One of the first things Roy Williams might say about Kennedy Meeks’ offensive rebounding is this: Sure, the numbers look good – but Meeks has had plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities, what with his proclivity to miss shots at the rim.
It’s both a compliment and a motivator – a motivating compliment, if you will – and Williams, the North Carolina coach, rarely passes up a chance to praise a player while also pointing out what he could be doing better. And indeed: Meeks, the Tar Heels’ senior forward, needs to make more layups.
He missed seven of them during UNC’s 89-86 overtime victory at Clemson earlier this week, and of those seven missed layups, Meeks rebounded three. Those missed opportunities weighed on him in the aftermath of that victory at Clemson. He seemed bothered by them.
“Those are opportunities that I can’t miss,” Meeks said. “I’ve got to hit those shots and whether it’s 10 offensive rebounds or however many it is, I just wanted throughout the game just to stay there and definitely give my team a different opportunity.”
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That he did. Again and again. Meeks on Tuesday night finished with 10 offensive rebounds, more than he’d ever secured in a college game, and of those 10 offensive rebounds, seven came after his teammates missed shots of their own.
Meeks’ offensive rebounds came after Brandon Robinson missed a layup and after Justin Jackson missed a 3-pointer and after Kenny Williams missed another 3. In the final few minutes of regulation, they came twice after Joel Berry missed shots.
After the second of those offensive rebounds, Meeks drew a foul and made two free throws that provided UNC with its final points of regulation. Three other times, Meeks’ offensive rebounds kept alive possessions that ended in points – important points, given the narrow margin of victory.
Entering overtime at Clemson, Meeks had nine offensive rebounds. He finished with one more.
It came with 73 seconds remaining, after Nate Britt missed a layup. Meeks grabbed Britt’s miss and put it back up and in for a layup that gave the Tar Heels an 83-82 lead. They never trailed again, and escaped Littlejohn Coliseum with a victory that allowed them to avoid an 0-2 start in conference play.
Outside of the rebounding success – Meeks finished with 16 rebounds overall, which tied his high in his four seasons at UNC – it wasn’t the greatest of performances for Meeks. There were those problems, after all, converting layups. He missed five of his six layup attempts in the second half.
“I think I got down on myself one time throughout the game, but then the guys kept pushing me,” Meeks said. He lamented those missed layups but said he recovered from the mental malaise amid some of those lost opportunities.
After its first two conference games, UNC ranks second nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, according to kenpom.com. Meeks, meanwhile, ranks third nationally in individual offensive rebounding percentage. During the first week of conference play, no one has been better.
Yes, he has rebounded his share of his own misses, as Williams would be quick to note.
Meeks’ most important rebounds at Clemson, though, came after Berry’s misses toward the end of regulation, and after Britt’s miss with a little more than a minute remaining in overtime. Meeks’ rebounds in those moments gave UNC another chance. They allowed the Tar Heels to return home with a victory.