Saturday, March 25

‘The Biggest Game in Carolina History’: Jones Angell Previews UNC-Duke –

When UNC and Duke meet in the Final Four on Saturday, all eyes will be on the players – but all ears will be on Jones Angell, Eric Montross, and the Tar Heel Sports Network team that will be calling the game on 97.9 The Hill.

Jones Angell is now a veteran of the Big Dance, having worked the 2008 and 2009 Final Fours alongside Woody Durham before taking over play-by-play duties in 2016 and 2017. How different will this one be, with the added twist of a UNC-Duke matchup?

97.9 The Hill’s Aaron Keck spoke with Angell this week, before he headed down to New Orleans.

Listen to their conversation.

Aaron Keck: How are you?

Jones Angell: Oh man, no pressure, right? No pressure – just the biggest game in Carolina history!

I do think one thing that needs to be remembered is that – yes, it is Carolina-Duke, and of course we all understand that there’s extra energy and juice – but this game is to go for the national title. I mean, whoever wins this game is then one win away from winning the national championship. And that’s the most important thing. That’s the head storyline here. It’s been a lot about trying to ignore the noise and put the blinders on – as we both heard Hubert Davis say a bunch this year, ignore the side show distractions.

Keck: I appreciate – I think both Hubert Davis and Mike Krzyzewski had press conferences on the same day this week, and both of them used the exact same phrase, which was “ignore the noise.” So it’s a difficult task, but they know what’s ahead of them.

So UNC’s story heading up into this game – the narrative for this team has transformed so many times between the start of the season and today, but just looking back on the last couple of weeks and the journey that Carolina has taken, just in the tournament to get to this point, what are your thoughts on all that?

Angell: There’s no question that the Tar Heels are playing their best basketball of the season. And I think Carolina’s played as well as anybody in this NCAA tournament. And honestly, Aaron, if you took away those 10 minutes in the second half against Baylor, Carolina’s been pretty good. That’s been the story – this team is just playing at such a high level. And I think you can really see how well everyone understands their individual roles and how their individual roles are allowing the team to be successful. Just all the different things that you would want from your team, Carolina has done – it’s rebounded well, it’s gotten to the foul line, it’s defended really well, (and) it’s had different guys be the one who are the key guys to score. If I’m not mistaken, I think in every game to this point, they’ve had a different leading scorer. That should tell you that Carolina is very versatile and very dangerous and very team-oriented in what it’s doing right now.

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Keck: We talked about the adversity that Carolina had to face, losing Anthony Harris and then Dawson Garcia – (but) did those two losses also make it easier for Hubert Davis and the players to define each person’s individual role, since we’re basically down to a six-man rotation now?

Angell: Absolutely. And that’s nothing negative about Anthony Harris or Dawson Garcia. It’s just that it very clearly defined what was happening and who needed to do what. There’s no doubt that those five starters have played a lot of minutes, but there there’s also no doubt that the Tar Heels are their best when those five guys are on the floor.

But I don’t think that that should devalue either what Dontrez Styles and Puff Johnson and Justin McKoy and Kerwin Walton (have contributed)… it’s been somebody different from game to game, but each one of those guys has come in at some point and giving Carolina really important contributions as well…

And it’s been interesting to me, Aaron, to see Hubert Davis. It really is game by game, you know, which one of these guys fits best against this particular opponent and which one of them responds the best.

Keck: And that’s offensively and defensively too. One of the fun things to watch is – a game starts, and you don’t necessarily know exactly who, for instance, Leaky Black is going to be guarding in any given game.

Angell: He has been just terrific. I mean, terrific. He was so good defensively in that St Peter’s game. You know, Doug Edert, who had a terrific NCAA tournament and had really captured the minds and hearts of college basketball fans – he was so good in their Cinderella run, but he couldn’t get anything against Leaky Black. There was one play in the second half where he caught the ball, he tried to drive, Leaky cut him off, then he tried to back in and pump fake and pivot and make a move and Leaky wouldn’t bite – and then Edert finally shot it and Leaky Black just blocked it. I mean, it was a clinic on how to play defense – and he’s been doing it every single game. I always enjoy at the beginning of the game, seeing who he’s guarding, because that should tell you a little bit about who Carolina’s coaching staff feels like needs to be quieted down, because Leaky Black has done that. Almost every single game.

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Keck: Let’s talk a little bit about you, heading down to New Orleans. Does it feel any different than the first time around (in the Final Four)?

Angell: Yeah, gosh, I’ve been so lucky…and one of the things I love about what I do is that each year’s a new year. Of course there are consistent pieces, but there’s also new pieces and new storylines and every single year is a different journey and there’s different challenges and different successes and, and different moments that you remember from every single season. And this year is no different. And this particular year’s journey has been so fun to watch, you know, with so much new and so much turnover in the offseason. And so much question – could Carolina take a step forward? Could it continue to be a preeminent program after (losing) a Hall of Fame head coach? And Hubert Davis and his staff and these players have done such a terrific job – and to see them grow together throughout the year, to learn from bumps in the road to figure it all out together…what an honor it has been for us to be able to tell everybody about it and tell some of those stories and talk about the great moments on and off the court. And hopefully we’ve got two more games to do it.

Keck: I never got the chance to ask you about the Baylor game, which took 10 years off everyone’s life. You had to call that game solo! Eric Montross wasn’t there. How did you do that?

Angell: Yeah, unfortunately Eric had gone into health and safety protocols there when we were in Fort Worth – so glad that he’s doing okay and that he’s back with us, but I had to call those Marquette and Baylor games solo. And gosh, Aaron, I gotta tell you, I’ve never seen a game quite like that Baylor game. I mean, the Tar Heels were dominant in, in the first 30 minutes – and then the last 10 minutes when the Tar Heels couldn’t do anything right, they were making mistakes, and the officiating was getting to the Tar Heels at one point – I think they were nine or 10 straight fouls called on Carolina, I mean you never or see something like that, nine or 10 on one team, that’s insane. And to have all the technical fouls and guys getting kicked out and guys fouling out. And it was just an intense atmosphere, but in the middle of it, it was two teams playing really, really hard. And I gotta tell you, going into that overtime, I know I said it on the air, you know, it (was) hard to like Carolina’s chances. And so for them to go into that overtime, get the big three from Dontrez Styles, to hold Baylor one of 11 from the field, RJ Davis of course had the big three point play – that was as impressive a feat, as the Tar Heels have accomplished all season long. And you know, no matter what happens over the next game – and hopefully two games – it’s gonna be hard to top that. What a big time performance that was.

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Keck: Carolina-Duke on the court, what do we expect to see from these two teams who have faced each other twice before?

Angell: Well, Duke’s really good, we all know that. They got a bunch of talent… and Carolina’s gonna have to play really, really, really well. And the Heels did that in Cameron a couple weeks ago. They’ll need a similar effort coming up on Saturday night. You know, Duke is, I think, playing better now than it was then. Jeremy Roach has really given them a spark at that point guard position. I think Banchero has been more consistent … and Mark Williams has been a force around the basket blocking shots. And so Carolina’s got to make Banchero uncomfortable. They’ve got to get Williams away from the rim. Can’t let Roach strive consistently. That’s all hard to do, but it’s all things that are gonna have to happen if the Tar Heels want to win. does not charge subscription fees, and you can directly support our efforts in local journalism here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring free local news and community information to you by signing up for our biweekly newsletter.

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