Lucas: Kansas Rapid Reactions – University of North Carolina Athletics


By Adam Lucas

1. A valiant Carolina effort fell short in a 72-69 loss to Kansas in the national title game.

 

2. Major offensive struggles doomed the Heels in the second half, combined with an inability to get any back-to-back stops. That combination erased a 15-point halftime lead in nine minutes. The second half percentages weren’t pretty: 27.5 percent for the Heels from the field and 16.7 percent from 3. Meanwhile, Kansas shot 57.6 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes and 40 percent from three. Even with a 15-point cushion, that’s hard to overcome.

 

3. The Tar Heels kept waiting for the hot version of Caleb Love to show up, and unfortunately, he never arrived. The Tar Heel guard hit just five of his 24 shots, battled through an apparent ankle injury, and just couldn’t provide the same spark he’s given the Heels in other NCAA Tournament games. The confidence giveth, and the confidence taketh away.

4. That created a conundrum for Hubert Davis when the Tar Heels called timeout with 4.3 seconds left, trailing by three. Who do you go to? Puff Johnson inbounded to Love, with Manek falling down on his way to the corner, and Love missed his final shot of the night. We’ll have to hear the postgame explanation of where the play was going, but it looked like Manek was at least one option.

5. So unfortunate that Armando Bacot ended the national championship game on the bench after battling through an ankle injury all game and then going down with under a minute remaining. Bacot had his 31st double-double of the season with 15 rebounds and 15 points, which ties David Robinson for the all-time NCAA single season record. It’s pretty simple: Bacot had one of the best seasons by a Carolina big man in school history. Bacot, Manek (who was battling an ankle injury that was little discussed and took a hard shot to the head early in the game), Love (ankle) and Johnson all had to fight through some variety of ailment in the title game.

 

6. Carolina started very slowly offensively, but offensive rebounding kept them in the game long enough for the offense to ignite. The Tar Heels scored a whopping 18 second chance points in the first half, largely during a stretch when they started the game 2-for-17 on the first shot of the possession. Roy Williams always used to implore his team to “Make them pay!” after an offensive board. The Tar Heels were incredibly efficient in that department, turning eight first half offensive rebounds into those 18 second chance points.

 

7. Another favorite Williams belief—getting the opposing team in foul trouble—also played a big role in building that first half lead. On Saturday, the Tar Heels did it to Mark Williams and then his backup, Theo John. On Monday, they did it to Kansas, with David McCormack limited to ten minutes in the first half by foul trouble, and his backup, Mitch Lightfoot, collecting three fouls in the first half. Their absence forced Bill Self to go small and allowed Carolina to build a 15-point halftime lead.

 

8. Puff Johnson has given Carolina some huge minutes in the NCAA Tournament. Johnson was pressed into service in multiple roles when the Tar Heels were hit with some first half foul trouble. He responded by playing a very solid 7:43, including a key offensive rebound and basket at the halftime buzzer. That set the stage for an even better second half from Johnson. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds in just 18 minutes.

9. Kansas has now won four in a row against Carolina, all of them in the NCAA Tournament. 

 

10. No surprise that there was a huge turnout of Carolina basketball alums at Monday’s championship games. The names included Tyler Hansbrough, Antawn Jamison, Jerry Stackhouse, Derrick Phelps, Shammond Williams, Donald Williams, Rick Fox, Wayne Ellington and a host of others.

11. Absolutely zero people believed the Tar Heels would be playing on the last Monday night of the season, and here they were, just the 12th team in school history to play for a national title. 44 players have enrolled at Carolina as first-year or transfer players in the last decade. 28 of those (63.6 percent) have been part of a team that played for a title. It’s so, so hard to get here. And the Tar Heels are doing it with regularity right now. What a season, including some of the most memorable wins in school history. What a team. Stay tuned to Carolina social media channels for information on the team’s return home tomorrow, likely to be mid-afternoon.