DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 09:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels throws the ball in against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 9, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Terminally ill former player attends Duke-UNC as ‘bucket list’ game

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Duke and North Carolina played another game in their storied rivalry last week. Although the two ACC juggernauts hold quite a long grudge against one another, the two programs teamed up to make something special happen for a terminal breast cancer patient.

Melanie Pearson Day, a 38-year-old mother of three, is battling stage IV terminal breast cancer. A former player at BYU, the native of Lehi, Utah was told by doctors that she has two to five years to live.

Day is battling cancer but she also remains a passionate basketball fan. Seeing the Duke and North Carolina rivalry up close was always Day’s priority as a basketball fan.

In a great story from Jeff Call of the Deseret News, Day received a special trip to be apart of one of the best rivalry in sports.

From Call’s story:

Day learned more than a month ago that she and her husband, Preston, would be checking off the No. 1 item on her bucket list by attending last Thursday’s basketball game between arch-rivals Duke and North Carolina at iconic Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Her weeklong experience in the Tar Heel State surpassed anything she could have imagined. For Day, it might have been the perfect week.

“I’ve dreamed of this for 25 years,” said Day, a former BYU women’s basketball player. “I grew up thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to go to this game someday?’ When I put it on my bucket list, on my blog, never did I actually think I’d get tickets to it. Then I got tickets and I went to the game, but it was so much more than that. It’s like a basketball fantasy.”

Not only did Day get see the Duke and North Carolina game from the third row behind the Duke bench but she also attended closed practices for both teams and spent time with both Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams.

Day’s dream trip is told in great detail in Call’s story and I highly recommend you check it out.

No. 12 North Carolina outlasts Pitt

during the game at the Dean Smith Center on January 31, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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After looking sluggish in a loss at Miami on Saturday, No. 12 North Carolina bounced back with a 80-78 win over Pitt at home in the ACC on Tuesday night.

The Tar Heels (20-4, 8-2) maintained a consistent lead on the Panthers for most of the game but could never seem to put them away, as Pitt cut the lead to one twice with under two minutes left. But the Tar Heels were finally able to put things away

Junior Justin Jackson finished with a game-high 20 points as 13 of those points came during a very efficient first half. After some recent mediocre performances, point guard Joel Berry bounced back with 19 points on 5-for-9 three-point shooting as he looked much more comfortable against Pitt.

Things were also easy for Isaiah Hicks on the interior as he was 6-for-8 from the field for 18 points and eight rebounds while Kennedy Meeks had 10 points and five boards.

North Carolina shot 50 percent from the field (29-for-58) and made a respectable 37 percent of their three-pointers on Tuesday.

Perimeter defense is going to have to improve for the Tar Heels, but they ultimately got big offensive plays from experienced veterans to improve to 12-0 at home this season.

The Panthers (12-10, 1-8) had a great comeback effort and some critical late shots but they just couldn’t get over the hump and gain the lead in this one. Guard Cameron Johnson was impressive as his six three-pointers helped him to a game-high 24 points as he provided a much-needed scoring boost for Michael Young (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jamel Artis (17 points). Chris Jones also added 12 points for the Panthers.

This is Pitt’s first seven-game losing streak since the 2011-12 season as this team is struggling in ACC play. It was the defense that was the letdown for Kevin Stallings’ group on Tuesday as they couldn’t get critical stops when they needed to late in the game. The Panthers went 13-for-29 from three-point range and still lost because North Carolina was able to get pretty much anything they wanted.

Pitt has a chance to play the role of spoiler for some teams down the stretch but the defense has to get better.

Three Takeaways from Miami’s big ACC win over No. 9 North Carolina

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 28: Tony Bradley #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels has a shot blocked by Ja'Quan Newton #0 of the Miami Hurricanes during the first half of the game at the Watsco Center on January 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Miami continued the early chaos in the ACC on Saturday as the Hurricanes jumped out to a huge early lead and cruised past No. 9 North Carolina for a 77-62 win.

1. This is the big ACC win Miami needed for its NCAA tournament cause

Entering Saturday’s home game, Miami owned three wins in the ACC but none of them had come against top-tier teams. The Hurricanes had beaten N.C. State, Pitt and Boston College. Marquee non-conference wins looked even worse for Miami. They had only beaten Stanford and George Washington. Not exactly an inspiring group of wins…

Saturday’s trouncing of No. 9 North Carolina changes all of that. Miami put a beatdown on a top-10 team and made the Tar Heels look relatively helpless for most of the game. The Hurricanes passed the look test and it legitimately felt like they belonged in the NCAA tournament for the first time all season.

Miami’s defense and North Carolina’s shooting woes led the a season-low 22 first-half points from the Tar Heels and junior point guard Joel Berry was held to only two points on 0-for-8 shooting. The Hurricanes beat North Carolina on the glass 40-35 and also outplayed the Tar Heels inside.

Miami’s perimeter performance was particularly special. Freshman Bruce Brown poured in a career-high 30 points (more on him below) and junior Ja’Quan Newton had 18 while Davon Reed chipped in 14 points. That group soundly outplayed North Carolina’s guards and also helped limit the Tar Heels to 29 percent (7-for-24) three-point shooting.

2. Should we be worried about Joel Berry?

North Carolina needs junior point guard Joel Berry to be the engine that makes this team go. He was arguably the team’s best guard during the stretch run for last season’s Final Four team and Berry has had some great games earlier this season.

The last four games, however, Berry has been sluggish as it all came to a head with his two-point outing on Saturday. Over his last four games, Berry is only putting up 9.0 points and 2.7 assists per game as his offense has drastically declined. Berry hasn’t looked like he’s been within the flow of the game for some of the time despite handling the ball.

Saturday’s effort was even more disturbing for Berry when you consider how well the Miami backcourt played. Brown and Newton both had big days to combine for 48 points. Some of this, obviously, also falls on Berry’s teammates since they struggled to show up — besides Justin Jackson — on Saturday.

If the Tar Heels are going to become an elite team again, they need Berry to regain his All-ACC form. There are still plenty of games to make that happen. The good news for North Carolina is that the next game for them is at home against reeling Pitt, which can hopefully help Berry break out of his funk.

3. Bruce Brown is the key to Miami’s success this season

Miami freshman Bruce Brown had a career day on Saturday as he finished with 30 points, five assists and four rebounds. We’ve had so many other freshmen play well across college basketball this season that it is easy for a guy like Brown — who is averaging double-figures for an NCAA tournament team in the ACC — to get lost in the national shuffle.

This dude is hooping right now.

Brown’s elevated play gives the Hurricanes another high-octane perimeter weapon. Senior Davon Reed and junior Ja’Quan Newton are still the leaders of Miami and the most consistent double-figure scoring options. Having Brown play better over the last three games just makes it even tougher to stop the Miami offense.

Over the last three games, Brown is averaging 19 points and five assists per game. That kind of production might not be sustainable for Brown over the rest of the schedule but if he’s even close to those numbers on some nights it helps Miami out a lot and makes them a much tougher opponent.

 

VIDEO: North Carolina ball boy makes three straight halfcourt shots

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During North Carolina’s blowout win over N.C. State on Jan. 8, the Tar Heels weren’t the only ones in the building who were feeling it.

As it turns out, North Carolina ball boy Asher Lucas was the hottest shooter of anyone in the building that night.

During halftime of that Jan. 8 game, Lucas nailed three consecutive halfcourt shots, as his father, Adam Lucas, a North Carolina columnist, released the video this week to YouTube. The video quickly went viral as Asher’s unreal streak of shots was all over TV and the Internet.

The Tar Heels have been struggling to find consistent perimeter shooting for the last few seasons, so maybe they need to start scouting Asher for a future roster spot.

 

North Carolina and N.C. State postponed due to weather.

Roy Williams
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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North Carolina and N.C. State’s game that was scheduled for Saturday has been moved to Sunday at 1 p.m.

The game was moved one day due to dangerous road conditions thanks to sub-freezing temperatures.

Here is the announcement from the ACC.

(H/t: Andrew Carter)

No. 5 North Carolina pulls away for 83-68 win over Hawaii

CHAPEL HILL, NC - NOVEMBER 15:  Tony Bradley #5 talks with Isaiah Hicks #4 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the game against the Long Beach State 49ers at the Dean Smith Center on November 15, 2016 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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HONOLULU (AP) North Carolina coach Roy Williams did not mince words after his fifth-ranked Tar Heels struggled in the first half before pulling out their latest win.

Isaiah Hicks scored 10 of his 16 points after halftime to lead five players in double-figures as North Carolina (4-0) beat Hawaii 83-68 Friday night.

“It’s one of the ugliest games I’ve ever coached in my entire life,” Williams said, “but we made some shots during a stretch in the second half that gave us the lead.”

North Carolina never trailed outside of the opening minutes and held a 35-27 lead at halftime despite shooting just 35.1 percent from the field. The Tar Heels had shot better than 50 percent from the field in each of their first three games.

Hicks said Williams’ message to the team at halftime emphasized defense.

“He said that shots were going to fall, but we’ve got to be better on the defensive end, continue to rebound, get to the board and try to get them out of what they do early on,” said Hicks, who shot 7 of 8 from the field.

Kennedy Meeks and Nate Britt had 13 points apiece. Justin Jackson scored 11 and Tony Bradley contributed 10 points and 13 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end, off the bench.

“He really gave us a lift,” Hicks said of Bradley, a freshman center. “That’s what really got us through the game, especially Tony just getting to the boards, getting the rebounds and second-chance shots.”

North Carolina led by as many as 18 in the closing minutes. The Tar Heels shot 63.3 percent (19 of 30) in the second half and finished with a 46-23 rebounding edge.

“Their size created some issues, but we can’t lean on that,” Rainbow Warriors coach Eran Ganot said. “They’re bigger than us, they’re stronger than us – those are facts – but what we need to focus more on is how to get it done.”

Hawaii pulled to 40-37 on Jack Purchase’s banker with 16:27 left, but North Carolina answered with a 12-2 run that that was capped by a 3-pointer by Kenny Williams from the right wing that stretched its lead back to 64-49.

Noah Allen, a UCLA transfer, led Hawaii with 22 points. Jack Purchase added 14 and Sheriff Drammeh 13 for the Rainbow Warriors (2-2).

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: Junior guard Joel Berry II entered averaging a team-high 21.3 points per game, but was held to just two. His only basket came on a 14-foot pull-up jumper with about 5 minutes left. … The Tar Heels’ depth was evident as they dominated Hawaii in bench scoring, 28-12.

“It’s not a concern; It’s a good thing,” Williams said of Berry’s night. “I’ve never seen him miss and go one-for-nine. Then again, in the first half our starting one, two and three men were 1 for 16 and that’s not good.”

Hawaii: The young Rainbow Warriors have only three active players back from last season’s squad that won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in school history. Hawaii dropped to 19-104 against Top 25 teams, including a 2-19 mark vs. top-5 squads.

KEY NUMBERS

North Carolina took advantage of its size against the smaller Rainbow Warriors by grabbing 19 offensive rebounds and held a distinct edge in second chance points, 28-8. Hawaii had nine turnovers in the first half, but finished two below its season average of 16 for the game.

“We cut down the turnovers, but we made them at critical times. We just couldn’t get over that hump because we couldn’t execute at key points,” Ganot said.

UP NEXT

North Carolina: The Tar Heels, who are 30-5 all-time in the 50th state, will face their second straight Hawaii opponent when they take on Division II Chaminade in a Maui Invitational quarterfinal Monday.

Hawaii: The Rainbow Warriors will host Division II Hawaii-Hilo on Tuesday, their fifth of 13 straight games on-island to open the season, although five of them are part of two tournaments (Pearl Harbor Invitational, Diamond Head Classic).