The top ranked Heels got out to a fast start but played stagnant basketball for much of the first half. After the Heels raced out to an early lead the Stags came back to pull the game to within four quickly. The two teams then went up and down the court for most of the first half with Carolina's lead oscillating between 3 and six points until the Heels pulled away at the end of the half to lead by 11 before a Fairfield three cut the lead to 8 at the half.
The Heels followed the same script in the second half, opening the period on a 7-2 run before allowing Fairfield back into it. The Heels only led by 8 again after six minutes of game time before running out again to a 12 point lead with 10:40 left. Carolina kept fighting and led by 15 at the under 8 timeout. The game never became easy for the Heels but they were able to turn it on over the last few minutes to win by 27, but that should not obscure the fact that the Heels played a very shaky game for most of the afternoon.
The first half was full of sloppy play from Carolina. The Heels shot 13 threes in the first half with only 2 makes from distance. The sad part of the first half shooting woes was the fact that so many of the looks the Heels had from three were open and shots that they should make. When the Heels were not shooting threes, the offense was exceptionally difficult to watch, the big men especially had difficulty since the guards were not able to get the ball to them down low. The offensive woes were not helped by Carolina's lackluster free throw performance as the Heels were 6-14 from the charity stripe in the first 20 minutes.
The second half saw the Heels improve from three and on the defensive glass but the free throw woes continued. Brice Johnson was the most impressive rebounder on defense and the Heels noticeably missed Johnson when he had to leave the game for foul trouble. Nate Britt was the Heels' best shooter in the second half going 3-3 in the second half. The free throw woes were from everyone since the Heels were 12-18 from the line in the half and 18-32 for the game.
Nate Britt was Carolina's most complete player on the Heels for the afternoon. Britt tied his career high with 17 points, going 6-9 from the field, 4-6 from three with five assists and only two turnovers. Britt hit clutch baskets when the game was still close and played the best defense of any Carolina player.
Jackson Not as Much:
Justin Jackson continued his rough start to the season. Jackson was weak all game and improved his stat line through some late game lay-ups, occurring well after the Heels had started to pull away. Jackson got those points by leaking out on fast-breaks and cherry-picking for points. Jackson missed three of his four free throws. However, most importantly he kept leaking out all game--hurting Carolina's ability to grab defensive rebounds which lead in no small part to Fairfield's 15 offensive rebounds. The Stags got many long rebounds in this game, rebounds that Jackson needs to try to get before leaking out on the break. Jackson was similarly ineffective when he stayed back on defense, he was twitchy for most of the game on defense and he committed multiple dumb fouls. Jackson played 23 minutes, the second fewest of all the starters.
Theo Pinson is Already Showing Improvement:
Theo Pinson was the Heels' second best player on the floor, notching 11 points on 5 shots. He made 6-8 FTs and was 1-3 from three. Pinson was Carolina's best distributor on the day, notching 8 assists and no turnovers. Pinson has looked much better early this season compared to last year and has been markedly better than Jackson, confirming Roy's choice to play him as a starter.
The Heels Have Had to Go Small:
With Justin Jackson in foul trouble in the first half again Theo Pinson played a lot of the three in this game and that forced Carolina to go small with Joel Berry and Nate Britt sharing the floor. When the two guards share the floor, the Heels have been at their best. Berry, Britt and Pinson have so far been Carolina's only shooters and without all three on the floor the Heels face serious issues in the half-court offense. The Heels will obviously be helped when Marcus Paige comes back but if either Berry or Britt get in foul trouble before he's back, then Carolina could drop a game early.
Nate Britt: 17 PTS 6-9 FG 4-6 3PT 1-2 FT 1 REB 5 AST 2 TO 1 STL
Brice Johnson: 16 PTS 4-8 FG 8-10 FT 11 REB 1 AST 2 TO
Joel Berry: 15 PTS 6-16 FG 3-8 3PT 2 REB 4 AST 3 TO 1 STL
Theo Pinson: 11 PTS 2-5 FG 1-3 3PT 5 REB 8 AST 0 TO
Kennedy Meeks: 8 PTS 3-6 FG 2-5 FT 12 REB 2 AST 1 TO 2 BLK 4 STL
Justin Jackson: 11 PTS 5-9 FG 0-3 3PT 1-4 FT 0 REB 2 AST 0 TO 1 BLK 1 STL