Men’s Basketball: Wildcats overwhelmed by North Carolina’s athleticism in defeat


Sam Schumacher/The Daily Northwestern

Alex Olah looks for an open man at the top of the key. The senior center started strong in Monday’s game, but as the contest wore on, the more athletic front court of North Carolina took advantage of him and combined for 53 points and 30 rebounds on the night.

Will Ragatz, Reporter

Men’s Basketball

Northwestern hung with No. 9 North Carolina into the second half, but eventually the Tar Heels’ major advantages in talent and athleticism propelled them to an 80-69 victory on Monday night.

North Carolina (4-1) dominated on the glass throughout, out-rebounding the Cats 39-25. It also recorded a 13-6 edge in offensive rebounds, repeatedly getting multiple shots per possession as NU (3-1) failed to box out UNC’s athletic frontcourt.

Despite not giving significant minutes to anyone taller than 6’10”, UNC was able to out-jump the Wildcats all game long. NU’s 7-foot senior center, Alex Olah, grabbed just four rebounds in 27 minutes of action as his lack of athleticism was exposed against one of the country’s most physically talented teams.

UNC sophomore Justin Jackson was the best player on either side. Jackson, a 6-8, 200 lb. forward with massive leaping ability, encountered minimal resistance on his way to 21 points and 13 rebounds. Jackson grabbed six offensive rebounds and was simply too much for NU in the paint.

After the game, NU coach Chris Collins praised Jackson’s performance.

“Jackson’s activity along the baseline — his cutting, his offensive rebounds — was the difference in the game,” Collins said.

Jackson is emblematic of the talent disparity between a national powerhouse and a team that has never made an NCAA Tournament appearance. Coming out of high school, he was ranked by ESPN as the 8th best player in the nation.

In addition to Jackson, UNC boasts three other former 5-star recruits. That trio, which includes Theo Pinson (10 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds), Joel Berry II (12 points) and Isaiah Hicks (10 points, 4 rebounds) came up big in the second half to lead UNC to a comfortable victory.

Senior forward and former 4-star recruit Brice Johnson also put up a double-double for the Tar Heels, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

The unavoidable truth is that Roy Williams is currently able to recruit higher caliber players than NU.

With Vic Law’s season-ending shoulder injury, NU has just a single active 4-star recruit, freshman Aaron Falzon.

That difference in talent and athleticism became apparent in the second half as UNC pulled away for the victory.

“I didn’t think we lost the game; they beat us,” Collins said.

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