Our long nightmare is over: UNC has won a basketball game. The Tar Heels beat UCLA 74-64 to get in the win column for the first time in December. The Bruins not a particularly great team, and there was still a lot of iffy things about Carolina’s performance, but it was still better, and a win is a win.
Now that the dust has settled and we can take a breath that the losing streak is over, let’s dig into the victory and go over some of the things we learned.
Starts of second halves are still really bad
Before we get to some of the good stuff, let’s talk about a recurring theme that reared it’s ugly head again yesterday.
UNC went into halftime against UCLA up 13. Less than three minutes into the second half, that lead was one, and the Bruins were already nearing the bonus. That marked the five time in the last seven games where the Tar Heels gave up an extended run coming out of the break.
Luckily this time, they had a sizable lead prior to it. In some of the others, they’ve been trailing or just leading by a handful. In several of those other games, the run was a nail in the coffin.
I don’t know if Roy has to bring in a hypnotist at halftime every game, but if they just cut out these bad stretches, some of these losses would’ve been pretty different.
With UNC’s current injury situation, Jeremiah Francis should be starting at the point
Arguably one reason for the Tar Heels giving up that 11-0 run was UNC’s offense sputtering with Francis off the floor.
Francis’ stats from this game aren’t going to blow anyone away, 12 points but on 1-8 shooting, four assists but also four turnovers. However, while it’s far from a perfect stat, the evidence that the offense ran better under him is evident in the plus/minus. In 28 minutes, Francis was a +15, which was tied for second best of anyone on the Tar Heels.
After UCLA’s run to start the half, he came in and steadied things as UNC took the lead back out to four points when he came out. He then also came in for the Tar Heels’ run towards the end of the game, when they put things away.
It’s understandable why Roy has gone with K.J. Smith in Cole Anthony’s absence (Roy usually tends to go with more experienced players in these situations, Francis has still only recently come back from long-term injuries). Smith is still going to be needed in upcoming weeks, but Francis probably should be getting the bulk of the minutes.
Anthony Harris should also be getting more regular minutes
I won’t go too deep on this one as, spoiler alert, there will be a more extensive piece on his performance coming later today, but he has to be highlighted here too.
Harris finished the game with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, 2-3 from three. All of those points came in the second half, and 10 came in a five-minute stretch where the Tar Heels took the lead from six to 16 points and effectively ended the game.
I say he should be more regular minutes because it seems like Roy is thinking this too. In the second half, he played 14 minutes while Andrew Platek and Christian Keeling combined for zero. Harris, and Francis to go back to him, are just freshman, so there’s probably going to be some sputters along the way, but it’s seeming that UNC’s best lineups include those two.