North Carolina head coach Roy Williams didn't mince words after the men's basketball team overcame plenty of mistakes to earn a 75-61 win over Elon on Wednesday night.
"I'm surprised all of you are still here," Williams said to the media. "If I’d watched the first half, I’d have gone home."
It was another sloppy start for the Tar Heels. The Phoenix knocked down seven of their first eight shots to take an early 20-11 lead over North Carolina. Sophomore guard Leaky Black airballed an open three-pointer and missed one of his two free throws during Elon's hot start.
But anyone that may have heeded Williams' advice and turned their attention away from the game shortly after tipoff surely missed the defensive clinic that Black put on, especially in the second half.
From sending Elon's shots back 15 feet down the court to boxing out defenders to altering his opponents' shots with his presence alone, Black was everywhere for the Tar Heels.
"Leaky’s one of the best defenders in the ACC, and he had a couple really good moments," junior forward Garrison Brooks said. "I think he played good defense on (Marcus) Sheffield the whole game."
One particular stretch started with Black sprinting to the corner to get just enough of his fingers on a three-pointer by Elon first-year Zac Ervin that caused the shot to come up short. Minutes later, Black used every inch of his 6-foot-8 frame to box out and rise over an Elon forward to grab an offensive rebound.
"When shots aren’t falling, you obviously try to pick it up in other areas," first-year guard Cole Anthony said.
Black did just that, applying full-court pressure on the Phoenix after a missed second-half free throw by teammate Justin Pierce.
The sophomore guard then continued to shadow Sheffield on the opposite end of the court. Elon's guard couldn't drive to the basket and backed away to the top of the arc before pump-faking a shot. Black bit on the initial fake, but had the quick reactions and instinct to keep himself from fouling while recovering enough to make a second effort at blocking the shot.
Sheffield's shot after the fake never touched the rim.
"Leaky’s a huge part to our team," Pierce said. "He does a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s one of our great passers, great defenders and he’s just an energy guy that does all the little things."
Black will still go out of his way to make a play that does show up on the box score, though.
The Concord, N.C., native capped off his steady stream of defensive efforts with a monster block on Elon's Federico Poser in the low post. Black's large size for a guard helped him match up with Poser, another 6-foot-8 player, on the block. As Poser rose up to get a shot over Black from just a few feet away from the rim, Black swatted the ball out of the paint to the top of the foul line.
But, as Leaky's teammates will tell you, his size is just one of the pillars that makes up his strong defensive game, a strength of his that looks to be trending upwards after missing 13 games last season with a sprained ankle.
"It’s not just his size," Anthony said. "A lot of people have that size, but not everyone can do what he can do. I think Leaky’s a pro and he’s just gonna continue to show that. He loves the game of basketball and I see that every day in practice ... I’m proud of him."
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