At some point this team will put together two good halves. As it stands right now, as long as the good half is the second one and it results in a win that's fine. Isaiah Hicks posted a career high 21 points in his second start of the season and Brice Johnson had 20 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Heels to a 79-68 win at Boston College.
Even before the game started, Roy Williams shook things up with a lineup change. Kennedy Meeks and J.P. Tokoto were benched in favor of Nate Britt and Isaiah Hicks. The lineup shuffle did not result in a solid start however. Through the first media timeout UNC committed a turnover on 1/3 of its possessions and trailed 9-7. Matters got marginally better as the first half progressed as UNC relied heavily on Hicks and Johnson in the interior. The Eagles had few answers for either player as each scored 12 points in the first half.
With that kind of interior production, UNC should have seized control of the game but turnovers continued to be an issue. UNC had 10 first half miscues for a TO% of 29. The other issue was a lack of scoring from the guard positions. Both Nate Britt and Marcus Paige got in a spot of foul trouble with Paige being whistled for three prior to halftime. Neither starting guards or Joel Berry off the bench scored in the first half. It was Paige's first scoreless half of the season on 0-3 shooting from three.
The second half was similar to what happened at Wake Forest. The play was generally improved on both ends but especially on the offensive side of the court. UNC continued to feed the beasts inside with a combined 17 points from Hicks and Johnson. Paige finally got going scoring 13 points including a three pointer with 11:39 left and a jumper at the 8:07 mark which gave the Heels a 12 point lead heading into the final eight minutes.
Then, as UNC is wont to do lately, the game got tighter. The Heels went through a pair of haphazard half court possessions. With UNC up 12 with 5:53 left, Aaron Brown hit a three to cut the UNC lead to nine. Paige missed a three to answer followed by Olivier Hanlan layup to cut the lead to seven. After a Hicks turnover, Hanlan cut it to 69-64 with just 4:44 left. Roy Williams burned a timeout and out of the break a Paige jumper stopped the bleeding. Paige ended up scoring 8 of UNC's final ten points to close out another road win in ACC play.
Overall it wasn't a pretty game and Boston College got 30 points from Hanlan to stay in the game. However during UNC's key second half run, J.P. Tokoto guarded Hanlan which proved disruptive for the Eagles' offense during a crucial stretch. Tokoto came off the bench to chip in nine points and dish out 5 assists. Justin Jackson had 8 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. Fourteen of UNC's 35 rebounds came from Paige and Jackson.
UNC gets a week off before traveling to Pitt next Saturday. This break comes at an opportune time for a team struggling with injuries.