Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 73-69 win over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon in the ACC opener for both teams.

Highlights:

 

  • In a very similar late-game situation against Wofford, the Tar Heels were not able to make the plays down the stretch to win the game. While that loss was unfortunate, the lessons learned paid dividends today against Wake Forest. More on those winning plays later in Quick Hitters.
  • Want evidence that this team is different from typical Roy Williams-coached teams? The first three shots of the game were all three-pointers.
  • Luke Maye notched his eighth double-double of the season, finishing with 17 points and 15 boards. Of concern is that Maye continues to miss several open lay-ups a game.
  • Before Cameron Johnson returned to the Carolina line-up from injury, the assumption was that he would eat into Kenny Williams’ minutes. Interestingly, against both Ohio State and Wake Forest, when Johnson checks into the game as the first man off the bench, he replaces Theo Pinson rather than Williams.
  • Speaking of Johnson, his shot is beautiful. Though he did not score in the final 15 minutes of the game, his 11 points kept the Heels going at several points in the game when no one else seemed to be hitting shots.
  • Carolina did a better job taking care of the ball, only committing 12 turnovers. However, that number could (and should) have been lower as many of the turnovers were of the silly live ball variety that could have been avoided.
  • Garrison Brooks quietly had a solid first ACC game. He scored six points, pulled down seven rounds (five of which were offensive), had an assist to Joel Berry early in the game and did not commit any turnovers. Most importantly, as always, Brooks played solid defense. He moved his feet well, provided solid help defense, and generally seems to be in the right spot.
  • Several moments in the game were catalysts. After a mostly lethargic first half for UNC, Maye converted an and-one with Carolina down one (27-26) and 2:19 remaining before halftime. The Heels finished the half on a 9-3 run and led 35-30 at the break.
  • Part of that run was one of the most athletic plays you’ll ever see in a college basketball game. With 23 seconds remaining before the half Pinson flew in for a one-handed offensive rebound and score. The result was a scary moment as Pinson stayed on the floor in pain. The report at halftime was that he hurt his hip. Thankfully Pinson returned to the game and was a major factor in the second half.

  • Another catalyst moment in the game happened midway through the second half when Berry suddenly decided to make life miserable for whomever he was guarding. On three straight defensive possessions he poked the ball out of bounds, initiated a trap that led to a turnover and Kenny Williams dunk, and tipped another ball out of bounds. At this point, Carolina was up 62-53 and seemingly on the verge of blowing the game open, but Wake Forest hit three threes in just over a minute of game time to tie the score at 62.
  • Thus far, Coach Williams has employed the Tar Heel version of Golden State’s “Death Lineup” down the stretch in games. For Carolina, this means Berry, Williams, Pinson, Johnson, and Maye are on the floor. Johnson checked in for Brooks with 3:06 remaining and the Tar Heels down two, 67-65. Wake Forest scored on their next possession at 2:24 to make the score 69-65. From that point on, the Death Lineup closed the game on an 8-0 run. Here’s some stats on the Death Lineup from Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid) on Twitter:

  • Two players in particular turned the tide in those final minutes. Pinson had an offensive rebound and finished the play with a spectacular slip pass to Maye for a lay-up to make the score 69-67. He then corralled a lay-up on Wake Forest’s next possession before sinking two free throws on the other end of the court to tie the game. Pinson hits every clutch free throw. Once again, he flirted with a triple-double, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
  • The other player who turned the tide in the closing minutes was Williams. Williams has been known, on the defensive side of the ball this year, for drawing charges. Though he did not achieve that this game, he found another way to make an important defensive impact. On back-to-back possessions (with UNC down two and then tied), Williams got switched onto Wake Forest big man Doral Moore (an obvious mismatch for Wake to exploit). On the first possession, the Deacons could not even get the ball into the post and on the second possession Moore got fouled but missed the front end of a one-and-one. On Wake Forest’s final possession, Williams grabbed the rebound, was fouled, and calmly hit two free throws to ice the game.
  • Of course, Carolina would not have won the game without senior leader and reigning Final Four MOP Berry. In addition to the aforementioned suffocating defense, Berry made several huge shots including the game-winner. Much like Marcus Paige’s game-winner against NC State in 2014, this shot could be the defining basket of Berry’s Tar Heel career:

 

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. The Tar Heels’ next game is in Tallahassee against Florida State on Wednesday, January 3. Tip is at 7:00ET on ESPN2.

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Author Details
I’m a UNC writer for Armchair All-Americans. I grew up in Atlanta knowing that I was going to be the next Maddux or Glavine. Unfortunately, I never hit six feet tall, 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, 90 m.p.h. on the radar gun, or 50 home runs. So I decided to do my sports from my armchair and behind a computer screen. My favorite all-time sports moment? 1992. NLCS. Game 7. Sid Bream. Look it up. Worst sports moment ever? Two words: Kris. Jenkins. I live in the bustling metropolis of Webb City, MO, where ministry is my full-time job. I spend my free time with my beautiful wife, Maggie, and my two children, Pax & Poppy.
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I’m a UNC writer for Armchair All-Americans. I grew up in Atlanta knowing that I was going to be the next Maddux or Glavine. Unfortunately, I never hit six feet tall, 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, 90 m.p.h. on the radar gun, or 50 home runs. So I decided to do my sports from my armchair and behind a computer screen. My favorite all-time sports moment? 1992. NLCS. Game 7. Sid Bream. Look it up. Worst sports moment ever? Two words: Kris. Jenkins. I live in the bustling metropolis of Webb City, MO, where ministry is my full-time job. I spend my free time with my beautiful wife, Maggie, and my two children, Pax & Poppy.
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