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Silly season – great game

UNC 80-69 over NC State

Silly season is always open on social media. Sports rivalries only add content. That’s what you would expect if you picked up a Twitter feed or fan sites sharing thoughts about Saturday’s game between North Carolina and NC State. Leaky Black committed a foul on Terquavion Smith in the second half of the game that officials thought necessitated him being disqualified. Video shows Smith jumping and extending above Black’s attempted block and (natural) downward movement causes Black’s hand to hit Smith in the face. I do not believe there was any intent to harm Smith. Black has never been that type of player. This is a long-standing rivalry between local schools that has almost always been a tough, physical game, even when the scores were not close. But the games between these two teams are not usually dirty, and that was not the case this time. Hubert Davis and Kevin Keats are both passionate about their teams and seem to care about their players. I have never witnessed either employing dirty play or allowing players on the court that intentionally harm an opponent. Both teams play tough, but they play the right way.

UNC won this one their way. Coming into the game, the Tar Heels lead the conference in getting to the free throw line and the Wolfpack put the opposing team on the line a lot. This did not change on Saturday. NC State made more field goals than UNC, but fouls put UNC in the bonus early in each half and the Tar Heels took advantage, making 36 of 39 from the line.

Overall, North Carolina finally played defense for a full game. RJ Davis and Black lead the way, but this was a very good team effort. NC State constantly hounded the UNC on defense, but simply committed too many fouls. Armando Bacot and Davis lead the offense for UNC. Bacot also passed Tyler Hansborough to become the all-time leading rebounder at for the Tar Heels. D.J. Burns was impressive for NC State with 18 points on 8-14 shooting. Jarkel Joiner also added 18 points for the Wolfpack.

Overall, this game was not pretty, but the intensity and crowd participation exceeded expectations for meetings between these local rivals.

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Leaning on bench strength

UNC improving rotation

A few weeks back I said D’Marco Dunn was North Carolina’s 2nd best defensive player and messaged that I liked the way he was playing. Response: “Hmm…”

Bubble talk.

Since that time, Dunn has missed six games due to injury and returned to contribute over 17 minutes a game, shoot 61 percent from the field, 45 percent from three-point range and is perfect from the free throw line! He has also grabbed 8 rebounds and four steals since returning, while only committing three turnovers and showing his strength on defense. Dunn has clearly taken advantage of his time on the floor and is proving to be a valuable contributor for the Tar Heels.

Injuries force changes

Injuries to starters Pete Nance and Armando Bacot have forced Hubert Davis out of his seemingly too short substitution pattern and opened the floor to more playing time for players like Dontrez Styles. Up to the Louisville game, Styles had gotten less playing time than expected this year. Styles waited patiently for an opportunity to contribute. He did not disappoint on Saturday. Puff Johnson has also seen increased playing time and produced. Jalen Washington has been on the floor more recently and shown promise. While Seth Trimble, Justin McKoy, and Tyler Nickel have seen fairly regular playing time, each has limitations that have been a concern. Trimble and McKoy contribute nicely on defense but have shown limited abilities in providing consistent offense. Nickel has a reputation of being able to score, but struggles on defense, and has not scored enough consistently to offset his lack of defensive presence. Dunn, Styles, Johnson, and Washington have more range in their games to be able to hold up on both ends of the floor.

Every game offers different obstacles. The bottom line, as with any team, is UNC needs players with different strengths to win consistently against the multiple styles of play that they face each game. Players have to adjust within games, make plays and pay attention to how the game is being called. Coaches, including Davis and his assistants, have to do more than speak of the talents and abilities of players that are receiving limited playing time. They have to actually give those players real opportunities to deliver on the floor! Simply trust their own words. Substitution patterns and rotations naturally evolve throughout the season and more often, necessarily, within games. Confidently leaning more on the strengths of the bench will help this team perform more consistently like the team most expected when the season started.

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Losing this way

North Carolina downed 77-65 at Indiana

Losing to undefeated Indiana on their home court shouldn’t normally be treated as if it’s the end of all hopes for the season. Instead, Hubert Davis and North Carolina have to treat this loss as the start of their season. Little more explanation is needed. The UNC team, with five experienced starters, simply looks unprepared to compete at a high level. I have to be even on praise and criticism. Starting at the top! Is the team unprepared or just incapable of working as a unit for more than a few plays each game? This should not be. Not with junior and senior starters that played in the championship game a few months ago. Where is the leadership on the floor? Where are the coaching adjustments? There is little need to drudge through the box score to discuss all that could have been. As bad as things seemed for UNC, much of the game was played with Indiana just a few points ahead. It’s time for UNC to recognize that a game plan is needed to win. Now is the time to get a new game plan in place. Get to practice and let the next game be a fresh start to the rest of the season.

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More than talent

UNC 102 – College of Charleston 86

Just waiting…

#1 North Carolina spent much of the first half of their second game of the season waiting for something to happen. Poor rebounding, a lack of aggression, and poor defense left the Tar Heels behind by 7 points at half-time. UNC seemed disinterested in playing on a Friday night. Charleston took full advantage of the Tar Heels’ lackadaisical play. That all ended after the first-half buzzer. North Carolina imposed their will in the second half with improved defense and more aggression on offense, but the box score proves there’s still work to be done. The Tar Heels simply coasted too much in the first half. Perhaps a few clips from the Saw or Escape Room movies at halftime helped the team realize that they are going to get chased and pushed all year. It will take more than talent to get to Houston. The second half against Charleston may have given us a promising glimpse of UNC’s potential.

Key stats:

  1. UNC was out-rebounded again. The most glaring part is Charleston grabbing 15 offensive rebounds. UNC only pulled 8 offensive rebounds.
  2. The Tar Heels scored 102 points, but were only 5-20 on 3-pointers. Reader’s choice on whether this is good or concerning.
  3. Free-throw: 71% on 27-38 shooting, but 9-15 in the first half. Charleston was 66.7%, on 6-9 shooting.
  4. Charleston took and made more field goals. 36-73. UNC 35-58.
  5. Second-half shooting: UNC 71.4% Charleston 45.5% after shooting 52.5% in the first half. Charleston also went 6-14 on three’s in the first half, but only 2-10 in the second.
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NCAA Baseball Regionals

Fan’s view. Stokley catches air.

North Carolina host teams had a good day on Friday as North Carolina won 15-4 over Hofstra and East Carolina ran away with Coppin St 17-1. Both teams play again at 7pm on Saturday. UNC will play VCU on ESPN+. ECU will play Virginia on ACCN.

Out at first.
Max Carlston pulled in the 6th inning.
Tossing one back!
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East Carolina headed to NCAA Tournament

East Carolina University increased their nation-leading winning streak to 18 games with a 6-1 American Athletic Conference Tournament win over Houston. This is the first tournament championship for the Pirates since 2018. The championship also gives Cliff Godwin 300 coaching wins. The Pirates improved to 42-18. ECU also won the AAC regular season championship and will likely host a NCAA Baseball Regional. Look for updates at ecupirates.com

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UNC WLAX National Champs

North Carolina closed on 4-2 scoring over ACC conference rival Boston College to win the 2022 Women’s Lacrosse National Championship! The Tar Heels finish their first undefeated season in program history at 22-0, while winning their third NCAA championship (2013, 2016, 2022).

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Duke softball on to Super Regional

On the way to first.

Who really thought Duke softball would advance to a Super Regional in the fifth year of fielding a team? The Blue Devils (44-9) came from behind to beat the Bulldogs (43-18) in the NCAA Softball Durham Regional on Sunday. The Bulldogs won game one 5-3 to force the elimination game.

Field view through the pines surrounding the Duke Softball Stadium

Georgia got off to a fast start scoring two times in the first inning, then scored three more runs in the second inning. Duke only scored once in the first inning but provided all of the offense after the third inning to earn a 13-5 win. The Blue Devils move on to face UCLA in the Los Angeles Super Regional on Friday and Saturday. Games will be televised on ESPN2.

Safe at 2nd.

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Two for two – roster smoke clearing in Chapel Hill

Roster smoke starting to clear in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina’s basketball appears to be in a good hands! Playing for the national championship can change a team’s outlook in a positive way. So can the current transfer rules which allow players to transfer one time without having to sit out a year. Even after a successful season, most D-1 teams can expect player movement. UNC is not exempt. I expected at least three and possibly four Tar Heel players to transfer. Dawson Garcia has already announced his intention to transfer after one season in Chapel Hill. The record will show that the team played better after Garcia’s concussion then return home to attend to family concerns. Don’t count that as a negative for Garcia. Things just did not work out as expected. The shortened line up was challenging but gave Brady Manek the opportunity to display his full capabilities.

Anthony Harris is also on the move after overcoming multiple injuries. Harris was playing more consistently and offering valuable time as a backup before his season ended after the fall academic period. No clarification was given as to why Harris was “unavailable” after Christmas. If Harris can remain injury-free, he may be a valuable contributor at his next stop. Check back for updates on who moves on and who returns to help UNC make the run to San Antonio in 2023.