and no turnovers. Black had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and just 1 turnover. Just for a comparison, Black had 3 more rebounds than Brooks and Platek had 2 more assists than Love. Love finished with 9 points.
We went on a 22-4 run to end the game and 9 different players scored. This included a lay up from Creighton Lebo. The one bad spot from a 45 point blowout… going 7-18 on free throws. We shot 38.9% from the line. We shot better from the field and behind the arc than we did from the free throw line. It is not from a lack of practice. Roy said he has made the guys shoot 300 free throws in practice. The team average was 79%. I don’t know where the disconnect is when it becomes game time, but that number has to improve. Our bigs are the most guilty and if they are going to bang down low then they need to make free throws. No points off a possession where we get the ball down low is devastating. But this was a great team win going into a Wednesday night game with Marquette.
BY THE NUMBERS:
UNC is 14-7 overall (8-5 in the ACC) Coming off a win against Louisville
Marquette is 10-12 overall (6-10 in the Big East) Coming off a win at Butler
The Tar Heels take on Wojo and the boys Wednesday night at 7pm in the Smith Center. The game will be aired on ESPN 2. If anyone doesn’t get the Wojo reference, which if you don’t then I’m not sure you follow the Carolina-Duke rivalry well enough which would be odd but anyway. Steve Wojciechowski is the coach of the Golden Eagles and played point guard at Duke from 1994-1998. He was an associate head coach under Coach K before getting the Marquette job. He definitely fit the bill as the token white guy that everyone loved to hate when it came to Duke. With that being said, His participation in the rivalry probably helped us in landing this game. Wojo is familiar with the heels and he would love a chance to pull the upset.
Marquette doesn’t boast a good record, but they do have wins over Wisconsin and Creighton. No surprise that a team led by a former dukie is a team that shoots a fair amount of 3’s. They average about 21 attempts a game and around 7 makes a game. They made 12 3’s in their win over Creighton on 12/14/20 and attempted 33 3’s in a loss to Depaul on 1/23/21. They only shot 5-18 from behind the arc in the last game. It was a win against Butler. Elliot went 3-6 from behind the arc. They also had 4 players in double figures in that game (Garcia, John, Elliot, Cain).
Garcia, John, Carton, Elliot and McEwen started that game which meant that they started 3 guards and 2 forwards. They have started 3 forwards and 2 guards before as Cain and Elliot seem to rotate in and out of the starting lineup. They only have 6 players who have played in all 22 of their games. The majority of the production in any given game comes mainly from the starters. Torrence, Perez, and Lewis have been the main rotational guys as of late with Cain or Elliot joining that group based on who starts. Ighodaro and Akanno have rotated in as well but only average 7.6 and 5.3 minutes a game. With that being said they usually have a 9 man rotation.
They don’t have a ton of height but starting forward Garcia stands at 6’11”.Garcia shots 37.9% from 3 and his starting counterpart Cain shots 37.8%. John shoots 75% but has only shot 4 3’s on the year so Garcia and Cain are much bigger threats to shoot it from deep. Elliot shots 42.2% from behind the arc but only averages a little over 5 points a game.
Big guys that shoot 3’s have somewhat been our kryptonite this year as our bigs are slow to close out and have a tendency to play too far off their man to protect the drive. It will be crucial that our frontcourt limits their frontcourt from behind the arc. Marquette turns the ball over as much as we do but has a higher turnover margin. It could be a sloppy game, but if we can lock down on defense like we did last game, it will give us some opportunities for some run outs. I don’t know about you but I enjoyed watching our bigs run the floor and play above the rim. I would especially love to see that against a former blue devil.
I think Sharpe has the potential to have another big game and our bigs have another opportunity to dominate. Quick entry passes were a priority last game and it needs to be in this game and for the rest of the season. If our big guys seal their man then they need to get the ball. We will have opportunities for offensive rebounds. Marquette has 220 offensive rebounds on the year. Their opponents have 228. We have 316 in comparison.
I would like to see RJ Davis get going again. He hasn’t been as big of a factor since Love solidified himself as the starting point guard. Interesting enough though I think they are playing better together now than earlier in the year. I think that speaks to the fact that it obviously takes time to have chemistry with people you have never played with before and I think there isn’t as big of an on court competition. What I mean by that is that they both may have been trying to do too much when they were on the court together; one trying to outdo the other. With Love as the clear starting point guard, he has been able to take more steps forward without that added pressure. There is still lots of pressure as the starting point guard at Carolina, but it doesn’t seem as though he is in as big of a competition with his teammate. Kessler is coming into his own as well and his recent success goes hand in hand with the team playing better.
Somewhat like the Northeastern game, this wouldn’t be a real tournament resume booster win, but would be a bad loss. Marquette is a more noteworthy team, but we need to win the games we put on our schedule since we are putting them on the schedule in an attempt to rack up wins. I have said many times before and I will keep saying it, I really like Roy’s commitment to playing a full schedule. It won’t happen because he won’t be able to make up the Clemson or Virginia Tech games, but it is good that we replaced the Miami and Boston College games. We play better when we don’t have long lay offs and playing at home is an obvious advantage. Our lone away game left is a second matchup with Syracuse on March 1st. FSU, Syracuse, and Duke is a tough closing stretch but playing the FSU game at home gives us a better chance of winning out.
We are currently a #9 seed in the region with Baylor. Our first game would be against Rutgers with the second game being Baylor if we got that far and assuming Baylor didn’t get upset. That is a rough two games. And S/O to Kerwin Walton for earning ACC Freshman of the Week honors.
Now I don’t like the fact that Duke has beaten UVA and Syracuse as it has put them back into the NCAA bubble conversation, but it’s hilarious that they are doing it without Jalen Johnson. I have read in several articles that there are some NBA teams that don’t want to touch him with a 10 foot poll after he opted out. If Duke was having a good season obviously he wouldn’t have opted out. So what does that say about him as a player? And what does it say about him as a teammate that his team has 2 quality wins without him? Other draft picks are improving their stock while his is dropping and his character has been called into question. Now the NBA isn’t necessarily a team first league but his situation is worth a chuckle since it seems to be backfiring.