ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Kennedy Meeks turned in a career performance in No. 1 North Carolina’s 91-67 win over Temple, according to the final stat book. Roy Williams, however, will need a little more convincing.
Meeks, both slimmer and more agile than a season ago, scored a career-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and three blocks. Other than a leaning fadeaway that missed its mark to open the game – a play in which Williams suggested that his junior center’s “brain went on vacation” - Meeks was efficient underneath and effective on the defensive end.
“He's got great touch around the basket, and had a couple tip-ins that we work on,” Williams said. “Offensively he was really, really good, other than a couple of times I thought he could have thrown it out of the double team, including the time he got the walking call. But 25, 11 and three blocks is pretty doggone good.”
“The whole [plan] from the beginning of the game was just to get the ball down low,” Meeks said. “Get it as low as possible. That’s what we did. That was for all of the bigs. It just so happened that some of my shots were going through.”
That game plan was based in UNC’s decided advantage in the post, both in skill and size. Temple played without starting 6-foot-9 forward Obi Enechionyia (ankle), who is likely Fran Dunphy’s top defensive option in the post. As a result, Meeks was able to execute against shorter defenders for much of the night.
That’s why Williams stepped on the brakes when asked about his starting center’s offseason improvement.
“Let's not get too excited,” Williams said. “… I keep challenging him. I'm not going to anoint him because it was 25 points and 11 rebounds, and they had one true post player playing most of the game. He does that against some of these other people we're getting ready to play, then I'll start anointing him.”
Even so, Meeks excelled against a stingy defensive opponent that held Brice Johnson without a field goal in the first half. Johnson, Isaiah Hicks and Joel James combined for 24 points on 10-of-17 shooting and 17 rebounds, essentially equaling their teammate’s production.
UNC outscored Temple, 42-12, in the paint and controlled the boards by a 49-32 margin.