Despite missing Marcus Paige with a broken bone in his hand and Justin Jackson due to illness, the Tar Heels had little trouble rolling by Guilford 99-49 in the team's only public exhibition game of the season.
The Tar Heels started the game with Nate Britt, Joel Berry, Theo Pinson, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks in the starting lineup. From there Roy Williams made gratuitous use of the bench resulting in a wide variety of lineup combination. Some of the offense play was sloppy early with UNC take too many threes and not exploiting the size advantage in the post. Still the Tar Heels cruised to a 52-24 halftime advantage.
In the second half, the Tar Heels were far more assertive, especially working the ball into the post. The Heels also got the transition game rolling off Quaker turnovers. UNC hit 15-20 shots and opened up an 89-39 lead with under eight minutes left before coasting to the 99-49 win. Six Tar Heels scored in double figures led by Kennedy Meeks and Nate Britt with 14 each. Joel Berry, Isaiah Hicks and Kenny Williams all scored 12 points while Theo Pinson scored 10 points, all in the first half. Britt led the team with nine assists versus just one turnover.
Here are some observations regarding each player.
Britt started at point guard and put together a solid game after starting out 1-4 from three. Britt dished out nine assists to go with his 14 points. He was 6-11 from the floor and did a good job using his speed to push the pace in the open floor.
Berry showed off some explosiveness in transition and the ability to take the ball to the basket and finish. He finished the game 5-8 from the floor and 2-4 from three with 7 assists versus three turnovers. In many ways he picked up where left off last season. Roy Williams noted he had been excellent during much of the preseason.
In his first extended action since last season, Pinson scored 10 points in the first half including 2-3 from beyond the arc. It was clear his jump shot mechanics have improved. Pinson pulled down five rebounds and had five assists which is very much a "Danny Green" type of stat line.
A low key game for Johnson who finished with nine points and seven rebounds. UNC had issues with post entry early in the game and Johnson was not able to get on track. He missed a couple of free throw line jumpers and badly flubbed a wide open dunk. In the second half he made up for the miss with a couple of high flying dunks. Johnson also had three assists.
Like Johnson, Meeks struggled a bit thanks to a lack of solid post entries. That turned around in the second half with Meeks reeling of eight points in the first five minutes of the period. He scored on post moves, ran the floor for a layup and generally outmuscled the smaller Quakers in the paint. He had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 blocks, three of those coming defending jump shots.
Hicks put together one of those quiet games. He ended up with 12 points on 6-7 shoot, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and one spectacular block. On the play Hicks pinned the ball to the backboard, collected it, started the break himself then passed to Luke Maye for a basket. Overall he played well but wasn't necessarily noticeable during the course of the game.
James played 12 minutes and was largely a non-factor hitting one shot, a free throw and grabbing six rebounds. Guilford's lack of size was actually an issue for James and other UNC big men since it pulled them away from the basket and forced them to guard jump shooters instead of post players. James struggled the most with this.
With Paige and Jackson out, Williams was the most prominent beneficiary and he did not disappoint. The freshman played a solid game and looked comfortable in his first action in a UNC uniform. While hesitant to take threes early, Williams found plenty of scoring looks in transition. His first and only three game with five seconds left in the half. He would finish with 12 points and also dish out five assists.
Maye played just nine minutes which wasn't surprising considering the number of big men UNC has. The freshman made efficient use of his time hitting 3-4 shots for six points and four rebounds.
White logged 13 minutes, hit a three and completed a three point play for six points. When Jackson and Paige return, White's minutes will likely be limited.