There’s a lot to unpack from yesterday’s big road win at Louisville. The Heels survived shooting just 6-24 from deep, won the battle in the paint 38-26, outrebounded the Cardinals 49-32, and only committed 11 turnovers. There was a little something for everybody to take from the Yum! Center, but one stretch stood out more than most.
As we noted in Three Things Learned, Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson keyed a 10-0 run in the first half. Using stout defense and timely shooting, the Heels pushed a 24-19 lead to 34-19. In less time than what it takes to finish a standard boxing round, UNC effectively knocked out any hopes of a Louisville victory. Let’s take a deeper look at that game altering run.
Seventh Woods, Luke Maye, and Cameron Johnson checked in at the 7:45 mark. They joined Brandon Robinson and Kenny Williams on the court holding a 24-19 lead. Here’s the play-by-play, mixed in with some pictures and .GIFs of how this went down. There is an explanation/analysis underneath each respective picture or highlight.
7:20: This is the first defensive possession after the under-8:00 media timeout.
Great team defense leads to a turnover and fast break. Note the amount of pressure the Heels are putting on the perimeter. Louisville is working for every inch of real estate. That effort was missing in the first game.
That pressure dictates the entire play. In the above .GIF, watch 1) Johnson forcing the ballhandler to the baseline, 2) Kenny Williams showing discipline and staying on his man to prevent a kickback three point attempt and 3) Luke Maye and Brandon Robinson sliding to help in the paint. This play easily could (and has) turned into a three point attempt, but the constant pressure forces Khwan Fore into a rushed, poor decision.
Credit Woods with the smart pass to Kenny instead of overcommitting to the paint. That sounds obvious, but Woods has struggled with commitment issues at different points in his career. Williams draws the foul and hits the two free throws, Heels lead 26-19.
6:38: Second defensive possession.
Again, note the pressure. Woods and Williams have their heels on the three-point line, and Williams literally has his hands in the ballhandler’s face to deter the post entry. Maye is playing 3/4 defense in the post, and Cam is shading towards the paint to help if needed. Robinson takes away the deep threat in the bottom of the screen.
Eventually, Cards’ Jordan Nwora forces up a deep, slightly contested three-point attempt. Kenny Williams climbs his ladder for a grown-man rebound.
Williams finds Woods on the wing who slows down, evaluates, and finds a wide-open trailing Johnson. This was UNC’s first three-pointer of the game and pushed the lead to 29-19. Louisville called a timeout.
6:23: After the timeout, here is UNC’s third defensive possession of this run.
Woods and Maye force a backcourt violation off a trap. Christen Cunningham, who had just subbed into the game, dribbles backwards and can’t find a teammate before he falls across midcourt. Classic North Carolina. Classic Roy Williams. Louisville is shook.
At this point, most of us had reactions similar to Kenny Williams (mid-court) and Brandon Robinson (bottom-left corner), and Cam Johnson (top of the key). I personally enjoy Maye’s “I didn’t touch him” pose.
6:12: Offensive possession after Louisville’s backcourt violation
Cam Johnson three pointer. Seventh Woods assist. This play is a UNC staple, with Cam popping off two down/stagger/pin down screens. North Carolina leads 32-19.
5:49: The fourth defensive possession results in a missed three-point attempt by Louisville. Brandon Robinson with the defensive rebound off of a Seventh Woods tip.
5:45: Kenny Williams turnover in transition.
5:40: Fifth defensive possession, after Kenny’s turnover.
One of the top-three plays of the game. Brandon Robinson with a huge block from behind. Cam deserves kudos for his underrated help defense, forcing Khwan Fore to cross over the lane, losing both momentum and a clear path to the rim. Woods gets the rebound, ending another short Louisville possession.
5:21: Maye misses an ill-advised attempt from the wing. Louisville gets the rebound.
5:05: Sixth defensive possession.
Another missed Louisville field goal. Their fourth in this series of miscues. Great defense by Maye after losing position on Steven Enoch* (the play by play says Dwayne Sutton). Maye stays straight up and forces Enoch into a contested 7-foot hook shot. Of note, there was no hard help or double teams in the post for most of the afternoon. The Heels simply challenged the Cardinals to match them man for man and pound for pound.
4:56: Luke Maye runs down the court and gives Enoch a dose of his own medicine.
Maye gets position high in the paint, then repositions on the ball reversal. It was enough to draw contact and get to the line for a 1-and-1 attempt. He makes both. UNC leads 34-19
At this point, Coby White and Nassir Little sub into the game for Woods and Robinson. It was a hectic, but effective, up-and-down three-minute affair. Woods and Robinson did most of the dirty work on defense and the three seniors took care of business on offense.
Six defensive possessions resulted in four missed field goals, and two turnovers. Louisville never truly recovered from this series of events. They got as close as 58-49 in the second half, but the Heels used a 10-2 run to close the door on any comeback attempt. It was another masterful defensive performance when they needed it most.
They’ll look to keep that trend going when N.C. State visits on Tuesday.