It’s safe to say that last night’s game against Iona didn’t start off the way that the Tar Heels wanted it to. Aside from the fact that the Gaels’ Ricky McGill couldn’t miss from deep, the Heels couldn’t get shots to fall from anywhere on the floor. Coby White was able to get some threes to go down in the early minutes to help his team keep up, but the other starters didn’t give him a great deal of support in helping prevent the biggest upset in the NCAA Tournament in Carolina history.
Thankfully, the Tar Heels had more than one freshman that entered the game ready to play, and this one was the most dominant player on the floor. As soon as Nassir Little entered the game, he gave a huge boost to a team that was poised to be ran out of the building. He finished the first half with 8 points and 3 rebounds, which was enough to send the team into the locker room with a five-point deficit. The second half, however, was a performance that Roy Williams hopes to see a lot more of during the tournament.
White a sizable amount of assistance from Cameron Johnson, Little took over the game and helped the Heels slam the door on Iona’s chances of a huge upset. He made five of his six attempts from the field, finishing the game with 19 points and 4 rebounds.
Here’s what Little had to say in the post-game press conference:
I just look at what the team needs. I felt like early on we were taking too many outside shots. And before the game Coach and all the coaching staff was telling me to be aggressive and get easy buckets on the inside and play inside-out. I think by doing that, opened up a lot of things in the second half.
Aggression will be key for the Heels in their second round game against Washington, particularly from Little. The team is now 16-1 when he scores in double figures, but they will also go up against a team that likes to play the 2-3 zone. Their defensive efficiency is ranked as the 18th best according to Kenpom.com, and so him and his team will have some work to do if they want to make it to Kansas City next weekend.