When North Carolina senior Kennedy Meeks found out that fellow forward Isaiah Hicks had zero fouls in an 85-68 win Monday night against Syracuse, his mouth nearly dropped to the floor.
“He didn’t have no fouls?” he asked with a surprised look on his face. “Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him not foul before.”
Meeks wondered aloud how many games Hicks’ has played without fouling. It was actually the second time in the Tar Heels’ 20 games this season that Hicks had zero fouls. The other came in a 104-61 win against Chaminade on Nov. 21. So it doesn’t happen often.
“We joke before the game, how many fouls you going to get today, and he’s kind of taken that to heart,” Meeks said.
As Hicks walked toward the locker room, Meeks stopped him.
“You had zero fouls,” Meeks told Hicks.
“Exactly, I didn’t know either until Matt (Bowers) told me,” Hicks replied. “Zero. Zero.”
“That’s wild,” Meeks said. “That’s crazy. I can’t believe that.”
Hicks asked: “It’s hard to believe?
“I’m really shocked,” Meeks responded.
Along with his zero fouls, Hicks had 20 points and 8 rebounds in 30 minutes played. He led UNC in scoring.
Meeks added 15 points and 12 rebounds. The Tar Heels (17-3, 5-1 ACC) out-rebounded the Orange (11-8, 3-3 ACC) 44-24. Many of those rebounds were offensive rebounds, and led to 20 second-chance points.
Meeks said when he and Hicks are both on top of their game, UNC can be really good.
“Me and Isaiah are roommates, so we talk about stuff all the time and I think the main goal is that me and him have to dominate every single game, the best way we can,” Meeks said. “And when we get in foul trouble we tell Luke (Maye) and Tony (Bradley) they gotta dominate the best way they can.”
Before every game, after the warmups, Meeks tells the forwards that the team needs them and they have to stay out of foul trouble and dominate the glass.
The pair did that Monday night, even without Bradley, who missed his second straight game after a concussion last week.
“Isaiah’s coming to play, Kennedy’s coming to play. So with them, really starting to dominate inside, I think we’re starting to kind of get where we want to be,” junior wing Justin Jackson said.
It was the second consecutive game Hicks has scored 20 or more points in a game, which was a first in his four-year collegiate career. He scored 22 points last game against Florida State on Saturday.
UNC coach Roy Williams, who won his 800th career game Monday, said he didn’t know what flipped the switch for Hicks, and jokingly said he didn’t plan on asking, in fear of jinxing him.
Hicks said he’s being more aggressive. He admitted in the past that’s he’s been passive with the ball.
“Trying to attack,” he said. “Just trying to use my body to my advantage. Trying to get to the rim, getting to the free throw line and stuff like that.”
And not foul. He played the longest he’s played all season because he wasn’t in foul trouble.
“Wow. That’s impressive,” Meeks said with astonishment.