For the North Carolina Tar Heels, Monday night’s ACC game at the Virginia Cavaliers ended like most of the other ones have this season — with a tough loss where North Carolina just looked overmatched and without much of a chance to win. Virginia (14-5, 5-1 ACC) defeated North Carolina 76-61, dropping the Tar Heels (11-7, 1-4) into a five-way tie at the bottom of the conference with North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Boston College and Georgia Tech.
But believe it or not, the news wasn’t all bad for North Carolina on Monday night. The loss at Virginia marked the second-consecutive game in which Tar Heels forward Kennedy Meeks had a strong game. In Saturday’s 82-71 win vs. Boston College, Meeks posted 10 points and six rebounds in a performance many North Carolina fans had hoped was going to turn the team’s fortunes around.
The latter didn’t happen with the loss Monday, but Meeks was again a force against Virginia. On a night where the Tar Heels grabbed an impressive 18 offensive rebounds (almost more than they had defensive rebounds — 22), Meeks was key in that, getting four offensive boards as part of a night that featured 15 points and nine rebounds. Coming off the bench, Meeks finished 7-for-10 from the field and led all Tar Heels in scoring. Meeks also added two assists and had but one turnover.
Much like his team, inconsistency has plagued Meeks this season. The 15 points Monday night marked only the second time that Meeks has been in double figures in back-to-back games. In conference play, Meeks also had nine rebounds against Wake Forest, but in North Carolina’s other three games combined, Meeks only had 10 — including none in 12 minutes in the Tar Heels’ 57-45 loss at Syracuse. But on the other hand, Meeks had 15 points and seven rebounds in North Carolina’s win at then-No. 1 Michigan State.
Meeks is one of the players who has to be a more consistent contributor if North Carolina is going to salvage this season. Even getting back to .500 in the ACC at this point is going to be a tough task with two games left against both Duke and Notre Dame, and one against Pittsburgh. It will be even tougher if Meek doesn’t bring his best effort each night, thus earning more minutes from head coach Roy Williams.
In the last two games, Meeks has shown the ability to be a significant contributor for the Tar Heels. Williams must continue to give Meeks minutes and Meeks must continue to earn them with strong performances if North Carolina is going to make anything out of the 2013-14 college basketball season.