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UNC win vs. Syracuse - Player of the Game: Isaiah Hicks

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Hicks was a key contributor in securing the 800th career win for Coach Roy Williams

Syracuse v North Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The #9 North Carolina Tar Heels hosted Syracuse in a Monday night ACC battle in the Smith Center. It was not the sharpest win of the season, especially coming off a victory against Florida State. However, the Heels played to their strengths and dominated the Orange on the glass and in the paint. In their second game without Tony Bradley, a strong three-man rotation in the frontcourt would be essential for a Carolina victory, especially in breaking the Syracuse zone.

Player of the Game honors could have easily gone to Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks. Both finished with double-doubles and were extremely effective breaking down the Syracuse zone. Jackson finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Meeks scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and pulled down 12 rebounds. When Syracuse pulled within a possession in the first half, Meeks had a couple of baskets and some important rebounds that helped Carolina start their run to head to the locker room with a 12 point lead.

In Coach Roy Williams’ 800th win of his career, Isaiah Hicks earns Player of the Game honors. Hicks finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, an assist, a block, and zero personal fouls. Check out this factoid from the athletics department:

Hicks has been on an offensive tear the past three games, averaging 19.3 points, shooting 69.2 percent from the floor, and sinking 22 of 24 free throws. Foul trouble in the frontcourt reared its ugly head against Wake Forest, and Hicks’ past issues with foul trouble was a potential issue moving forward with a concussed Tony Bradley.

Instead, Hicks has been playing with aggressiveness and intelligence on both ends of the court. He shot 8-of-13 from the floor against Syracuse and is creating opportunities for himself both in the low-post and with mid-range jumpers. Perhaps his flow on the offensive end helps his positioning on the defensive end. Or maybe his hustle fighting through screens and keeping his arms and body upright are supporting his play on offense. Whatever it is, a comfortable yet attacking Isaiah Hicks is a good thing for the Tar Heels.

It is great to see that when the pressure is on, Hicks and Meeks have stepped up to deliver all-around performances against tough opponents, especially with that shortened rotation. Congratulations to Isaiah Hicks on Player of the Game honors.