'No one’s your Kryptonite': Coby White stars again, with 19 in ACC quarterfinal win
The first-year also had seven rebounds and six assists, as North Carolina beat Louisville, 83-70.
First-year guard Coby White (2) pushes pass defenders for a layup against Louisville in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C. UNC defeated Louisville 83-70 to advance to the semifinals.
CHARLOTTE — Nassir Little saw something online in the hours before North Carolina opened ACC Tournament play. He didn’t remember exactly where he came across it, but the message was plain and simple: that Louisville was Coby White’s Kryptonite.
For all of White’s success this season — three games of 33 or more, 16.3 points per game, an All-ACC Second Team honor — he had struggled against the Cardinals. In two regular-season games against Louisville, White had 12 total points: a season-low four in a blowout home loss, eight in a road win.
Little took exception to the comment, though. He found his first-year teammate, told him about what he saw and offered a rebuttal.
“Go out there and play your game, man,” Little told White. “No one’s your Kryptonite.”
His words held true on Thursday night. White had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Tar Heels (27-5), who ran away from Louisville, 83-70, to secure a spot in tomorrow’s semifinals.
And he did so against a Louisville team that held him to a combined 3 of 18 shooting in two previous meetings. By halftime, White already had more field goals (four) than he did in those two full games against the Cardinals.
He played comfortably and deliberately, attacking when he needed to and pulling back at other times. His six assists were reflective of that. So was his 6-10 shooting inside the 3-point line.
Most of all, though? One turnover. In his last three games, where he has played 102 of a possible 120 minutes, White has turned it over just twice.
“I think early on I was trying to force it and make the home run play, but that didn't benefit me,” White said. “So Coach got on me a lot about turning the ball over, and I think I'm getting better each game.”
“As you can tell, Coby thinks I get on him all the time … and he’s right,” head coach Roy Williams chimed in from his seat next to White at the postgame news conference. “But he is making much better decisions. It's just attack, attack, attack.”
At this point, he turned back to his starting point guard, looking for White to complete a sentence that, based on his laugh before answering, he’s heard over and over during his first season.
“Under control,” White said.
“That’s what we talk about all the time,” Williams said. “We want to attack like crazy and be under control.”
White had 12 points in the first half, combining with guard Cameron Johnson, who had 14 points, for a two-man show. The two, with 26 combined points, scored over half of UNC’s first-half and were key to the 45-35 lead their team took into the break.
“He can get hot in a quick second, and he can keep it going for the rest of the game,” senior guard Kenny Williams said of White. “I think he opens it up, and he's not selfish at all ... for a freshman to come in and play like that has been huge.”
North Carolina’s scoring balanced out in the second half — White scored just seven more points as teammates like Luke Maye (19 points) asserted themselves. But one of his two field goals still sent a mostly UNC crowd at the Spectrum Center into a frenzy.
The Tar Heels led 49-39 when, early in the second half, White caught a pass on the left wing. He pump-faked, drove right, spun left. Then a hop step, a hang in the air and, finally, a circus layup over the outstretched arms of Louisville’s 6-foot-11 Malik Williams. White didn’t celebrate much; instead, he just stuck his arms out for the teammates who soon came to help him up.
North Carolina continues to look the part of NCAA Tournament 1 seed, beats Louisville 83-70. Will face winner of Syracuse/Duke.
“That's just talent,” Little said of the shot. “He just has a knack for finding ways to get the ball in the hole. That's just what he does, day in and day out.”
By the final buzzer, White had logged his 12th game as UNC’s leading scorer. He tied a career high with seven rebounds and, in his third game against Louisville, got a win, which he said he cared about most, plus 19 points to boot.
With every split of a double team, twisting layup or fadeaway 3-pointer, it seems more and more likely that White’s North Carolina career will last as long as his team does in the postseason. His NBA Draft hype keeps rising. For now, though, he’s enjoying each game as it comes.
“I just started to look and see where the defense is at and just take what they give me,” White said. “I kind of forced it a lot, when I first started here, but I think I'm starting to make better decisions.”