Are y’all done playing around, Kenny?
“Man, I hope so.”
That was the question given to senior, Kenny Williams, as the Heel dominated against 10 Virginia Tech. UNC looked like the team everyone knew they were capable of being. Its always an adjustment for leaders to form the gel that brings teams together but I think they finally did it.
Sporting the “Off White Air 1s”, Coach Roy Williams made a statement for the team before anyone else, “No more playing games”. UNC has toyed around with being the best and it seemed last night to finally click with this team and they found each others strength and dominated a team that most had them losing to.
If you have been paying attention, Coach Williams is doing something out of his comfort zone, he’s allowing his freshmen range to do what they do best. Williams is known for keeping the reigns on his freshmen and following a strict senior lead team, but it seems that sometimes you have to let the dogs off the leash – they didn’t disappoint. Little, Black and White helped UNC dig out of a hole and onto a 20-0 run. It was the 3 for White with 3:50 left in the first half that gave UNC their lead and they didn’t look back. Its also worth noting that UNC had 5 players in double figures, Coby White,27, Nassir Little, 23, Luke Maye 14, Garrison Brooks, 12 and Kenny Williams, 10.
Naturally there were scoring leaders such as Coby White who lead the team with 27pts, 7rbds and 6ast, closely followed by Nassir Little with his career high, 23pts, 6rbds and 3ast, but the true story line is this team finally finding their confidence. If you were anything like me the first few minutes of the game, things happened quickly. I was putting in the internet password, and all of a sudden, Virginia Tech was up by 9. Without their star player, Justin Richardson, Virginia Tech was looking like they could easily command the game but there’s something about this UNC bench that causes uproar and a change of scenery.
UNC’s bench deserves the praise as much as their starting 5. Most players cant see the significance of coming off the bench and being the spark a team needs to win. Most are selfishly wondering when their turn will be to start, but with UNC, Coach Williams has something special. For starters, Leaky Black, with him in the game at the 2 are 50+ in 35 minutes, including 17-2 in 4:33 minutes against V. Tech. With White and Black in the backcourt, they were +35 in 21 minutes. Nassir Little also had a spectacular night tying 4th in the ACC with RJ Barrett with 23 dunks for the season. He has the 7th most dunks by a UNC freshmen in the RW era. (s/o to Adrian Atkinson for getting us these awesome facts!). With all this Freshmen praise, is Coach Williams finally allowing them to run the game?
“We’re 15-4 so that’s 19 games. That’s quite a few opportunities to go and play. You shouldn’t still be a freshman. I think Coby [White]’s done some really good things for us this year. Nassir [Littles]’s been amazing the last three games. Ask how many fouls he had tonight – he had zero. At Miami the other day, he had four and only played 15 or 16 minutes so it helps when he’s not in foul trouble. Leaky hadn’t played as well as I wanted, but how about the first play he’s in, he doubles down on the post and steals the ball and we go to the other end. He’s the one that found Coby for three on that stretch there so I think all three of our freshmen are going to be very good players and I think that they’ll continue to get better and better.”
Little’s position has been a hot topic during his college playing experience but it seems that he’s found gold in coming off the bench for his team,
“I don’t think we had the intensity and focus we needed. My mindset coming in was, ‘I’m going to lift us up.’ I think I kinda brought us that extra fire that we needed and then we converted them on the other side.”
Senior, Kenny Williams also felt the presence of his freshman and the leadership they provided,
Man how big were they? For them to step in and basically lead that run tells you how good they will be and how good they can be. For three young guys on the team to step up in such a big game, that’s exactly what we needed from them tonight
Tonight win can be seen as something really great or really bad. Everyone knows that UNC is capable of making a deep run in the NCAA tourney and being a top 5 nationally ranked team, and tonight they proved it. they proved they can work, they proved they can defend, they proved they can score, and they proved they’re a team. But can they prove to do this consistently? Tonight’s game mirrored Gonzaga but it also questioned Louisville. How are these two teams the same? Coach Williams stated that he hopes a happy medium.
“Somewhere in between. I hope it’s a hell of a lot closer to games like this than Gonzaga or I’m going to have more gray hair or not as many. One of the two. I really don’t know. I’d like to be sitting up here and tell you all these things, but I asked them to compete today as hard as we possibly could.
One more thing before you guys leave, UNC fans showed up and out last night. Records were broken tonight but what’s one thing that shined? Fan engagement. It’s no secret that UNC fans are iffy; when you step into the Dean Dome, you’re not exactly sure if you’re going to get the crowd a home game deserves, but last night, it seems as if the Rams Club sent out a memo that stated: SHOW OUT. Fan engagement is important when it comes to a team’s confidence and production on the court; knowing your fans have your back 100% makes you feel invisible.
UNC has a long break before their next opponent before they face Georgia Tech in Atlanta next Tuesday @ 7pm.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) We all remember Coby White being a shooter at UNC. Bei…