For a season that ended in disappointment, UNC had a lot of great moments in 2017-18. The whole ride of the past few seasons has been crazy, so it’s no surprise that Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson’s senior year would produce even more memorable moments. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just five, but here are five great moments from UNC’s 2017-18 season.
5. ACC/Big Ten Challenge win against Michigan
This win looked decent at the time, but looks even better in retrospect. The Tar Heels hosted Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge back in December, and UNC handled them fairly easily.
That wasn’t unexpected as Michigan came in unranked, while the Tar Heels were 13th. The performance was especially good, however. UNC shot 54.8% from the floor, going 7-15 from three. Excluding Moritz Wagner’s 9-13, the Tar Heels held the rest of the Wolverines to under 40% from the field.
That 54.8% shooting performance is especially impressive considering that Michigan’s defense is now ranked fourth in the country according to the KenPom efficiency numbers. The two were slated to meet against in the Sweet 16, but unfortunately, UNC was the one to miss out on that rematch.
4. K3nny Williams goes off against Stanford
This season has had some really impressive individual efforts. Luke Maye against NC State. Joel Berry’s senior night against Miami. Several of Theo Pinson’s double-doubles/near triple-doubles. None of them were quite as crazy or unexpected at the time as Kenny Williams’ game against Stanford.
Williams had played several impressive outings in his UNC career heading into this game, but he was still more known for his defensive side of the ball. He came out against Stanford and scored the Tar Heels’ first points: a three 16 seconds into the game. He then went onto score 17 of UNC’s next 23 points. Williams went for 20 first half points, making six threes. The Tar Heels ended the half up 14 and went on to win by even more.
Funnily enough, Williams didn’t add any points after that, and actually got outscored by Joel Berry for the game. That stretch where it seemed like everything Williams threw up was going in was probably the craziest of the season. It also really showed that he could be a fairly important piece on the offensive end as well.
3. Taking down Tennessee on the road
Other than maybe the Duke games, there weren’t that many (if any) more impressive than the Tennessee win. When the Tar Heels went to Knoxville in mid-December, they were facing a ranked Tennessee team on the road, coached by Rick Barnes, whose teams have had a weird hoodoo against Roy Williams’ UNC teams.
For a while, it looked like Barnes might get the best of the Tar Heels once again. The Vols led by as many as nine at several points in the game, and every time UNC chipped away at the lead, Tennessee would answer.
With 15:34 left in the second half, a Luke Maye dunk cut UNC’s deficit to three, which is as close as the game had been since the nine minute mark of the first half. Three minutes later, Joel Berry hit a three to give UNC the lead for the first time since it was 3-2. Tennessee would regain the lead and go up by as many as four, but UNC closed the game on a 18-9 run to come away with a 78-73 win.
The win itself was impressive, and showed what the team was capable of on good days. It only went on to look even better as Tennessee had a really good season in the SEC.
2. ACC Tournament win against Duke
The third and final game against the Blue Devils this season had a lot on the line. In addition to a trip to the ACC Tournament final and bragging rights for the year, it really seemed like the winner of the game would get a spot in Charlotte for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The loser would have to take a bit of a trek for their opening games.
A little under a week before, Duke outscored UNC by 20 in the second half in Durham, turning a 10-point Tar Heel lead at halftime into a 10-point win for the home team. In the third meeting, Carolina got off to an even better start, taking a 16-3 lead into the under-12 media timeout.
Duke again fought their way back into the game, but this time around, the Tar Heels kept answering back with runs of their own. UNC led by 15 with 6+ minutes left, but Duke came all the way back and had a chance to tie with six seconds remaining. Grayson Allen, who had earlier in the game got back into his old tripping antics, bricked the shot and the Tar Heels held on.
UNC did get Charlotte over Duke, but it didn’t end up mattering too much. Both teams will be sitting home this weekend while the Final Four is happening, but the Tar Heels did come away with a 2-1 win for the season.
1. Home win against Duke
A slight edge goes to this Duke victory because of the way the Tar Heels managed to swing the game around. With 6:32 left in the first half, Duke led by 12 and it was hard to feel good about the way the game was going. UNC was getting outrebounded and they were in danger of letting the game get away from them already.
Carolina then closed the first half on a 17-9 run, and opened the second on a 16-4 run. The Tar Heels led by as many as 10 in the second half, and eventually won 82-78. They shot just 38%, but won anyway thanks to their defense and 20 offensive rebounds.
Either Duke game could go into the number one slot, but this one felt especially huge at the time. The Blue Devils weren’t an unstoppable force or anything, but they did come into the season as the #1 ranked team in the country, and in the opening minutes of the game, they looked like it. Then UNC punched them right back in the mouth and proved that they were also quite a capable team.
Others moments suggested by the Tar Heel blog staff included the Miami ACC Tournament revenge win, the February winning streak, various individual efforts or moments, and even some off-court stuff (Joel Berry trash talk and the end of the NCAA stuff). If you disagree with the list or have others you want to mention, feel free to chip in with your list.