Skip to content

North Carolina’s big men, point guard impress in win over No. 3 Louisville

Nov 24, 2013, 3:18 PM EDT

source:

From Nov. 20th thru Dec. 1st, I’ll be on the road, hitting 21 games in 11 days. To follow along and read my stories from the road, click here.

UNCASVILLE, CT — North Carolina was done. This wasn’t a top 25 team. This was a group that would have to fight and scrap just to get a chance to play in the NCAA tournament, especially now that every source for every writer seems to think that P.J. Hairston’s career as a Tar Heel may be over.

That’s what happens when you barely hang on against teams like Holy Cross or Richmond. It’s what happens when you lose to Belmont at home.

It’s also now inaccurate.

Seven days after getting dropped by the Bruins in the Dean Dome, North Carolina put together one of the most impressive performances that we’ve seen from any team this season, as they ran No. 3 Louisville off the court, 93-84, to win the Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Seriously.

Marcus Paige led the way with a career-high 32 points, giving him 58 points on the weekend. More impressive, however, is the fact that the Heels beat the Cardinals by nine while getting next to nothing from James Michael McAdoo. He finished with nine points and three boards on 3-for-11 shooting, but those numbers vastly overestimate his impact on this game. Two of those buckets were wide-open dunks that came off of a press break. McAdoo was a non-factor.

And it didn’t matter.

So what was the difference?

North Carolina’s front court. All those young guys that everyone has called overrated and under-talented and not-good-enough-for-UNC? They dominated Louisville. There’s no two ways about it. Kennedy Meeks was sensational, finishing with 13 points, 12 boards and seven assists, single-handily shredding Louisville’s press with his ability to pass over the defense. Crazier still is that this came one night after Meeks finished with one point and three boards in five minutes against Richmond, a performance that Roy Williams was not impressed with.

“College basketball is what Kennedy Meeks did,” Williams said after the game. “Yesterday he was one of the worst players on the planet. Today he was unbelievable. I told him last night he wasn’t ready to play, he didn’t have any intensity. This is big time college basketball.”

“I don’t know what was wrong with me, honestly,” Meeks said, ” But I do know that last night, Coach told me I was playing like the worst player on the planet. That’s enough to boost me up right there.”

And what’d he say after this afternoon?

“Helluva game.”

Meeks wasn’t alone, either. Brice Johnson added 13 points, six boards and three blocks, Joel James chipped in with five points and six boards, and even Jackson Simmons played key minutes down the stretch, scoring a couple baskets and picking up the charge that fouled out Montrezl Harrell.

That’s huge for North Carolina for a couple of reasons.

First, the obvious: the Tar Heels perimeter depth has been gutted by the suspensions of Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston. Their depth is non-existent, forcing guys to play out of position. We’ve been over this time and again. It’s not exactly classified information.

More importantly, North Carolina’s offense relies on having quality big men, and the lack of their starting wings is only going to increase how much the Tar Heels rely on their big guys.

“It makes a huge difference. Having an inside presence is the biggest part of Coach Williams’ offense,” Paige said. “Having a couple of different guys that can be that guy for the night is huge for us. We kind of went away from our throw-it-inside mentality last year.”

No one is going to confuse Meeks or James or Johnson with the likes of Tyler Zeller, Tyler Hansbrough or Sean May, at least not yet, but no one is expecting them to be. They don’t even need those three to be all-conference players. they just need them to be productive, to be a threat to score when they get the ball on the block and to be able to hold position, whether it’s on the glass or defensively.

And they proved themselves more than capable of doing that tonight, but the bigs weren’t the only players with something to prove.

Paige was supposed to be this team’s starting point guard, but he’s been forced into playing primarily off the ball thanks to UNC lacking wings. That means that freshman Nate Britt has been forced into the role, something he has not looked ready for. In four games entering Sunday, Britt had 12 points and six assists, total. On Sunday, he had nine points and five assists, playing with an aggressiveness and a confidence that we’ve yet to see from him.

“I’m starting to figure it out, playing at this level,” Britt said. “There’s been a lot of new things to learn for me, and I just feel like at the start of the season, we just want to incorporate all the things we learn in practice. It’s been hard for me to just think about relaxing and playing. Over time, it’s starting to come to me a little more.”

The bottom-line is this: Marcus Paige isn’t always going to play this well and James Michael McAdoo isn’t always going to play this poorly. And at some point, the Heels will get Leslie McDonald back, maybe Hairston as well. In a worst-case scenario, the Heels will have a group of wings that are better than most teams across the country.

But the key to this group competing and contending in the ACC was at the point and in the paint.

At that, more than anything, is why North Carolina’s win was so important.

Latest Posts
  1. High school, college counselor rosters for adidas Nations released

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT

    Adidas Hoops Adidas Hoops

    Among the high school players in attendance are Jaylen Brown (2015), Thon Maker (2016) and Dennis Smith Jr. (2016).

  2. Wisconsin releases video of players receiving Final Four rings [VIDEO]

    Aug 1, 2014, 10:09 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    You’ve seen the pictures of the rings. Now see the player’s reactions once they got them.

  3. North Carolina asks court to move Mary Willingham lawsuit to federal court

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:13 PM EDT

    Image (1) university-of-north-carolina-logo-thumb-220x177-1144.jpg for post 315

    Mary Willingham’s lawsuit came to light in early July, with the NCAA deciding to reopen its investigation at around the same time.

  4. 2016 guard Josh Jackson announces his new high school [VIDEO]

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports) (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

    The explosive shooting guard’s new school is located in Napa, California.

  5. Xavier’s new court design? Cincy’s skyline, but not chili (PHOTO)

    Jul 31, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT

    @slrussell @slrussell

    The court will be redesigned by the end of the month.

  6. Recruitment starting to pick up for top 30 point forward Braxton Blackwell

    Jul 31, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Blackwell is a member of the Class of 2016 but is already hearing from some notable programs.

  7. Rick Brunson charged with attempted sexual assault, battery

    Jul 31, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Vernon Hills Police Department Vernon Hills Police Department

    Brunson is the father of a top 15 recruit and a potential hire for a program in the AAC.

  8. How can Wichita State build on the two best years in program history?

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Wichita State is coming off of a Final Four and an undefeated regular season. What happens if they can’t match that success again?

  9. Grant Hill donates $1.25 million to Duke

    Jul 31, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    It’s the second time Hill has donated a million to the school

  10. N.C. State releases their 2014-2015 non-conference schedule

    Jul 31, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    It’s not that strong, but it could have been much worse.

  11. Auburn releases signee Sam Logwood from National Letter of Intent

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:32 PM EDT

    adidas adidas

    The highly athletic wing is back on the market, but he’s yet to be cleared academically.

  12. Guard Quinndary Weatherspoon becomes Mississippi State’s third 2015 commit

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:17 PM EDT

    Rick Ray AP

    The Bulldogs succeeded in keeping a talented in-state product home.

  13. Marquette guard Todd Mayo leaves program to pursue professional opportunities

    Jul 30, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT

    Todd Mayo AP

    Mayo’s decision means that Marquette has to replace its top four scorers from last season.

  14. 2015 shooting guard Terence Davis verbally commits to Ole Miss

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Andy Kennedy AP

    Just over a month after landing a junior college guard, the Rebels have their second commit in the Class of 2015.

  15. UCLA AD Dan Guerrero expects Pauley Pavilion to be ready for regular season

    Jul 30, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    UCLA Introduces Steve Alford Getty Images

    UCLA is holding out hope that John Wooden Court can be salvaged, but if not they’ll have time to replace it.

  16. Mixtape for VCU-bound Terry Larrier (VIDEO)

    Jul 30, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Larrier is the best recruit that Shaka Smart has landed at VCU.