It’s been about five hours since the 18th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels knocked off the fifth-ranked Louisville Cardinals, 72-71. And fans of both Atlantic Coast Conference powers are thinking the exact same thing…
How the heck did UNC win that game exactly?
Was it the explosive play of J.P. Tokoto? Not really. He had one spectacular dunks and played decent defense but by no means was he the difference.
Was it Kennedy Meeks? Can’t argue with a guy who led the team with 13 points but he did have four fouls and played just 29 minutes.
Was it even Marcus Paige? He may have hit the game winner with 8.5 seconds left, but 10 points and a 2-for-7 performance from the arc doesn’t quite scream ACC POY.
Was it ESPN’s Dick Vitale honoring Stuart Scott with some resounding “Booyah’s”… Maybe
So who was it then?
How about the bench…
The Tar Heels reserves… 20 points, 46% shooting, 3-3 on free throws, 10 boards and 71 minutes divided between six players.
The Cardinals reserves… 0 points, 4 rebounds, 30 minutes among four players.
In other words, UNC and its fans realize they have solid depth. While, on the other side of the court, Louisville realizes they are a tremendous starting five in need of some scoring off the pine.
“Give credit to North Carolina,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said following the game. “That’s about as bad a loss as I’ve had in my, what, 14 years here. Our guys played great the whole night. They played a great basketball game, did a lot of really good things. It doesn’t really come down to the end of the game, even though they made a very difficult shot and we had a wide-open shot. I know that’s how fans look at it.”
Besides the bench, Tar Heel fans need to buy a round of milkshakes for Brice Johnson tonight on Franklin Street. The kid is the only one with any emotion and he played his game perfectly against the Cardinals front line. Johnson and the Heels held Montrezl Harrell to nine points on 4-10 shooting and just five rebounds in 38 minutes.
“Brice did some good things,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said after the game. “I thought early he was really good rebounding wise. He had 11 rebounds and 8 in the first half.”
That enforcer mentality might have been the best thing that came out of the UNC run to victory in the final eight minutes. If Johnson has harnessed his emotions and game, Tokoto believes a bit more in his ability and the bench realizes just how solid they are, this is going to make the Tar Heels a significant player in the ACC race.
And don’t forget about Paige. It was just about this time last season when he went nuts and got in his groove. If that game-winning floater did the same today, the rest of the conference better watch out. Paige is by far the best player in the league who has played the worst to this point of the season.
So if you were looking for the new teams in the ACC to take control early in their tenure, you are going to have to wait a while longer. After all, the conference title has gone through the state of North Carolina for 40 years. And the Tar Heels proved today that is not going to change anytime soon.
Roy Williams Post Game Press Conference
Rick Pitino Post Game Press Conference
Marcus Paige’s Game Winner
|Montrezl Harrell, F||38||4-10||0-0||1-2||3||2||5||1||1||1||3||2||9|
|Chinanu Onuaku, F||27||3-4||0-0||2-2||3||5||8||0||2||2||1||3||8|
|Wayne Blackshear, G||31||3-8||2-5||2-2||0||4||4||0||1||0||0||1||10|
|Terry Rozier, G||37||10-21||1-7||4-4||2||3||5||5||3||0||1||1||25|
|Chris Jones, G||37||8-12||3-6||0-1||0||4||4||5||1||0||3||3||19|
|Mangok Mathiang, F||12||0-1||0-0||0-0||1||3||4||0||2||2||1||2||0|
|Anas Mahmoud, F||3||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Shaqquan Aaron, G||9||0-2||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||0|
|Quentin Snider, G||6||0-1||0-1||0-0||0||0||0||1||0||0||1||0||0|
North Carolina Tar Heels
|Kennedy Meeks, F||29||4-7||0-0||5-6||4||2||6||1||3||2||2||4||13|
|Brice Johnson, F||26||5-11||0-0||1-2||3||8||11||2||1||0||1||3||11|
|J.P. Tokoto, F||22||5-12||0-0||0-0||2||3||5||5||0||1||0||0||10|
|Justin Jackson, F||22||4-6||0-1||0-0||2||2||4||4||0||3||1||2||8|
|Marcus Paige, G||30||4-12||2-7||0-0||0||2||2||3||0||0||4||2||10|
|Isaiah Hicks, F||13||3-7||0-0||0-0||2||2||4||0||0||0||1||0||6|
|Theo Pinson, F||15||0-2||0-1||0-0||1||2||3||2||1||0||1||0||0|
|Desmond Hubert, F||1||0-0||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Joel James, F||8||1-2||0-0||1-1||1||1||2||0||0||1||0||2||3|
|Joel Berry II, G||13||1-3||1-1||0-0||0||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||3|
|Nate Britt, G||21||2-5||2-2||2-2||0||0||0||1||2||0||2||0||8|
Technical Fouls: PLAYERS: None – TEAMS: None
*Section Photo credit to Gerry Broome, Associated Press; Featured Photo (above) credit to Bob Donnan, USA Today Sports