Every game can’t be pretty, especially with an inexperienced team, but they can’t all be this ugly either. Carolina survived an upset bid by a talented Stanford team despite some very sloppy play and extremely questionable officiating.
I am not one to bring up officiating in recaps very often because it’s usually a cop out for bad play, but Teddy Valentine and his fellow referees made an ugly game even worse. There were the garden variety questionable calls and quick whistles, but also phantom calls (flop warning on RJ? Did ANYONE see what that was about?), calls that were reviewed and still called wrong, and a complete disregard for anything that could be called tempo because of it.
Now that that’s out of the way, UNC did their best to shoot themselves in the foot. They turned the ball over an alarming 24 times that will be enough to doom most teams most nights in college basketball. Stanford scored 22 points off those turnovers and it could have been worse. There were 37 total turnovers in the game, which was absolutely brutal.
Another place the Heels almost gave it away was at the free throw line. With Valentine and co. on the floor, there were a lot of whistles. The teams each shot 24 free throws and neither was particularly good at converting them. UNC made just 15 of their 24 shots from the charity stripe, and in a close game every miss felt like it could be the back-breaker.
Onto the good: Carolina had all five starters in double figures for the game. Caleb Love led the way with 16 points after having just four points at the half. He made half of Carolina’s three-pointers with RJ Davis chipping in the other two. Davis had 11 points while Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, and Armando Bacot each had 10. Brooks was the team’s leading rebounder with just nine, but the Heels enjoyed a 43-23 rebounding advantage in the game.
Stanford is one of the best defenses in the country according to KenPom, so they definitely deserve credit for giving UNC such a hard time. They are certainly the kind of team you’d expect an inexperienced offense to struggle against. Credit also goes to the Heels for taking all of that in stride and finding a way to pull out the win.
Playing Texas this time of year always seems to be an issue for UNC and that’s exactly who the Heels will have to beat if they’d like to bring home another Maui Invitational championship. Hopefully they can flip the script because it certainly feels like we’re owed a win against them at this point.