Coby White must love Las Vegas, because he put on another show for the Tar Heels in their come-from-behind victory over 17th ranked UCLA on Friday. The freshman point guard led the Heels with 19 points with another three shots from distance. White dished out a (early) career-high eight assists in the game as well.
The first half of the game was eerily reminiscent of Carolina’s loss to Texas on Thanksgiving night. UNC couldn’t really buy a bucket for stretches, and they couldn’t find the answer defensively for Kris Wilkes of the Bruins. Roy Williams kept his team in the locker room nearly until the buzzer before the second half for the third night in a row, and this paint-peeling talk might have finally been effective, because the Tar Heels came out looking like a different team after halftime.
Carolina finished the game shooting 48% from the field and 48% from distance to UCLA’s 44% from the field and 45% from beyond the arc. The Tar Heels were finally able to limit their turnovers to just six, a season low, for the game, which kept their opponent from turning those turnovers into points on the other end. Amazing how that works, huh?
Rebounds were exactly even at 37 a piece for the game, which is pretty weird for a Roy Williams team, but after last night’s woes you’ll take it. The Heels were also able to be a bit more effective getting the ball inside down low with 40 points in the paint.
In all, five Tar Heels finished the game in double figures. Luke Maye, like the team, had a resurgent second half that helped him finish with 16 points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the final minutes. Kenny Williams had a more effective offensive game with 15 points, including two shots from distance. Cameron Johnson and Nassir Little finished with 14 points each.
Little might get a little bit overlooked because of how impressive Coby White was in this tournament, but there is absolutely no doubt that Nassir provided a much-needed spark off the bench for UNC. There has been quite a bit of consternation about Little’s minutes, or lack thereof, but he played 20 minutes in part due to plenty of foul trouble to go around. Little made five of his 12 shots and sank four of his six attempts from the charity stripe.
For a team playing without their backup point guard, Carolina weathered the storm pretty well. Yes, they definitely got punched in the mouth in the first half, but they responded in a way they couldn’t seem to last night against Texas. Hopefully that shows some needed growth that will help carry them through the rest of their difficult non-conference schedule and into conference play.
The game against Texas was disappointing in almost every way, but bouncing back in a big way against a ranked opponent shouldn’t be overlooked. It showed growth that they were able to turn in a better defensive effort after leaving everyone wanting in that department against Texas. It’s something they can definitely build on with Michigan waiting on them next week.