ACC Basketball

Tar Heels Hold Off Harvard

Notre Dame survived earlier in the day and North Carolina did as well…I see a theme developing.

Much like the Irish before them, the Tar Heels simply refused to put Tommy Amaker’s squad away. Despite dominating for large stretches, North Carolina kept giving away possessions, fouling too much and napping on the defensive end to let Harvard back into the game.

In the first half, UNC shutdown anyone not named Wesley Saunders and built a early 26-14 lead, but then they stopped playing good defense, started fouling and the Crimson rallied to get back to within three, before the Tar Heels ended the half with a nice 10-2 run (seven via Isaiah Hicks).

Early in the second, they stretched the lead up to 16, as it appeared Harvard had no energy and no ability to defend. Yet, the Tar Heels started to give up possessions, turning the ball over four times in two minutes as the Crimson went on a 11-2 run to get back to within five.

With under five to play, North Carolina still held on to that five-point lead, but Harvard would go on a 10-2 run this time, capped off with a stunning four-point play by Siyani Chambers that turned a two-point deficit into a two-point lead. Yet, with 48 seconds to go, the Tar Heel’s Justin Jackson, who has played some solid ball down the stretch, nailed a mid-range jumper to tie it, then after a long rebound on the other end by J.P. Tokoto, the freshman was able to slam home a transition dunk to give his team the lead. Harvard had one more possession and two shots to pull out the win, but neither shot went in. North Carolina survived.

  • In the end, the Crimson’s final four shots were from three-point range. The first one — the one that gave them the lead — they had little choice, as the shot clock was ticking down. However, with the game on the line, Harvard failed to do the one thing they did that got them to that point…attack. The fact is, the refs were calling fouls and when that’s happening, you have to force the D to defend.
  • North Carolina hit 55.1% of their shots and 5 of 7 from deep, but they had 17 turnovers for the game to just 14 assists. On top of that, a team that has dominated the glass all season long, actually let Harvard tie them in offensive rebounds (12 each).
  • Marcus Paige hit some big shots, while Jackson scored Carolina’s final four points (finishing with 14), but Isaiah Hicks was the big man on campus, coming off the bench to score nine important points.
  • Harvard’s Wesley Saunders was stunningly good. While his teammates struggled to put up points, Saunders kept his team afloat, scoring 15 of his team’s first 18 points. He finished with 26 on the game to lead all scorers, also dishing out five assists. For the game, the Crimson only hit 38.2% of their shots, but managed to hit 90% of their 20 free throws, outscoring UNC 18-8 on the line.

Next up for North Carolina is most likely Georgetown (sorry, I’m going to bed).

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