East Carolina improved to 7-8 with a 62-59 win over 8-8 University of South Florida. The Pirates are now 1-1 in conference play with SMU visiting for a nationally broadcast contest on Saturday. ECU lead 51-38 after going 9 of 11 from the floor to start the second half, before USF outscored the Pirates 11-4 to pull within 55-49 with 7:49 to play. The last minute of the game was intense as a David Collins layup pulled USF within 59-60 before two Tristen Newton free throws gave ECU the final 3-point margin with 15 seconds remaining. Collins was able to get off two 3-point shots int he last 12 seconds, missing on the first, and having the second shot negated by a perfectly timed Jayden Gardner block.
Normally, 50, 45, and 85 (field goal, 3-point, and free throw percentage) shooting in the second half gets a win for North Carolina. But this is no normal season for the Tar Heels. When a team misses their first 15 attempts from the floor, this is not a normal season. When more than 13 minutes tick off the clock before the home team at the Smith Center scores from the floor, this is not a normal season. When that home team trails Georgia Tech, or any team, 27-4 to start a game, this is not a normal season. When UNC players miss the same defensive assignments for a whole game; multiple games, this is not a normal season. When players haven’t figured out, after 14 games, that it takes head and heart to win, this is not a normal season. When players are not focused for a milestone game, this is not a normal season. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL SEASON!
North Carolina played a respectable second half, and put together a nice run to cut the 24-point Georgia Tech lead to single digits, but the missed assignments on defense, and resiliency of Tech’s players stood out. The Yellow Jackets improved their shooting from the floor to 63 percent in the second half, finishing at 59 percent for the game, while improving to 60 percent on 3-point attempts in the second half, and maintaining a 75 percent clip from the free throw line. Tech also forced 15 turnovers, while only giving up the ball 13 times, nicely below their season average of 17 giveaways.
There is cause for alarm if you expected the Tar Heels to be poised, and showing improvement at this point in the season. It’s hard to put the first 13 minutes of the game to the side, but look at the play over the next 13 minutes. Yes, UNC gave up 49 points in the second half, but they scored 56. Yes, they missed assignments, but disrupted Tech’s flow with traps, and showed toughness on defense outside the paint. It’s a team game. Garrison Brooks played the offensive game of his career, while Armando Bacot looked lost, and only played 16 minutes. Leaky Black had a positive game scoring 8 points on 4 of 7 shooting, with no turnovers, and a steady defensive game, while Brandon Robinson scored 12 points on 4-of 11 shooting, hitting four three-pointers, but the first half turnovers hurt. Jeremiah Francis was off from the floor, and had three careless turnovers, while missing multiple defensive assignments, but showed flashes of hope. Justin Pierce continues to show improvement, contributing 11 points in 24 minutes, but still hesitates to shoot when open. Christian Keeling shot the ball with less hesitation, going a respectable 3 for 5 from the floor, but four turnovers in 16 minutes is not acceptable.
At 8-6, many teams would panic. Not yet! North Carolina has 17 games left before the ACC Tournament. Expect a few more losses, but expect improvement on defense, and better offensive flow as well. Some have already written off the Tar Heels, but THIS IS NOT A NORMAL SEASON!
NCA&T Aggies mascot at UNC Boshamer Stadium. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This was the perfect opportunity for a late lunch, or for some, an acceptable excuse to get a early start to the weekend. If you like college baseball along with a hot, humid 90 degree day to kick off June, then you will appreciate my look from the seats at Boshamer Stadium as the UNC Tar Heels hosted the NC A&T Aggies to open NCAA baseball regional play.
From the seats.
Just a test post.
When in Rome…
North Carolina Central University moved to 27-23 after their last weekend series of the season before the MEAC Baseball Tournament in Daytona Beach, FL on May 17-May 20. The Eagles lost to Florida A&M in the first game of a double-header Saturday at the Durham Athletic Park after giving up five runs in the top of the 9th, but could only manage one run in the bottom of the 9th; losing 4-7. FAMU scored only two runs in the second game of the double-header, as NCCU scored four in the 4th, and one run in each of the next two innings to win 6-1. FAMU took the series with a 7-5 win on Sunday. NCCU closes out the regular season with games at the Durham Athletic Park on Tuesday against Davidson (30-16), and Wednesday against UNC Asheville (12-32).
Davon Grayson made a big splash on the field at East Carolina University going for 18 catches, 176 yards, and 4 touchdowns as a freshman for Ruffin McNeill’s Pirates before being slowed by injuries. He came in listed at 6’2” 174 lbs receiver, and leaves ECU 25 pounds more muscular at 199. Grayson received a NFL Draft Combine invite, and displayed a somewhat surprising 4.51 forty yard dash; perhaps leaning on some of his high school track and field experience in the Tidewater Virginia area.
Grayson indeed appeared to be one of the next great ECU receivers, and showed the ability to make the deep catch, be effective on the edge and short routes, and being able to make positive plays crossing out of the backfield. After missing the 2016 season with a back injury, and numerous other injuries the following season, Grayson started all but one game his last year, bringing in 6 touch downs on 59 catches for 886 yards; earning All-Conference Honorable Mention recognition from the American Athletic Conference.
I was able to see every home game, and almost all of Grayson’s games away from campus. I was disappointed to see his career slowed by injuries, but always pleased with his game. He maintains good speed downfield, goes after the ball, and shows strength after the catch. Don’t be surprised to see Grayson on an opening day roster. Career totals: 13 touchdowns, 1,767 yards on 135 catches, averaging 13.1 yards per catch.
Others to watch
Jimmy Williams is a downfield threat that could make an impact with the Denver Broncos, who have reportedly made him an undrafted free agent offer. Williams clocked a 4.47 pro day 40-yard dash. He was most productive in 2016 season, scoring 8 touchdowns in 12 games, averaging over 18 yards per catch. Williams scored 12 times overs his career, making 109 catches on 199 targets for 1,589 yards. Expect Williams to see action in the league this season.