clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

UNC vs. Butler - Player of the Game: Joel Berry II

Joel Berry II’s 26 points led the Tar Heels over Butler, however Jackson and Maye also made significant contributions.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-South Regional-North Carolina vs Butler Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Tar Heels beat Butler 92-80 in a great team effort all around. However, Joel Berry II’s 26 points on 8-13 shooting give him the Player of the Game nod. Berry had scored a combined 13 points on 3-21 shooting (that’s a paltry 14% from the floor) during the Heels’ last two games after turning his ankle in the opening round blowout against Texas Southern. Berry wasn’t 100% in the Arkansas game, and that was apparent when the Heels blew a 17-point lead, they had to ground out a win in the last three minutes, going on a 12-0 run to win it.

It was a different night for the Heels last night. With a healthy Berry, they led by as much as 20 but let Butler get somewhat close in the final minutes. Berry shot 3-8 from three, including a crucial shot with about seven minutes remaining to end a 13-4 Butler run that had cut the Carolina lead to eleven. Berry also went to the line often, going 7-9 from the stripe. However, a concerning factor is that the normally automatic Berry has eroded lately in his free-throw shooting. He’s shooting just 68.8% from the line in the NCAA Tournament, compared to 83% for the regular season. It’s possible that this can be attributed to his hurt ankle.

Speaking of his ankle, there was a terrifying moment for Tar Heel fans late in the game. Berry tried to blow by a defender and slipped, rolling his right ankle slightly. He hung around on the ground for a few seconds before getting back up, and he remained in the game, going for nine more points in the last six minutes. Berry said in a post-game interview that “he felt alright” after the slip and that his ankle feels fine. This is good news for the Heels, who will have to play Kentucky on Sunday.

Justin Jackson returned to ACC Player of the Year form with his 24 points, five rebounds, and five assists. He shot 9-18 from the floor, and surpassed 100 three-pointers made this season after he went 2-8 from beyond the arc. It was nice to see Jackson play well again, as he was averaging just 14.3 ppg in the Heels’ previous six games, compared to his average of just above 18 ppg on the season.

Luke Maye had a career-best night the the Heels, as he got his first career double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. He had 14 points in the first half, and shot 60% from the floor for the game. He was 3-5 from beyond the arc, making three three-pointers in the first half. Maye has really evolved into a legitimate stretch-four this season, as he is averaging a sneakily good 38.8% from the three-point line, good for second-best on the team (behind Berry’s 40% and ahead of Jackson’s 38.3%). If he can continue to knock down these shots than that makes Carolina’s offense just that much harder to defend, and adds another dimension to the Heels’ offense.

Overall, it was just a great night as Carolina advanced to their 28th Elite Eight as a program. The Heels will face Kentucky on Sunday, after the Cats defeated 3 seeded UCLA in the regional semifinals on Friday night. As all of you probably remember, the Wildcats defeated Carolina 103-100 back in December, and they will make a good addition to the Tar Heels’ 2017 revenge tour.