Kennedy Meeks returned to the lineup Thursday, and not a moment too soon as far as the Tar Heels were concerned.
The 6-foot-8 forward, who had been ill with a still-undiagnosed ailment that resulted in a fever, sat out North Carolina's second-round victory over Boston College on Wednesday after playing limited minutes in the previous two games.
But Meeks said he got the OK to play at the team hotel Thursday, and he contributed nine points, five rebounds and two blocked shots in 19 minutes as the fifth-seeded Tar Heels rallied past Louisville 70-60 in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. His effort provided a solid 1-2 punch with forward Brice Johnsonm, who had 22 points and nine rebounds and sends the Tar Heels into a semifinal meeting at 7 p.m. Friday against top-seeded Virginia.
“I felt like I could go pretty much,” Meeks said. “When I first went in, I was a little tired, a little winded. Coach (Roy Williams) told me it would be like that because I hadn't played since Saturday (in the regular-season finale against Duke).”
Meeks scored some opportunistic baskets on stickbacks, none bigger than the one with just under four minutes to play. He followed on a miss by Johnson, then raced down to the other end of the court to block a baseline jumper by Terry Rozier that effectively set up the Tar Heels down the stretch.
With Meeks’ return, he provides added depth for UNC's third game in three days. Similarly, Virginia saw junior guard Justin Anderson return to the court after missing eight games with a fractured left pinkie and an appendectomy.
“Team's great either way,” he said of the Cavaliers. “They play team ball either way, and he's a great player.”