Heading into Saturday night’s game against Gonzaga the 7-2 Tar Heels impressed in their 94-78 win over UCLA, but questions still lingered about the potential of this year’s squad after they lost to Michigan 84-67 – the only ranked opponent they’d faced. Those questions and more were answered in Carolina’s impressive 103-90 win over the 4th ranked team in the country and it was just what the squad needed heading into another tough game against Kentucky.
“We just showed ourselves,” senior guard Kenny Williams said after the victory. “We can play with the big teams. We can play in the big games. So, it’s momentum and another level of confidence we can take going into that game.”
UNC was in control most of the game – never trailing by more that eight points since 12:26 remained in the 1st half. Cam Johnson had an impressive outing – finishing with a game-high 25 points on 8 for 12 shooting from the floor, including 6-8 from behind the arc. Luke Maye added 20 points – joining the Tar Heels’ illustrious 1,000 point mark. Carolina also held projected lottery pick Rui Hachimura to 35.7% from the floor, but it wasn’t a perfect game for the Tar Heels who turned the ball over 23 times leading to 29 Bulldog points.
“The biggest negative of the game no question was turnovers,” Roy Williams said. “Just simple guard-to-guard passes. I mean I’ve never seen anything like that…Takeaway the turnovers and the miscommunication on the defensive end of the ball and there are several times I thought we really did some good things”
One of the most positive takeaways from the win was Carolina’s impressive shooting. The Tar Heels shot 55% from the floor for the first time since their 50 point week four win over Texas Tech.
“We made a bunch of shots,” Williams continued. I’ve been telling Cam, Kenny and Luke that ‘you guys are our best shooters, how ’bout trying to be our best makers?’ I thought Cam was really something tonight. Luke is stepping up. They cut it to eight and I think that’s when Luke made a tough one on the baseline. He gets fouled and goes seven-for-seven from the free throw line. 20 points and 16 rebounds is a big night for him as well. But if we don’t play really, really well we can’t win this game.”
The Tar Heels grew and gained confidence in this game and that will only help them as they face Kentucky next week and continue their road down one of the toughest schedules in college basketball.
- Carolina is 8-2, 5-0 at home this year.
- 103 points are UNC’s second-most against an AP top-five team.
- 61-2 under Roy Williams when scoring 100 or more points.
- Outscored Gonzaga 27-0 in second chance points.
- UNC made a season high 13 three-pointers