By Adam Lucas
1. You have to have one of those. You just don't want to have one of those. Carolina survived Arkansas, 72-65, on the strength of a game-closing 12-0 run.
2. Carolina did almost nothing right in the second half, including missing shots, turning the ball over, and watching the Hogs throw in miraculous shots. And yet, somehow, they pulled it out, with senior Isaiah Hicks scoring six of the team's final ten points. Four of those points came on clutch free throws, including a pair that put Carolina back in the lead with 1:44 remaining.
3. The Tar Heel big men were simply dominant on the glass in the first half against an Arkansas team that has been hurt on the offensive backboards this year. The trio of Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley (with help from Luke Maye) rebounded 14 of Carolina's 26 missed shots in the first 20 minutes, and that created a 10-4 edge in second chance points.
The Tar Heels didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but were creating so much offense on second chances that it didn't matter. The Hogs then closed down the second chance opportunities in the second half, and the Heels got just four offensive boards in the final 20 minutes--but one of them was Meeks' huge tip-in for a 68-65 lead with 44.2 seconds left.
4. The box score said Justin Jackson was just 2-for-8 from the field in the first half, but he found multiple other ways to contribute, including five rebounds, three assists and a couple of hustling steals. That's the Jackson the Tar Heels need, because he has the ability to change the game in other ways even if his shot isn't falling.
5. These late first half lapses are becoming a serious problem. In three of the past four games--both ACC Tournament contests, plus Sunday's game--the Tar Heels have given up double-digit leads just before halftime. This time, Carolina took a 30-13 lead with 5:30 left in the first half, then saw the Razorbacks cut it to four points a little over four minutes later. The lead was just five at halftime, and nearly was less when the Hogs almost tossed in a halfcourt buzzer-beater, which would have been disturbing shades of 1995.
The opposing runs in the ACC Tournament frequently came when reserves were in the game; this one came with mostly starters on the floor.
6. Quietly, Isaiah Hicks did a good job playing after picking up an early foul in the first half. Twice, Arkansas big men had him posted up in the first half, and twice he simply played good post defense with his arms straight up and avoided the foul. That allowed Hicks to be in the game late when the Tar Heels desperately needed him.
7. The underrated star of the weekend: Greenville, S.C. The city has a great downtown area around the river, lots of good restaurants, and generally seemed very capable of hosting a first- and second-round weekend. It wasn't Greensboro, but it was better than many of the other possibilities.
8. Great to see several former Tar Heels in the stands in Greenville, including South Carolina native Shammond Williams (whose UNC single-season three-point record was snapped by Justin Jackson early in the first half when Jackson made his 96th trifecta of the season) and Marvin Williams, who made the drive from Charlotte on an off day for the Hornets.
9. Congratulations to Meeks for getting his 999th and 1,000th rebound in perhaps the most stylish fashion of any Tar Heel ever (only nine have done it in program history). Meeks' 999th turned into a tip-in that gave the Heels the lead, and number 1000 came on the defensive glass to preserve a three-point edge.
10. Still playing, folks. Only 15 other teams can say that. Still playing.