“The three point shot for them, when it’s going in, they’re almost unstoppable to guard,” Blazer coach Jerod Haase said following the game. “Seven threes. That’s not in this particular game a defining thing.”
Haase’s analysis is correct. Seven three pointers or not, this game was not going to be close. Carolina needs to hit shots, but the continued development of Kennedy Meeks -- and his performance against UAB is another step in the right direction -- will ultimately reduce the pressure Marcus Paige faces night in and night out and allow this team to effectively execute the inside-out offense Carolina brings to the table.
“(Making threes) helps the post a lot,” Meeks said postgame when asked about Justin Jackson’s three pointers. “People tend to forget about us. When he and Marcus hit shots, that’s more baskets easy baskets for us.”
Meeks and front court mate Brice Johnson have struggled finding a rhythm together on the court, but Johnson’s quick start on the way to an 11-point, seven-rebound night, gave the Heels production from two interior spots rather than the either/or performances that have plagued the early season struggles.
“It’s really big for both of us to be in there together and do what we did tonight,” Johnson said when asked about his fellow big man. “We are two guys starting for this team and we have to bring it from the jump and that’s what we did tonight.”
Meeks’s 14 points and nine rebounds align with his season averages, but more than direct numbers, it’s Meeks effectiveness – or rather his team’s effectiveness with him on the court – that is the statistic all but the hardcore number crunchers routinely miss. Meeks’s +/- against the Blazers was +20 for the game, but dig deeper and see that even without threes falling early, the difference Meeks makes on the court is staggering.
In Carolina’s first 14 possessions, the Heels scored 17 points in ten possessions with Meeks on the floor and zero in the four without.
Paige’s performances will draw the ink, both good and bad as this season progresses and Paige himself acknowledges that role and carries it with him night in and night out. But consider these numbers for the sophomore big man.
In 250 minutes with Kennedy Meeks on the court this year, UNC has an efficiency margin of +32.8. It drops to +3.6 in his 190 bench minutes.— Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid) December 26, 2014
The Heels are 10.5 pts/100 better on offense (116.5 vs. 106.0) and 18.8 pts/100 better on defense (83.7 vs. 102.5) w/ Meeks than w/o him.— Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid) December 26, 2014
Impressive stats to watch, though Meeks himself doesn’t seem all too fazed by his numbers.
“I am just all about being a team player,” Meeks said. “I know that sounds like a cliché and all, but as long as the team is doing good, I’m good. It doesn’t matter if I have two points or 20 points, as long as the team’s doing good, I don’t have any problem with it. “
For the Tar Heels this season, Kennedy Meeks on the floor is a very good thing.