clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UNC 87 Wake Forest 71

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

UNC overcame a sluggish and sloppy first half to put together it's best offensive half of the season to pull away from Wake Forest for an 87-71 win on the road.

On Sunday, the Tar Heels appeared to sleepwalk through the 68-53 win over Virginia Tech so much so Roy Williams brought the team in for a previously unscheduled practice on Monday night. For the first half in Winston-Salem, it wasn't clear if the message had been received. The Tar Heels were sloppy with the basketball committing multiple unforced errors and fouling the more aggressive Demon Deacons to send Wake Forest to the line 16 times. In addition to the turnover and foul troubles, the Heels were well below their season average on the offensive glass and struggled to control the defensive glass for most of the half. UNC shot 53% in the first half and scored 40 points but the miscues kept the game close with the Heels up just six at halftime.

In the second half, UNC dropped the hammer thanks to getting Kennedy Meeks back in the game after having three first half fouls. The Tar Heels exploited their advantage in the paint with Meeks scoring eight of UNC's first 14 second half points to extend the lead from six to 14 by the first media timeout. From there UNC simply dominated on the offensive end both in halfcourt execution and getting out in transition. For good measure the Heels went 3-3 from beyond the arc after missing all six three point attempts in the first half. It was a complete performance including taking better care of the basketball to finish with a TO% of just 16.9.

On the defensive end both Marcus Paige and J.P. Tokoto picked up their third fouls early in the second half. With Meeks already in foul trouble, UNC dropped back into a 2-3 zone to protect those three. Overall the zone did a fair job of keeping Wake Forest in check. As a zone is wont to do, it did allow the Deacs to hit some open threes but the Tar Heels shooting 69.2% in the second half negated any serious run Wake Forest tried to make to get back in the game. UNC led by as much as 18 and the Demon Deacons never got closer than 12 for the remainder of the game. UNC's 69.2% second half shooting is a high for a half in ACC play. The Heels also posted a season high 60.3% shooting from the floor.

While this was an overall team effort, Justin Jackson has really come on in ACC play to be that second perimeter scorer UNC needs to be successful. After going for 16 points on Sunday, Jackson followed up that with 17 points versus Wake Forest on 6-8 shooting. Jackson was a nice compliment for Meeks 16 points and Brice Johnson leading the Tar Heels with 19 points. Paige shook off a slow start to hit a pair of second half threes and finished with 12 points and eight assists. J.P. Tokoto rounded out the starters with 8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

This game and especially the second half illustrated how good UNC can be when they fire on all cylinders. The trio of Meeks, Johnson and Jackson scored 52 of UNC's 87 points and had a total of eight missed shots on 30 attempts between them. The main complaint from the interior play is the lack of rebounding. Wake Forest won that battle 36-34 and the Heels had an ORB% of just 25.0 well below the season average.

The main concern for UNC continues to be injuries. With Joel Berry already out with a groin injury along with Luke Davis and Stilman White, UNC's backcourt has thinned significantly in recent weeks. The perimeter personnel took another hit with Theo Pinson leaving the game with what UNC described as a bruised foot. Pinson will be evaluated tomorrow in Chapel Hill. Nate Britt also left the game late having suffered a laceration in his mouth. With UNC facing a back-to-back Saturday-Monday games, the injuries could take a toll, especially if Pinson's turns out to be serious.

UNC moves to 15-4 overall and 5-1 in the ACC locked into a scrum for second placed behind Virginia.