"I think we're going to call ourselves the Flight Brothers," Said J.P. Tokoto after UNC's beatdown of Belmont Abbey Friday night. The Tar Heel's 78 point victory over the Crusaders was highlighted by the Heels doing their best Clippers impression. The Heels had many thunderous dunks but four on the night stood out the most; two by Freshman Theo Pinson and two by Junior J.P. Tokoto. Pinson had an excellent baseline drive and stuff while adding an alley-oop off of an inbounds pass. Tokoto had the highlight of the night however, hitting a breakaway slam after a 360 spin on top of Belmont Abbey guard Ray Chen. Kennedy Meeks even got in on the fun, swiping the ball at half court and rumbling to the basket for a breakaway jam, according to Meeks, his first breakaway dunk since High School. This was a great game for the Heels and a really fun win for the players, coaches and fans. Carolina did show a couple of new looks that might also give insight into how the team will play this season.
In a game where the Heels outclassed the opposition in every way Roy Williams showed several new wrinkles on defense. Williams appears to be experimenting with a few different types of presses and tap defenses. With the addition of Pinson and Justin Jackson to an already long team the Heels now have some ridiculous length on the floor on defense. Williams has utilized this to explore two different sets of 1-3-1 press defenses, one in the full court and one in the half court. The Heels also trapped a lot off screens during this game; using the big man to hedge out beyond the screen and contain the ball handler while allowing for the screened defender to come out and trap the ball handler. Against an already over-matched Belmont Abbey team, this was a devastating defense and the Crusaders turned the ball over 32 times.
The Heels offense added a few more wrinkles in this game, the Heels ran some double pick and roll action, where the rolling big man goes around a back-screen set by a wing player, in this game. This allowed for several easy dunks for the Heels but also allowed for the back-screening wing player to pop out for open jump shots. This is a neat little action that the Heels should break out more this year, it involves a lot of moving parts and should confuse most defenses. It also works really well to draw big men away from the hoop, a critical component of the offense going forward.
Roy Williams seems to have found his starting five. The group of Marcus Paige, Kennedy Meeks, Justin Jackson, J.P. Tokoto and Bryce Johnson have now started each exhibition game and have a nice chemistry with each other. Look for that group to start next Friday against NC Central.
Marcus Paige took a violent charge in the first half that bloodied his mouth a bit. He was fine, but he played the second half with a mouth guard, he did not appear comfortable with the mouth guard in. He air balled his first jump shot after putting the mouth guard in and did not take another jumper for the rest of the game.
The Heels committed only 10 turnovers this game and Williams was impressed with the ball control. If the Heels continue this throughout the rest of the season they could be picks for a Final Four run.
The Heels shot 13-15 from the free throw line this game another promising trend for the season. The Heels were poor from deep however, shooting only 3-12. After the game, Williams said he liked the shots they took and he expected many of them to go down. This is something to watch going forward, the Heels need to find their stroke from deep if they wish to truly contend this season.