DURHAM, N.C. – Five days after voicing his frustration on Twitter regarding criticism for his struggles this season, Kennedy Meeks played a crucial role in No. 8 North Carolina’s 76-72 win at No. 17 Duke on Saturday.
The junior center provided an early boost with eight points and five rebounds before the second media timeout and finished with 12 points and a career-high 14 rebounds, posting his first double-double since the season opener against Temple.
It was a strong performance in the midst of mounting adversity for the Charlotte, N.C. native, one that UNC needed to realize its goal of an ACC regular season championship.
“I think I responded tonight,” Meeks said. “I just think there was a lot that I was holding in, not saying much, even keeping stuff from my teammates. So that’s the platform I chose. It might not have been the best one, but it is what it is. I can’t take it back, but that’s how I felt. I’m not ever going to shy away from how I feel.”
There was more to his play at Cameron Indoor than simply getting those emotions off his chest. He lingered at the Smith Center after practice on Friday, taking extra shots until late in an attempt to get his groove back. Entering Saturday’s regular season finale, Meeks was averaging 8.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in ACC play.
“I just refocused on what the team needed, and they needed me today,” Meeks said, “And I needed them today to help me get the ball or for me to get rebounds and kick it out for shots. I think it was a great team effort. I’m just glad we’re champions.”
His production was needed on a night in which Isaiah Hicks, the player fans have been calling for Roy Williams to replace Meeks with in the starting lineup, was limited to four points without a rebound in nine minutes of play due to foul trouble.
“I wouldn’t say he was frustrated,” Hicks said when asked about the Twitter fallout. “It’s just a love-hate thing. People love you when you’re doing good, people hate you when you’re doing bad. It was more, ‘Don’t worry about that and play your game. You can’t worry about other people that aren’t in here.’”
Meeks, like his teammates, was full of smiles following the Tar Heels’ first win at Duke since 2012.
“As long as the team wins, nothing else matters,” Meeks said.