LAHAINA, Hawaii – Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks were too tall, too strong and too athletic for the Division II Chaminade Silverswords in No. 4 North Carolina’s 104-61 victory in the opening round of the Maui Invitational.
UNC’s starting frontcourt combined to make its first 11 field goal attempts against a Chaminade squad that started a pair of 6-foot-7 wings down low. Hicks led all scorers with a career-high 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting (6-of-8 FT) and Meeks added 20 points on 7-of-7 shooting (6-of-8 FT).
The duo was effective in establishing low post position throughout the game and limited their turnovers (3) despite constant double teams and the occasional triple team.
“I think the biggest thing is, like Coach always tells us, to go through our moves quick," Meeks said after the game when asking about countering the double teams. "I think when we do that, then we won't have to worry about the triple and double teams."
Meeks grabbed 10 rebounds (four offensive), while Hicks pulled down six boards. UNC outrebounded Chaminade, 52-23, and finished with a 26-5 edge in second-chance points.
Freshman center Tony Bradley had similar success off the bench, scoring 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting (4-of-6 FT).
The Good and the Bad
Roy Williams lamented his team’s lapses in execution during the tournament’s opening press conference on Sunday, and the Tar Heels provided an example in the first half against Chaminade.
UNC opened the game with near flawless precision, scoring on seven of its first eight possessions and averaging 1.88 points per possession. The Tar Heels scored seven points off three Silverswords’ turnovers and added four second-chance points on four offensive rebounds in building a 15-8 lead.
Less than four minutes later, the Tar Heels allowed Chaminade to close its deficit to five points by committing five turnovers over a 10-possession span and taking a quick 3-pointer on another scoreless possession.
After trading scores on the next four possessions, UNC outscored its opponent 49-22 over the next 18:07.
Williams Back in the Starting Lineup
Sophomore wing Kenny Williams reentered the starting lineup for the first time since the season opener at Tulane after senior guard Nate Britt had started the previous three games.
Roy Williams has praised both players’ contributions in recent weeks, and both played well against the Silverswords. Britt scored eight points, dished out three assists and notched three steals, while Williams added seven points, four rebounds and three steals.
Williams made the play of the night with a towering block of Rohndell Goodwin’s layup attempt at the halftime buzzer.
With 1:33 to play before halftime, Brandon Robinson was called for a blocking foul on a drive by Goodwin. The freshman wing took a hard fall and what appeared to be an elbow to the mouth, which brought blood. Athletic trainer Doug Halverson helped Robinson off the court and to the locker room, where he received three stitches to the outside of his lip.
He checked back in with 9:07 to play.
"He was trying to play defense and the guy came right into his face," Williams said. "And I think he more or less got him with his head than he did anything else. He cut his lip, I think inside and out, but I'm not positive. I told him not to worry, the needle was only about that long. And he didn't laugh at that, so I didn't think I should talk to him anymore.
"But he came back in and I told him, 'they say it's okay physically for you to play,' and I wanted him to play because he's going to have the stitches in tomorrow night also. So I wanted him to go in, but I wanted to make sure he felt like that. And he wanted to play, he wanted to get back in there, so that part was good."
UNC is already down two players in Maui. Junior wing Theo Pinson is out another 4-8 weeks with a broken foot and sophomore forward Luke Maye is not expected to play this week after suffering an ankle sprain against Chattanooga on Nov. 13.
Coach Rob Making His Presence Felt from Home
UNC assistant coach Steve Robinson was unable to travel with the team to Hawaii due a blood clot in right leg. The former Florida State head coach, who has served on Roy Williams’s staff for 14 years at UNC and 22 years overall, remained engaged on Monday night, providing commentary on Twitter throughout the game.
https://twitter.com/heelscoach/status/800940909693140992 https://twitter.com/heelscoach/status/800941846667071488 https://twitter.com/heelscoach/status/800942463007363072 https://twitter.com/heelscoach/status/800942903208136704
A quick turnaround for the Tar Heels, who play Oklahoma State (4-0) at 5:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. EST) on Tuesday. The Cowboys defeated UConn, 98-90, in opening round action on Monday.