WINSTON SALEM, N.C. – After settling for too many jumpers instead of attacking Wake Forest’s bigs, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks finally heard their head coach’s pleas to go strong to the basket.
When asked during his postgame press conference what changed in the second half for Meeks, Roy Williams quipped: “His brain.”
“Why should you take a fadeaway jump shot when John Collins is really, really good and gets in foul trouble?” he continued. “Part of our deal was to take it at him. Why should we do that? He got his brain in gear and really started playing better.”
Meeks and Hicks combined for 34 points on 14-of-24 shooting. Their work inside forced Collins, the Demon Deacons’ leading scorer, into foul trouble early. He was limited to six points in 20 minutes.
“Coach said [Dinos] Mitoglou and Collins are their best bigs so go attack them,” Hicks said. “Even after a fadeaway I made, it went in, but he said, ‘Attack them.’”
Danny Manning kept Collins on the bench throughout much of the first half – he logged nine minutes – to keep his foul count at two. It took just eight seconds, however, for Meeks to draw Collins’s third foul after halftime.
“It was big because that was our game plan to get him in foul trouble because they need him to be able to come through,” Meeks said. “It’s unfortunate that he got those fouls for their team but it was good for us, so we’re not complaining… I think we did a pretty good job and Isaiah did a good job on Mitoglou, too.”
The foul trouble worked both ways, as Meeks and Hicks had to play smart with four fouls each late in the game.
“I’m used to it to not think about it, constantly being in foul trouble,” Hicks said. “I’ve got to keep playing. I can’t worry about what happened when getting my fouls, I’ve just got to keep playing.”
Hicks is averaging 3.7 fouls per game over his last nine outings.
Despite the foul trouble, Meeks stood strong against Collins in the final minute, blocking the Wake Forest sophomore’s shot attempt with UNC holding a six-point lead with 45 seconds to play.
“It felt great, because I knew he’s a great post player and he got to one of his sweet spots,” Meeks said. “For me to come up for that block was definitely big for me and big for our team.”
The Demon Deacons’ post duo entered the game averaging a combined 27 points per game. The Tar Heels held them to 19 points on 6-of-18 shooting, pairing a solid defensive effort on the block with more aggressive play on the offensive end.
Evan Chronis contributed to this story