- First things first: Win or lose, the ending to a season is always sudden, abrupt, and jarring. What a treat the ride has been with Joel Berry and Theo Pinson over the last four years. It has been well-chronicled, but bears repeating, that the 2014 class of Berry, Pinson, and Justin Jackson turned out to be one of the more important classes ever at Carolina. In an era that had the potential to leave a black mark in Chapel Hill, these young men, along with Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, and Nate Britt, were the caretakers of North Carolina Tar Heel basketball during what will instead go down as one of the most accomplished and memorable stretches in the history of the program.
- The first 8:30 of game time was exactly the type of game Carolina was looking for. The tempo was fast. Despite the Aggie size advantage, the Tar Heels did a good job defensively in the post: Berry digging down to the post for a steal and Pinson breaking contact to come around front to steal a post entry pass. Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, and Brandon Robinson had just checked in and Manley immediately grabbed a defensive rebound and then nailed a jumper to give Carolina a 20-13 lead. But then it all fell apart…
- From that moment, A&M went on a 15-0 run and an extended 29-8 run the rest of the first half. What happened? Glad you asked. The Aggies were able to slow the pace down and settle into taking full advantage of their overwhelming size.
- The issue was not turnovers – Carolina had only six. The issue was not making free throws – Carolina shot 100 percent. The issue was not offensive rebounds – Carolina bested Texas A&M in that category 9-7. The issue was not field goal attempts – Carolina took 78 shots to Texas A&M’s 60.
- The issue came down to “threes and frees”. The Aggies hit 10-24 three pointers to Carolina’s 6-31 (a 12-point advantage). Although A&M only made 67 percent of their free throws, they took 21 (making 14) to Carolina’s seven (a seven-point advantage). Add in A&M making one more two-point field goal than Carolina and you’ve got the final 21-point spread.
- In a battle of two of the best rebounding teams in the country, Texas A&M dominated the backboards 50-36.
- Coach Williams talked earlier this season about the need to continue growing and developing his young bigs, despite the headaches it would cause. Manley and Brooks have certainly come a long way this season, but they just simply don’t yet have the bulk or experience for the likes of Texas A&M’s frontline. I hate to say it, but have to: Tony Bradley would have been a difference maker in this one.
- This is what happens when you are forced to rely on the three. Eventually the shots don’t fall. It was a frustratingly fitting reminder of why Coach Williams likes to construct a roster that can play inside out.
- Texas A&M held an 8-0 advantage in blocks, several of which were of the vicious variety. Someone might need to check on poor Brandon Robinson:
- Pinson scored four points in the first seven minutes of the game, but that was it. He did, however, have seven rebounds and tally eleven assists. The Tar Heels likely needed more scoring production out of him to pull out this victory. In fact…
- Although all five starters scored in the first 5:30, Berry and Luke Maye were the only players to score in double-figures.
- What an incredible, somewhat out of nowhere Maye has had. One of the truly remarkable stories in recent memory for Carolina. Maye picked up his second foul (on a questionable call) midway through the first half. Despite the potential foul trouble against A&M’s front line, he only picked up one more foul throughout the game and finished off the season with one final double-double, his 17th of the season.
- Not sure how Texas A&M was a 7 seed or how they went 9-9 in the SEC. Apparently they had some injuries and suspensions during the regular season. That’s the luck of the draw in the NCAA Tournament. It really is all about match-ups.
- As opposed to their success against the Syracuse and Duke zones, Carolina struggled against Texas A&M’s. Rather than the usual efficiency created from Pinson operating out of the high post (the hole at the top of the zone by the free throw line), the first half featured too much of Brooks and Manley occupying that space.
- Carolina needed to come out in the second half and continue to attack the rim through drive or pass. Instead, the Heels continued to pull the trigger from three. Nine of the first 14 field goal attempts were threes, of which Carolina only made one.
Theo and Joel man..I remember them coming in as freshman dancing, laughing, arguing, yelling 24/7. All the winning and dominance aside – They made UNC Basketball FUN for all of us during a time we needed it most. Much love to them boys
— Marcus Paige (@marcuspaige5) March 18, 2018
Post-game press conference:
The Tar Heels end their season with a 26-11 record. The offseason will see the departures of senior starters Joel Berry and Theo Pinson, along with reserves Aaron Rohlman and Kane Ma. No underclassmen are currently expected to leave early or transfer, but we will keep you up to date throughout the offseason on any roster moves, including high school commitments. Quick Hitters will pick back up at the start of the 2018-19 season with a recap from Late Night with Roy Williams.