North Carolina’s 20-point victory over #10 Virginia Tech on Monday night was arguably the team’s most impressive performance of the season. The Tar Heels received quality contributions from Garrison Brooks, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, and Kenny Williams, among others, but the offensive explosion was truly led by the dynamic freshmen duo of Coby White and Nassir Little.
White and Little combined for an astounding 50 points against the Hokies. White had one of the best performances ever by a Roy Williams freshman point guard (27 points, seven rebounds, and six assists) and Little poured in a career-high 23 points. This was the first time under Williams, and the first time since 2003, that two UNC freshmen scored 20+ points in a single game. Then it was Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants. Now it is Coby White and Nassir Little.
However, White and Little are not the only two freshmen playing a big role for this North Carolina team. The versatile Leaky Black has provided steady minutes all season, and like White and Little, has been really turning it on as of late. Black has a way of doing all of the little things, similar to the way Theo Pinson did.
Black had three points, two rebounds, and some key steals in just seven minutes against Virginia Tech. One of those steals was the catalyst for what was perhaps the defining play of the game for the freshmen trio.
In the midst of UNC’s 20-0 run late in the first half, Black stole the ball from Virginia Tech’s Kerry Blackshear, brought the ball up the court and passed it to Little, who then found White for the open three-pointer. A freshman got the steal, a freshman made the assist, and a freshman knocked down the three.
As great as the freshmen have been individually, they play even better when sharing the court together. According to Adrian Atkinson, the trio of Little, White, and Black has played 20 ACC minutes together so far, and the Tar Heels have outscored opponents 45-18 in those minutes.
The trio not only plays well together, but according to Little, they value the opportunity of rooming and growing together at Carolina. “It’s really beneficial because you’ve got guys that can truly relate with you,” said Little. “With us living together, we talk about things. We get each other through a lot. It’s tough, but us being together and having that kind of bond really helps us.”
The elevated play of White, Little, and Black could take this team to another level. Before, the Tar Heels were mostly relying on seniors Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye, and Kenny Williams to carry the load on offense. That method has offered mixed results throughout the season.
If White and Little can continue to lead the offense, along with the seniors as the season goes on, we will see more performances like those against Virginia Tech. Defenses simply will not be able to slow down an attack led by White’s ability to score at will, Little’s ability to create mismatches inside, and the three point shooting of Johnson, Maye, and Williams.
Perhaps it was just a random offensive explosion. Or, perhaps this was UNC turning the page, and in April, we will look back at the dominant win over Virginia Tech as the moment that changed the story for the 2018-19 Tar Heels.
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