Next verse, same as the first. Another frustrating defeat for the wounded North Carolina Tar Heels as Roy Williams’ squad limps towards the holidays in desperate need of R&R. All the familiar struggles were present in UNC’s 94-81 loss to Gonzaga in Spokane yesterday; The perimeter attack was largely nonexistent for long stretches of the game, the offensive flow was choppy, and Garrison Brooks was the best player on the floor for UNC.
As UNC’s struggles have gone on these past weeks, the team has drawn comparisons to past troubled seasons, the most common of which is the 2010 NIT squad. It is far too early to condemn this team (injuries have obviously been a factor thus far) and there are significant differences between this year’s squad and 2010 (with a healthy Cole Anthony in the lineup, the point guard position is a strength, whereas it was the 2010 squad’s most glaring weakness). However, there is one thing in common between the two: Garrison Brooks is starting to look like 2010 Deon Thompson. In his senior season, Thompson was the lone healthy and consistent main contributor on the team, a veteran of many big games who knew what was expected and needed from him, but couldn’t compensate for the squad’s deficiencies.
Once again, Brooks at times was the entirety of UNC’s early offense, scoring 11 points on 5-7 shooting in a first half in which UNC was in danger of letting things get away from them early. Give credit where credit is due: A hopelessly outclassed UNC fought hard in the first half and in some stages of the second, but without Brooks the game would have been out of hand MUCH earlier than it eventually was. At times in the first interval the Heels looked terrified at the very idea of shooting the ball. Brooks was the lone exception, attacking on the block, aggressively trying to jumpstart UNC’s anemic offense from the inside out. On a night where Armando Bacot showed next to nothing, this wasn’t enough to gain UNC a real toehold in the game against a stellar Gonzaga team.
Brooks finished with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He played his usual solid defense, both on the block and in extended ballscreen situations. Shout out to Christian Keeling as well; He finished 5-7 for 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists. It was easily his best performance of the season thus far and hopefully is a sign of things to come. Jeremiah Francis and Anthony Harris, each in their third game of the year, showed solid flashes as well. Francis in particular was effective, knocking down two three-pointers, a rarity at this stage of the season for UNC’s perimeter shooters, and looking comfortable running the point. If these three can grow into larger roles over the next month, perhaps that will be enough for UNC to survive without Cole Anthony.
Regardless, at this point you can set your watch by Garrison Brooks. He has been reliable, consistent, and solid. But he needs some help. And the fact that “Garrison Brooks needs some help” is becoming the theme of the early season is...