Off the cuff: UNC coach Roy Williams said his team was outplayed for 36 minutes but Justin Jackson said the Tar Heels put their foot down over the last four minutes.
It really was a close game throughout with six ties and eight lead changes. But the 21-3 run at the end should go down as one of the best comebacks since Williams has been coach.
Kansas State had scored on six straight possessions including a three triples before the Tar Heels locked down on defense and was more aggressive on offense.
For TV viewers it was another frustrating game as the game started on another of ESPN's stations and switched back to ESPN2 after the first TV timeout, due to an overtime game.
ESPN really should do better planning. They could have put the other game from the Hall of Fame Classic on ESPN2 so that there would be no chance of a game running long.
When people are out and recording the game, their DVR doesn't know that the first few minutes are going to be on another station. Plus, less tech savvy and older people don't get the switching. They sit there and watch an overtime game they care nothing about waiting for the Tar Heels to come on.
Then, at the end of the game, they immediately switch to some program talking about Johnny Manziel's drinking problem. Before ESPN, viewers would have been able to hear interviews with the players and would have been able to see the all-tournament presentation.
You'd think with more channels, you'd be able to see those kinds of things but ESPN, which should be called ADHD, can't stay focused on one thing for very long. They seem to believe that we all care about all sports and that as soon as something is over, you've got to go to something else.
I'd prefer for ESPN to allow the ACC Network to air any game it wants so that the local folks can actually see a game from start to finish with commentary about that game before and after it.
UNC coach Roy Williams said that injured start guard Marcus Paige could have played if it were an NCAA game but that the Heels are being cautious.
Speculation is that he will be back in early December but Coach Williams joked that he might just keep him out until February.
Carolina's defensive got the Heels some easy baskets in the second half against Northwestern, which was held to 37 percent shooting in the second half.
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UNC executes classic comeback win
North Carolina rallied from eight down in the last four minutes to win going away at 80-70 over Kansas State in the finals of the Hall of Fame Classic. (11/24)
Trailing 67-59 with just over four minutes left, the Tar Heels turned up the pressure on defense and aggressiveness on offense and outscored Kansas State 21-3. A Joel Berry three with three minutes to go put the Heels within a basket at 68-66 before Justin Jackson, the tournament's most valuable player, tied it with a floater crossing through the lane.
A Kennedy Meeks steal near midcourt resulted in a dunk to give Carolina the lead at 70-68 with 2:01 left. Kansas State freshman Kamau Stokes, who led his team in scoring with 24 points, lost the ball out of bounds and the Tar Heels took advantage with a big three by Joel Pinson that put the Heels up 73-68 with 1:21 to go.
The Tar Heels got the ball back when it went out simultaneously for a jumpball, arrow to Carolina. UNC hit four of five free throws down the stretch and Nate Britt took advantage of a Brice Johnson block to go in for a layup with 10 seconds left for the final tally.
"It was a weird game," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "They outplayed us for 36 minutes but we were still around."
Coach Williams said the team works a lot in practice on coming back from six down with three minutes to go. At the 3:28 TV timeout, with the Heels still down five, he told his team that they had a chance.
Jackson, on the way out onto the court after the timeout, told his teammates that they had gone over this multiple times in practice and that it was time to do this together as a team. "When we get stops, we can play with anybody," Jackson said.
Coach Williams said Berry's three pointer after the timeout was big. "Joel had stunk it up but I thought it was time for him to make one," said Williams, who called a play for the three attempt. "That shot gave us a big lift."
Berry had missed all four previous three-point atterampts and had turned the ball over three times.
Jackson led the way for the second night in a row with 22 points while Meeks finished with 15. Pinson added 11 while Johnson was the fourth Tar Heel in double figures with 10.
The Tar Heels shot 55 percent in the second half to finish the game at 46.8. They outrebounded Kansas State 44-30 and hit 16 of 20 free throws.
Carolina, now 5-1, takes a Thanksgiving break and plays at home against Maryland next Tuesday.
Heels buckle down for rebound win
North Carolina, which fell from No. 1 in the country to No. 9 after losing to Northern Iowa, rebounded with a solid but not easy 80-69 win over Northwestern in the Hall of Fame Classic. (11/23)
UNC's Justin Jackson, who finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds, got the first double-double of his career and was aggressive, especially on the offensive end where he got six rebounds.
He tallied four during a 14-1 run at the end of the first half that erased a six-point Wildcat lead and put Carolina up 43-36 at the half, a lead the Heels would never relinquish.
During the run, the Tar Heels got a three by Theo Pinson that put the team up for good at 36-35 with 2:38 left in the first half. The nicest play of the run came when Joel Berry found Jackson slicing down the baseline for a bucket.
"Jackson's cutting down the baseline and his offensive rebounding was the difference," said Northwestern coach Chris Collins, the former Dukie.
But the Tar Heels also had six players in double figures for the first time this season. After Jackson, Berry and Kennedy Meeks tallied 12 each and Pinson, Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks each added 10.
Carolina led by 10 after the first 10 minutes but then suffered a barrage of three-point baskets by Northwestern, who got three in a row and four over a four-minute span.
The Wildcats worked the lead to six before that 14-1 run that changed the tenor of the game.
An 8-0 run midway through the second half put Carolina up for 20 at 71-51. During that run, Jackson slashed down the baseline for an up and under then followed it with a runner in the lane.
Northwestern, who played a 2-3 zone defense the entire game, managed to cut the lead to nine with a 15-4 run of its own. But Berry hit a three shaded to the right at the 2:08 mark to stop the bleeding and give the Heels a 12-point cushion before settling for the 11-point victory.
Jackson had eight rebounds on the season but 13 in this one game. "Every game I'm supposed to get to the board and I haven't always done as well as I should," Jackson said. "Tonight it got me some touches and I got some easy jumpers and layups."
Jackson started the season slow before scoring a career-high 25 points against Northern Iowa and a career-high 13 rebounds against Northwestern. "I was frustrated in how I was playing but my teammates and coaches had confidence in me and I had confidence in myself. I just got off to a slow start."
Carolina hit 17 of 19 from the free throw line and outrebounded Northwestern 39-26. The Tar Heels committed only nine turnovers, four by Pinson, who counted that with a game-high eight assists.
The Tar Heels, now 4-1, play Kansas State in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City Tuesday at 10 p.m.
© 2015 CB3media Cary, NC
Heel Prints reviewed each UNC game
As a student sports editor years ago, prior to the season, Clifton Barnes predicted a national championship for the Tar Heels and indeed they won. In fact he wrote his lede paragraph for the national championship game almost a year early. He regrets that he didn't keep a journal after each game. He kept a journal after each game of the 2007-2008 season and you can reach them here. At the request of readers, he has kept up his journal of each game ever since. He also has written about UNC baseball and wrote an analysis after each 2008 UNC football game.
Editor's Note: HeelPrints chronicled the UNC basketball, baseball and football seasons for 2008 and 2009. Since the vast majority of comments I get about the site relate to basketball and since this isn't a paying job for me, I decided to limit my coverage and analysis to basketball. Baseball and football will remain archived and if I have comments or opinions I want to make on those or any other sports at UNC, I will make them here on the front page and then archive them in the corresponding sports section. Thanks for all the positive comments I have received about the site. Should I get sponsorship in the future, I will reconsider adding baseball and football again. Ironically, my favorite sports to watch in person are baseball and football. But my first connections to UNC came from watching Dean Smith's basketball teams on TV or listening to them on the radio in the days before all the games were televised. It should come as no surprise that people pay more attention to the basketball coverage. Thanks for your interest in this site.