Many of the Tar Heels’ performances up to this point in the season have been marked by offensive balance. In their first loss of the season, this was not the case. Only two players scored in double figures in the 76-67 loss, Kennedy Meeks with 10 and my game ball winner, Justin Jackson, who scored 21.
Jackson was one of the few bright spots of the game for the Heels, shooting 7/13 from the field including 4/7 from beyond the arc while his teammates shot 35% and 14%, respectively. A player who has often been criticized for leaking out for cheap fast break points instead of staying back and rebounding, Jackson showed that he is ready to shed that label by sharing the team lead with Meeks in defensive rebounds (6) and overall rebounds (8). Many of these rebounds were contested as well, and it was very good to see Jackson’s toughness in not allowing Indiana to take the ball from him. With Indiana rebounding a full third of their field goal misses, this was not an extremely common sight last night.
Jackson was able to score in several different ways: through three-pointers, baseline drives, drawing fouls and hitting free throws, and the Jackson floater that we’ve all come to know and love. Even when his teammates were struggling, he was able to find ways to score throughout the game.
In addition to his general offensive excellence, Jackson came through in critical moments for the Heels. He was the only Tar Heels starter without a turnover, and he hit a late three-pointer to answer a momentum-killing triple by Indiana and bring the Heels to within five with over three minutes left. UNC was unable to capitalize, but Jackson certainly gave his team a chance.
In addition to the criticism mentioned above, Jackson’s biggest knock during his time at North Carolina has been inconsistency. This season, while he certainly hasn’t been at his best every game, he is the only Heel to have scored in double figures in every single contest. If UNC wants to achieve their goals this season, he’s going to have to keep it up, along with some support from his teammates.
Kennedy Meeks, C
Kenny Williams, G