Joel Berry had a rough PK80 tournament by his standards. He was under 30% from the field and only hit 31% of his three-point attempts. This was likely due to several factors: working his way back into basketball season routine after injury, pressing after an excellent game against Stanford (remember, Marcus Paige lit up Maryland in his first game back from injury before he started struggling in the non-conference portion of the season), and probably several others.
He did better against Michigan, hitting 3/7 of his threes and 6/15 of his shots en route to a 17-point, 4-assist performance, which was good, but not quite Berry.
Against Davidson on Friday night, he was the player we expected to see this season, the one we saw against Stanford: Hitting jump shots, attacking the rim, giving his team a boost whenever it needed one, and getting to the free throw line.
With 27 points and 4 assists on 8/15 (4/11 from deep), While Luke Maye’s 24 point, 17 rebound performance might look more impressive statistically, Berry’s total command of this game in addition to his prolific scoring earns him Player of the Game honors.
One part of Berry’s game that has been excellent this season is his taking care of the ball. Last year, Berry posted a 1.94 ratio, which was a little bit lower than we’d like to see. So far this year, he’s taken care of the ball much better, with 26 assists to just 8 turnovers for a 3.25 ratio, which is much better.
Berry has turned the ball over multiple times just twice out of seven games so far, and has the same number of 0-turnover games. He only had 5 of those all season in 2016-17. Berry is managing the offense better than he has before, and that was evident in this game as he orchestrated UNC’s gameplan on offense to perfection.
Berry has had trouble finishing at the rim this season; he has been blocked by help defense much more often than usual and generally has struggled, likely due in part to his rehab, to get through contact like he has in the past.
According to Adrian Atkinson, Berry had only converted 6 of 20 opportunities at the line coming off the Michigan game. He still clearly isn’t all the way back to his normal comfort level of driving through people, but on Friday night, he compensated with liberal use of a floater and some excellent driving moves (his jump-stop from the baseline stands out), and went 4/4 from inside as a result. He was also fouled several times and made good on his opportunity by going 7/7 from the charity stripe.
Even though the hand is still likely bothering him, this was the Berry that the college basketball world expected to see this season. Hopefully, he can keep this production up and show that he deserves to be mentioned among the top players in the country.
Honorable Mention: Luke Maye