UNC Basketball: Tar Heels made basketball fun again on Saturday

For the first time in nearly a month, UNC basketball notched a win on Saturday. The Tar Heels dominated Miami en route to a 94-71 win.

Entering Saturday’s matchup with Miami, UNC basketball hadn’t won a game since December 30th against Yale. Coming off of five-straight losses, Carolina’s win over the Hurricanes was a major relief to say the least. The Tar Heels were led by senior guard Brandon Robinson, who scored 29 points and had four assists. The victory also marked Roy Williams’ 880th career win, breaking the tie with the legendary Dean Smith for fourth all-time. UNC now sits at 9-10 on the season and 2-6 in the ACC.

After missing the Virginia Tech game, the return of Brandon Robinson was huge for the Tar Heels on Saturday afternoon.

Robinson missed Wednesday night’s loss to the Hokies, but erupted for a career-high 29 points on Saturday, two weeks after scoring 27 against Clemson. Robinson, who was shooting 35% from deep on the year, made a career-best six threes on just 10 attempts. The fourth-year senior from Douglas, Georgia was dominant throughout the game, and was a huge reason for the 23-point victory. Robinson also added three rebounds and four assists.

Forwards Garrison Brooks and Armando Bacot also had big games against the Hurricanes. Brooks finished with 14 points, marking his 10th-straight game finishing in double-figures, while Bacot tallied 19 points and 12 rebounds to notch his seventh double-double of the season. The pair combined to shoot 15-for-22 and dished out nine assists. Brooks, who is the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer behind Cole Anthony, had seemingly single-handedly carried the Tar Heels over the majority of the season, so the big performances by several of his teammates were a welcome sight.

UNC’s selflessness and good ball movement allowed for the team’s best offensive performance of the year.

Following the recent five-game losing streak, offense had been hard to come by. Too many times this season the Tar Heels have seemed as though their offensive possessions end in dribbling around and settling for a poor shot. Saturday, though, was a completely different story. UNC assisted on 32 of 40 made field goals, marking the highest assist total in a single game since 2011. Nine Tar Heels had at least one assist, and six had at least three. Bacot led the team with seven, and Leaky Black impacted the game by dishing out six assists of his own.

While the assist totals are certainly nice to look at, it’s also a key reason for the blowout win. The fact that UNC had so many assists means that they were making a lot of shots (obviously), which is something they haven’t done for most of the year. In fact, before Saturday, Carolina hadn’t had more than 19 assists in any game all season. Sharing the ball opened up scoring for guys all over the floor, including from the three-point line. The Heels tied a season-high 10 made threes, and set a new high for points scored in a game this season. Their previous high was 83 in a loss to Georgia Tech.

The total dominance came in perfect timing, as UNC will travel to Raleigh to face rival N.C. State on Monday night.

Prior to Saturday afternoon, Monday night’s looming matchup with cross-town rival N.C. State had many Tar Heel fans worried. UNC has won the last three contests against the Wolfpack, and hasn’t lost in Raleigh since 2013. Carolina will have to bring their best on the defensive end, as N.C. State is one of the top-scoring teams in the conference, and is an impressive 11-1 at home this season. There was initial optimism that Cole Anthony was going to be able to lace up against the Wolfpack; however, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen at this point. Nonetheless, it’ll be a huge in-state matchup.

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