Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 80-63 home win over Elon on Saturday night.
- This game felt eerily similar to just about every other end-of-finals-week matchup: Carolina played a less-talented opponent and ultimately won by double-digits, but the offense wasn’t clicking with much cohesion. The truth is that this result is to be expected, and, dare I say, okay. These young men are student-athletes after all. They need to have the space to be able to complete their studies. Now that finals are over, they can return their attention to the final three games of the non-conference portion of the season, starting with Furman on Tuesday.
- Honestly, Carolina’s defense is what earned them an eight-point halftime lead despite shooting just 29.4% in the first half. The Tar Heels finished with a season-high 12 steals (eight was the previous high), four of which were attributed to Mr. Armando Bacot. Anthony Harris and Leaky Black once again played stingy on-ball defense.
- Since allowing Tennessee to shoot 65.6% in the second half, Carolina has played eight halves of basketball (four games) and has not allowed an opponent to shoot 50% or better in any one of them.
- A big part of Carolina’s success in the past three games can be attributed to Caleb Love. In that span, Love has averaged 20.3 points and is shooting 57.9% from three. He has three steals in each of those games and is averaging five rebounds per game.
- While we praise him, we must also be critical of Love’s mistakes. For the first time all season, Love had more turnovers (four) than assists (one). For RJ Davis, it was his first game with no assists this season, and he contributed three turnovers of his own. As a team, Carolina finished with 11 assists and 16 turnovers. That ratio must improve going forward.
- For the fourth time this season, Carolina had two 20-point scorers in the game. Love and Dawson Garcia each had 22 to lead all scorers. Garcia’s output was sneaky; a rather quiet 22. What a benefit to have a player who can drop 20-plus without having to dominate a game. Love and Garcia turned in the 12th and 13th 20-point performances this season for a Tar Heel. There were just seven such occurrences all of last season (although we must acknowledge the fewer games played last year due to COVID-19).
- Bacot fell just shy of recording a third-straight double-double (nine points, seven rebounds) largely due to first half foul trouble. Impressively, all nine points and six of the seven rebounds came in the second half. The Tar Heel junior played just seven minutes in the first half after picking up two separate over-the-back fouls in rebounding action on the defensive end. Carolina is a noticeably different team when Bacot is on the bench. There’s no Day’Ron Sharpe to come in after him, and Garcia and Manek provide a different skill set. Obviously, Bacot can’t play 40 minutes a game, but Coach Davis needs his center to be available.
- Leaky Black has become indispensable. He took more elbows to the chin than field goal attempts. Literally. On the first possession of the game Elon had to heave an end-of-shot-clock three (which annoyingly went in) and the shooter’s elbow caught Leaky on the chin. And then the senior proceeded to not put up any shot attempts. He did, however, grab five rebounds (including multiples of the high altitude variety) and dish out two assists. The box score doesn’t show it, but anyone who watched the game knows how big an impact Black had.
- To provide some statistical proof of Black's importance to the team, we can turn to plus/minus in which his +110 is second to only Bacot's +120.
- The Tar Heels did a great job with turnovers…in the first half. UNC went to the locker room with just five turnovers on their stat sheet, but proceeded to add 11 more in the second half for a total of 16.
- Similarly, Carolina was 13-14 from the free throw line in the first half, but shot just 14-21 in the second half (mostly due to Bacot’s 3-8 performance). Still, Carolina scored 33.8% of their points from the free throw line.
- Elon, on the other hand, had a difficult time getting acquainted with the free throw line. Part of the reason is the Tar Heels committed just five first half fouls. Elon's first free throw attempt came with just 7:33 left in the game.
- Carolina doubled up Elon on rebounds 48-24. Their 15 offensive rebounds was a season high; as was the +24 rebounding margin.
- Perhaps the crazier rebounding factoid is that Elon had just two offensive rebounds in the game. Of those two, one was on a blocked shot and the other a missed free throw. That means the Phoenix didn’t get one single offensive rebound off a standard, non-blocked field goal attempt (blocked shots do count as an attempted field goal).
- Curiously, Carolina’s first six points were all on free throws. The first field goal for UNC came at 15:40 on a Caleb Love steal and windmill dunk. The Heels racked up multiple steal-and-breakaway-uncontested layups. Just a couple minutes later, RJ Davis picked someone’s pocket and took the ball all the way for a layup. Two of Bacot’s steals came while defending on the perimeter, one of which led to a vicious slam dunk of his own.
- Dawson Garcia apparently needs to cut off the front tip of his shoes. Twice in the first half he had a potential three-pointer reviewed to see whether his foot was on the line.
- Can we discuss how Caleb Love continues to bury ridiculously deep Steph-Curry-Trae-Young level three-pointers? Incredible. And he's doing so at an infinitely higher percentage this year. Love shot 26.6% from deep last season and is currently sitting at 43.2%.
- The last couple minutes of game action were rather sloppy. Several turnovers, some due to carelessness, some to Elon pressure. Now’s the time to learn to put an opponent away. Coach Davis will certainly have multiple teaching points at practice this week
- Earlier this season, Duwe Farris scored his first ever point for Carolina on a free throw. Tonight he made his first field goal off a pretty assist from Jackson Watkins, who had the opportunity to play for the first time in his Carolina career (along with fellow walk-on Rob Landry).
- D’Marco Dunn played 5:19, the most of his young career.
- Five Heels are currently averaging double-figures – Love (16.9), Bacot (14.3), Davis (13.9), Manek (13.0), and Garcia (11.3).
Hubert Davis Postgame Press Conference
Players Postgame Press Conference
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Furman on Tuesday, December 14. Tip is at 7:00pm ET on ESPN2.
Want to receive an email with Quick Hitters and other articles from Isaac Schade? Click here. Include your name in the text of the email.
Send Isaac Schade an email to talk more about this article.