After a quick start by both teams the first half of Carolina's game against Northern Iowa quickly became a rock fight of a basketball game. Carolina led for the almost the entire half after the first few minutes with the sole exception being a single possession where Northern Iowa had a one point lead. Kennedy Meeks scored Carolina's first 8 points and led the Heels early on. The Heels were aided by Justin Jackson's best half of the year. Jackson went 4-8 from the field, 2-4 from 3 and made all 4 of his free throws. The Heels eventually pulled away down the stretch of the first half to lead by nine at the break, 41-32.
Carolina increased their lead to 11 in the first few minutes of the second half. Northern Iowa fought back with a flurry of threes to lead a run which cut the Carolina lead to one with 11:32 left. The Heels came up empty on their next possession and Northern Iowa tied the game at 54 at the foul line. Isaiah Hicks then missed two free throws before Northern Iowa took a two point lead. The Heels responded by scoring on their next two possessions to take a two point lead into the under 8 timeout. Out of the timeout Northern Iowa took the lead off of a Matt Bohannon three. Northern Iowa committed to defense after that and built a 5 point lead with 5:04 left and a Carolina timeout.
Out of the timeout Joel Berry came back off of the bench and made a three to pull the Heels to within two. Carolina and Northern Iowa each came up empty on their next possessions to keep the score at 63-61 going into a break with just under four minutes left. Bohannon hit another three after Justin Jackson had tied the game, to put Northern Iowa up three. The Heels and Panthers then traded baskets to make the score 68-65 Northern Iowa with 1:56 left. The Heels played great defense on the next possession but came up empty on offense before a Theo Pinson offensive foul allowed Bohannon to hit two free throws to put the Panthers up 5. Carolina got a Jackson floater to drop with 57 seconds left to pull the game to 2 points as Roy Williams used his last timeout. Northern Iowa was forced to burn their last timeout with 46 seconds left as the Heels started to double Northern Iowa players all over the floor. Pinson was called for another foul but they missed the free throw to give Carolina a shot. Ultimately it came down to Joel Berry who missed a long three before turning the ball over on a cross court pass aimed for Jackson to end the game.
Justin Jackson was Carolina's only bright spot in this game for the Heels, scoring 25 points in his best game of the season. Jackson shot 9-15 from the field, 3-7 from three, made all four of his free throws and added 4 rebounds with 3 assists.
Brice Johnson Struggles:
Carolina's big men were extremely disappointing in this game. After an early outburst from Kennedy Meeks the the front court players were relatively anonymous for most of this game. Carolina was outscored in the paint 24-22 in this contest and a lot of that had to do with the play of Johnson. Nearly every time the ball touched his hands below the free throw line, Johnson elevated and shot a hook shot off the glass. Johnson often did this falling away from the basket and over double teams. Johnson hurt the Heels most on the defensive end however. Carolina had this game in the bag before Northern Iowa went on a run of three point shots. Johnson was a step to slow on shooters every time in this game. Johnson also did not clean the glass particularly well, finishing with only 6 rebounds. Johnson has to pick up his play on both ends if Carolina wants to win a title this year. The Heels look to Johnson to be the best player on the team and on the floor when Marcus Paige is out and he failed to fill that roll in this game.
The Heels Need Help Creating:
Carolina had issues with the big men in this game partially because they could not even feed the ball into the post on most plays. Carolina's offense was incredibly stagnant and with Joel Berry limited by foul trouble Nate Britt struggled as the primary point guard while Berry sat. Pinson and Jackson filled in a little bit with eight combined assists, but it was not enough for Carolina.
Kennedy Meeks Remains Streaky:
Meeks scored 8 points in the first 4 minutes....and ended with 10 for the game. Meeks went 1-5 after his opening outburst and grabbed nine boards. Meeks was really disappointing in that he failed to build on his start and he failed to make any significant impact against an undersized Northern Iowa team.
Joel Berry Is Not Ready Yet:
Joel Berry was outclassed by his Panther counterpart, Wes Washpun. Washpun drew fouls on Berry and generally made Berry's defense look embarrassing. Berry played as if he was overwhelmed by the veteran and failed to guide the Heels' offense effectively when he was on the court. Berry most hurt the team by being in foul trouble. The Heels have needed Berry to play more than 30 minutes in every game so far this year and without him on the floor, they noticeably struggled. Berry ended the game with only 5 points and 3 turnovers.
Johnson: 10 PTS 5-9 FG 0-0 FT 6 REB 2 AST 2 BLK
Meeks: 10 PTS 5-9 FG 0-0 FT 9 REB 0 AST 2 TO
Jackson: 25 PTS 9-15 FG 3-7 3PT 4-4 FT 4 REB 3 AST 2 TO
Pinson: 2 PTS 1-3 FG 0-1 3PT 0-0 FT 4 REB 5 AST 1 STL
Berry: 5 PTS 2-7 FG 1-5 3PT 0-0 FT 3 REB 3 AST 3 TO
Britt: 4 PTS 1-6 FG 1-3 3PT 1-2 FT 5 REB 1 AST 1 STL 2 TO