Hey everyone, turn down whatever you’re watching or listening to while you’re reading this and listen. Do you hear that? That is the sound of Tar Heel Nation exhaling all at once now that the Heels have ended their horrendous losing streak by putting away UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic.
Words can’t describe how badly this win was needed, as this team could only hold onto the excuse of their tough schedule for so long. The Bruins were a team that would show us whether or not UNC had anything, and I mean anything this season that would indicate that things are going to be OK. Am I saying Final Four good? Not this season, as that dream was long gone before it even formulated. This team just needs to compete to still be alive in March, and we at least know now that things aren’t 100% dead in the water.
Things started off as rough as they had started out in previous games this season, as UCLA was able to go on a 6-0 run that would put them up 15-17. Remarkably, the Heels put an end to the run by going on one of their own, going on a massive 17-2 run that was punctuated by a three-pointer from Jeremiah Francis. UNC headed into the locker room with a 36-23 lead, and remarkably they made 40% of their three-point attempts thanks to Francis and Brandon Robinson.
While it seemed like they had regained an enormous amount of confidence before halftime, whatever fire they had discovered was extinguished by the Bruins. They opened the half with a 14-0 run that was ended by Anthony Harris’ two free throws. Speaking of Harris, he was outstanding in the second half for the Tar Heels, as he helped them get back into the game with his 14 second half points, five of his seven attempts. UCLA did their part in helping the Heels close out the game as well, as they continued to turn the ball over to finish the game with 22 turnovers total. The Heels were able to score 22 points off of those turnovers, which is a good sign of life for a team that hasn’t been able to take advantage of, well, much of anything in the previous few games.
Jeremiah Francis once again stirred a lot of conversation tonight after looking like the point guard that UNC has desperately needed to back up Cole Anthony. Now that Anthony is out for a while, Francis has instead taken on a somehow even bigger role. While his shooting stats didn’t look very good, he looked like the point guard that this team has needed to push the pace, get the ball into the right spots, and overall make this team more aggressive. The bigs had a good night as well, as Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot finished with 27 points collectively and shot at a 55% clip.
Taking advantage of a turnover-prone UCLA team is exactly what UNC had to do to get things back on track. Sure, there are still issues with this team that many of us wish could be solved by now. However, a win can go a long way in starting to rebuild the confidence that has been missing for what feels like an eternity, and this win can be considered a baby step towards getting this team back to playing Carolina basketball. If there’s some big positives to take away from this, look no further than Anthony Harris, Bacot finally getting back to business, and Jeremiah Francis playing a crucial role in rehabilitating the offense. Next up is Yale, who is currently 0-2 against Power Five opponents despite taking things down to the wire against Penn State.
Enjoy the win today, enjoy the holidays, and Go Heels!