The Tar Heels hosted Northern Iowa in the Smith Center last night, Carolina’s first game since dropping a heartbreaker to Kentucky in Las Vegas. Wednesday’s game was really a tale of two halves. Carolina was 1-8 from behind the arc, and the Panthers were hanging around only trailing by seven after the first half of play. In the second, UNC outscored UNI 52-16, including an 18-0 run to end the game. As far as highs and lows, it was a game filled with highs.
Points In The Paint
To start the game, the outside shot was not falling for Carolina. Instead, the UNC guards fed the ball down low, mainly to Kennedy Meeks (18 points) and Isaiah Hicks (11 points.) In his postgame press conference, Joel Berry II mentioned that they have been working on getting the ball to the front court. He said that they’ve been practicing “getting the bigs to post up where we can see their numbers, and the guards working on getting the ball down there.” He went on to say, “I think tonight we did a better job of getting the ball down low.” It most certainly worked. The Tar Heels put up 52 points in the paint, to UNI’s 20.
Not only did Carolina limit their own turnovers, but they forced the Panthers to cough up the ball 17 times by the end of the night. Furthermore, the Tar Heels scored 20 points off turnovers. Taking care of the basketball has always been a point of emphasis for Coach Williams, so I’m sure he was encouraged that his team only turned it over five times last night. On the flip side, they had 20 assists as a team, making for a pretty good ratio.
From the opening whistle, it seemed like Carolina wanted to overwhelm this Northern Iowa team. From diving on the floor, to trapping at select moments, Carolina was doing their best to turn up the heat defensively. On paper, It didn’t really look that way in the first half. Despite their best attempts, the Heels allowed the Panthers to get to the basket, or kick it out for an outside shot. At halftime, UNI was 5-9 from deep, trying to hang in the game. Credited as the defensive player of the game by Coach Williams, Kennedy Meeks spoke to “packing the lane, so they wouldn’t have any driving lanes” as an adjustment they made at halftime. He also mentioned that the game plan was to limit the open looks for UNI’s Jeremy Morgan. He sunk two threes in the first half, but was shut out in the second half. At the end of the day, Carolina’s two blocks, 12 steals, and 31 defensive rebounds helped them stomp UNI.
UNC beat North Iowa in literally every single category on the stat sheet on Wednesday. Oh wait, I’m wrong. The Panthers tied the Heels with two blocks. However, you see my point. Carolina struggled to shoot the ball from beyond the arc in the first half, but finished 7-19 which isn’t that bad. However if I had to pick a low from last night, which I do, it would be have to be that. The usual suspects heated up in the second half, but they were cold on some open shots they should have made in the first. The Heels will want to come out shooting a little bit better from three when they open ACC play.
If there’s one more low, it might have to be Seventh Woods’ steal and dunk with just seconds left. As a general rule, it’s not the best idea to rub in an 83-42 lead by dunking it one more time. I’m sure the Carolina haters will attribute this decision to UNC being a classless team, but others who know better will say it was a freshman mistake. I agree. Seventh got caught up in the moment, and I’m sure Coach Williams will never let it happen again.
What’s important is that the Heels bounced back from Saturday’s loss with a beatdown of Northern Iowa, a team that beat Carolina a year ago. UNC has four days off before heading back to work on Monday to get ready for Monmouth, the last game before ACC play. Carolina definitely heads into this break on a high note, beating the Panthers 85-42.