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The final week of the regular season is here for North Carolina basketball, and the Tar Heels are hoping to carry the momentum from the past three weeks into postseason play.
After Joel Berry II scored the final four points of the game to preserve a 78–74 victory at Syracuse on Wednesday, Carolina’s winning streak is now at six. The Tar Heels, who moved up a spot to No. 9 in Monday’s Associated Press Top Twenty-Five, host Miami tonight and conclude the regular season on the road, going for the season sweep over rival Duke on Saturday.
Carolina had led by as many as twelve in the second half before Syracuse pulled even with 2:20 left. After missing a 3-pointer, Berry stripped Orange 7-footer Pascal Chukwu of the ball, making a tough layup to put Carolina ahead for good.
Playing the role of facilitator in the middle of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, Theo Pinson continued his stellar play of late, scoring a career-high 23 points to go with seven assists. Carolina is now 15-1 when Pinson has five or more assists and only 7–6 when he does not reach that number.
BERRY GETS ENGAGED
Berry’s best (and most important) work on a basketball floor over the past week did not come against Syracuse, however, as the senior guard took girlfriend Kelsey Porter to midcourt of the Smith Center and proposed marriage (she accepted) over the weekend.
“It was a big-time moment,” Berry said In Monday’s press conference. “It still doesn’t feel true, but I’m happy and the biggest thing is about her being happy.
“It’s going to be a great wedding, so if you’re not coming with energy you are not allowed.”
Perhaps the biggest upset on Wednesday was Roy Williams’ decision to call timeout after Syracuse evened the score at 74. Williams — who went more than four games without using a timeout prior to calling one late against Louisville on Feb. 17 — explained that he did so to get forward Luke Maye, who was on the bench with four fouls, back into the game.
Former North Carolina players Tony Bradley, Brice Johnson, and Brendan Haywood were mentioned in a Yahoo! Sports report last week about the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting that continues to shake the college basketball world.
Neither Bradley nor Johnson are among those listed as having received significant payments or loans, however, as each is only mentioned as having met or had dinner with sports agent Christian Dawkins of ASM Sports. Dawkins has been charged with wire fraud and money laundering as a result of the investigation.
In an interview with InsideCarolina.com, Bradley’s father confirmed that he and his son did in fact meet with representatives of ASM Sports for pizza after Bradley declared for the NBA draft, with that latter detail being the important one from the perspective of the NCAA.
Johnson is listed in the report as having gone to a dinner at which ASM recorded $100.09 in expenses — under the $200 threshold for a player being able to retain NCAA eligibility after paying restitution — and it is unclear whether the agency in fact paid for Johnson’s meal.
Haywood, who played at Carolina from 1997–2001, is listed as having received a loan from the agency in 2015, long after his college career was over.
UNC representatives have continued to express their confidence that the school will not be affected by the FBI investigation.
‘BLUE DAWN’ UNDERWAY
“Blue Dawn,” UNC football’s offseason conditioning program, has now been underway for just over a week. Players and coaches get up early and are on the Kenan Stadium fields before 6 A.m. for a series of agility, speed and conditioning drills, but the real aim of these drills is to foster competitiveness, mental toughness, and team camaraderie.
UNC’s social media team has been posting a series of videos from each day of the drills on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms, giving fans a brief glimpse into the process as players push sleds, run shuttles, hop blocking dummies, run around the edges of large hoops and engage in a tug-of-war contest using a car tire.