The North Carolina basketball team extend their winning streak to five games after their victory over the Tennessee Volunteers. After almost two weeks since their last game, the Tar Heels found a way to handle the Volunteers at the Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville. The final score was 78-73. Joel Berry led all scorers with 21 points.
Tennessee played well through the first half gradually building a small lead. They would go into halftime with a six-point advantage. The largest margin of the game was nine points by the Volunteers.
The second half was a testament to the Tar Heels’ resiliency. A pair of early jumpshots made by Luke Maye and Joel Berry sparked a comeback for the team. The highlight of the game was a three-point basket made by Kenny Williams with 35 seconds left in regulation. The shot was created on a handoff and screen set by Theo Pinson. This put North Carolina ahead 72-70. A series of free throws by Pinson and Berry sealed the victory.
Free throw shooting was not an issue for the team during this matchup. They made 14 of their 19 attempts. They currently shoot 70% on the season from the line. Turnovers were not of huge concern despite the Tar Heels having 16.
The starters carried the scoring load with three players contributing at least 15 points. Pinson filled the stat sheet, nearly recording a triple-double. He finished with seven points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. He shot 1-5 from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line. Luke Maye had another solid outing adding 15 points and eight rebounds.
The lack of production from the reserves has become more apparent. Against the Volunteers, North Carolina’s bench scored 11 points, 10 of which from Sterling Manley. Three of the five reserves logged at least 10 minutes. They must contribute more to relieve the starters. Roy Williams will need to have several rotations that he can count on when ACC play begins. Throwing different looks at his opponents keeps his starters rested while also slowing down opposing offenses.
North Carolina has two games left before they take on the ACC. The first being December 30 against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Acknowledging their failures to Michigan State is the first step to preparing for conference play.
The loss to the Spartans should not be taken lightly when evaluating the Tar Heels. The Spartans provided the most competition for North Carolina all season. Making the necessary adjustments now gives them enough time to implement new strategies before the latter portion of the season.
It will be important for the stars to play at their best when the big moments arrive. Collapsing as they did in their only loss will decrease their chances of capturing the ACC regular season title. The program has shown they can win close games against the likes of the Volunteers without much support from their bench, but they cannot go into each game with that mentality.