Off the cuff: Saturday's game vs. Virginia was another of those games where I yearn for CD Chesley or even Rick Ray. By that I mean that ESPN treats the game like any other in the country. Specifically, they didn't show the halftime ceremonies honoring Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige (after all, they had to discuss something like Connecticut women's basketball instead).
The old ACC Networks covered the game from beginning to end, and then interviewed coaches and/or players after the game. ESPN rushes away to Sportscenter.
On top of all that, ESPN missed the first four minutes of game action because the Kentucky-Georgia game ran long. They ran across the bottom of the screen that the start of the game could be seen on the ESPN App or WatchESPN. Neither was true. It wasn't there.
Instead, the start of the UNC-UVA game was on ESPN News, which they didn't alert the viewer to until the game had already started. If the ACC wants the big bucks from ESPN, I guess those things are going to happen but why not also have the ACC Network available for ACC-area viewers? It seems to happen with the UNC-Duke game but why not others?
As for the game, Virginia got some open shots but Carolina played well enough to win regardless. Unfortunately, Joel Berry continues to struggle as he had only five points and three assists. As the guard, if you're not going to score a lot, you need to at least lead the team in assists.
Justin Jackson led the team with 20 points and led the team with six assists.
UNC color commentator Eric Montross said of NC State, "this team is not playing for their coach." A late first half run did seem to take the wind out of the Wolfpack players.
At one point in the second half, once the game was out of hand, it seemed that the Pack players were just letting Carolina players drive to the hoop.
Carolina, coming off the Duke loss, did play well and would almost certainly have defeated the Pack regardless. But a toll seems to have been taken on State.
For all the good news, it is disheartening that Kenny Williams hurt his knee and is out for the year. He had become an important cog in the wheel. Theo Pinson will probably start now and hopefully can stay healthy enough to help the Heels make an ACC and NCAA tournament run.
Carolina has little trouble with Cavaliers North Carolina figured to have its hands full against a defensive-minded Virginia team that is desperate to stay near the top of the ACC standings but the Tar Heels had little trouble taking care of the cold-shooting Cavaliers 65-41. (2/18)
Despite noting that the Heels played pretty well defensively, UNC coach Roy Williams said he'd never seen the Cavaliers miss that many shots. Virginia missed its first 17 three-pointers and finished just two of 20 even though the Cavs are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The 41 points were the fewest a Virginia team had scored against a Carolina team since 1947 when the Tar Heels defeated the Cavs 63-38 in Woolen Gym.
"We had a sense of urgency defensive," Coach Williams said. "(but) not as good as the statistics look."
Virginia shot just 27.8 percent for the game compared to 46.7 percent for Carolina. Plus, the Heels outrebounded the Cavs 44-26.
The game actually went back and forth through the first eight minutes but the Cavs had no answer for UNC's Justin Jackson, who tallied 18 of his game-high 20 points in the first half on four three-pointers to put Carolina up 34-22 at the half.
"We were active offensively," Coach Williams said. "We tried to move it. Justin was our whole offense (though) in the first half."
In the second half, Virginia's shooting woes continued while
the Tar Heels got the ball down low better. Big men Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks scored eight of the Tar Heels first 10 points in the second half as they rushed out to a 44-27 lead.
A 12-2 run, soon thereafter, put the game basically out of reach at 56-31. A couple of nice assists from Jackson to Hicks and Meeks
highlighted the run. A nifty scoop shot by Theo Pinson closed that run.
The lead got as high as 27 before the Heels settled for the 24-point win.
In addition to Jackson's 20, Meeks scored 13 and Hicks scored 10 to round out the double-figure scoring.
The Tar Heels, who move to 23-5 and 11-3 in the ACC, remain atop the league standings and play Louisville Wednesday. Virginia falls to 18-8 and 8-6 in the conference.
Tar Heels kick rival Pack when they're down
With rumors swirling about the possible firing of the NC State basketball coach, North Carolina's visit to Raleigh could have gone either way. Let's just say it wasn't a win-one-for-the-Gipper moment as the Tar Heels rolled to a 97-73 victory. (2/15)
As Carolina was streaking out to a 27-10 lead early, there were some boos from the restless Wolfpack fans.
"We played well early and took the crowd out of it," UNC coach Roy Williams said.
But behind Dennis Smith, who finished with 27 points, the Wolfpack
got back into it late in the first half, trailing by just six.
But a UNC 10-2 run, highlighted by a Luke Maye dunk and threes by Joel Berry and Justin Jackson,
pushed the Heels out to a 14-point margin, 51-37, at the half.
"That little run right before the half was good for us," Coach Williams said, adding that Maye was a big contributor, playing more minutes due to Isaiah Hicks' foul trouble.
Maye, a sophomore, finished with a career-high 13 points and seven rebounds.
The inside men had their biggest production of the season with 60 points in the paint, including 27 second-chance points. It wasn't just the big guys who did the damage in the paint either as Theo Pinson, Joel Berry and Justin Jackson got inside for buckets.
"Getting the ball inside and scoring was the biggest factor in the game," Coach Williams said.
Five Tar Heels scored in double figures. Berry led the way with 18 points, while Kennedy Meeks followed with 17. Jackson, who was cold from outside, nevertheless managed 14 points. After Maye's 13 points, Pinson scored 12 on a six of eight shooting night.
It was Pinson's passing that got the Heels going to start the second half. A nifty assist to Hicks in the first minute set the tone for the second half. Carolina scored on three of its first four possessions of the second half and State never challenged again.
An 8-1 run midway through the second half moved the lead north of 20 points.
A Maye three ball started the run. Then Berry drained a three and followed that with a steal and a layup to put the Heels in command, 72-49.
The lead got as high as
29 late in the game before the Heels settled for a 24-point win.
For all the good news, the Tar Heels learned before the game that a knee injury to Kenny Williams at practice Tuesday will likely keep
the sophomore sidelined the rest of the season. He had made 22 starts this season and was coming on as a reliable perimeter defender and outside scorer.
Coach Williams said Pinson, who himself was out with an injury early in the season, and Nate Britt must step up to make up for Williams' absence.
NC State coach Mark Gottfried refused to discuss rumors that he would be fired at the end of the season. He said he only wanted to talk about the game.
"They answered everything and played better," Gottfried said. "You have to give those guys credit."
The Tar Heels move to 22-5 and 10-3 in the ACC, a game ahead of Florida State
and Louisville, while the Wolfpack drops to 14-13 and 3-11.
Carolina tries to keep things going against Virginia at home Saturday night.
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.