The main theme of UNC’s recent losing streak has been heart-breaking losses. In several of them, the losses have come on the heels on Carolina blowing a lead, usually one that even reached double digits. A major cause of that has been a poor free throw shooting performance letting the other team stick around while other teams would be icing the game away.
With just over two minutes left, NC State hit a three to cut their deficit to three after it had been 10 about three minutes prior. You would be forgiven for putting your head in your hands at that point and thinking “here we go again.”
Except it didn’t happen again. The free throw woes never really came. The reason for that was a truly impressive performance, at the free throw line and otherwise, from Garrison Brooks.
The Tar Heels were eventually able to pull away for a six-point win, thanks in large part to the efforts of Brooks. The junior finished with a game-high 30 points on 8-15 shooting, while also grabbing nine rebounds.
Anyone that scores 30 points likely did so in various ways, all throughout the game. Brooks did as well. (Thirteen of his points came in the first half.) However what stood out the most was his composure at the free throw line to put the game away.
In total, Brooks went 14-16 from the line, with both misses coming in the first half. From the 3:44 mark on, he went 8-8 from the line, which accounted for eight of Carolina’s last 13 points. On a couple possessions in a row, State would make a bucket to cut UNC’s lead to somewhere around four points, and then they would foul Brooks, who would calmly knock down a pair of free throws at the other end. For this team and him in particular, it had to be a really good feeling.
As for other contenders, Christian Keeling was really impressive, scoring 16 points on 7-9 shooting, while also grabbing seven rebounds. Cole Anthony went for 19, five, and five, with two steals. Also of note was UNC’s random plus/minus leader Justin Pierce, who had just three points and five rebounds. However in his time on the court, the Tar Heels outscored the Wolfpack by 25 points.
Even with as disappointing as this season is, it’s still very funny that NC State couldn’t beat this Tar Heel team. For that we say, thanks Garrison!