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UNC's Brooks trending upward

NC State North Carolina Basketball-18

North Carolina's Garrison Brooks (15) dunks against North Carolina State during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina forward Garrison Brooks was out there.

He’s got a well-fed stat line to prove it. But he could’ve played more, and the key to do so lies in controlling those long arms. 

Brooks played 22 minutes during Tuesday’s 113-96 rout of visiting N.C. State. Those 22 minutes were the fewest out of any of the five starters, though his performance was anything but on the short side.

Brooks finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and six assists, all while spending more time sitting on a chair near coach Roy Williams than he did running the floor. Compared to his freshman season a year ago, Brooks is nearly doubling his points, assists and rebounds average per game in his second season.

He’s ascended into a starter after leading reserve players in minutes a season ago, and is making the most of of his increased opportunity.

So it’s no surprise that the eighth-ranked Tar Heels (18-4, 8-1 ACC) are trending upward just like their 6-foot-9 forward. Only thing is, while Brooks is talented enough to play more minutes, for Williams to give the green light he would like to see Brooks foul less often.

During Tuesday's win, Brooks picked up his third foul on the first of two free-throw attempts by N.C. State’s Torin Dorn.

“Well, we just need him to get him to stop fouling,” Williams said of Brooks. “He spends a lot of time sitting over there with me, and fouling a guy on a free throw on the first shot of a two-shot foul is not the smartest thing I’ve ever looked at.

“But if he can stop doing things like that he’d get to play more minutes, too.”

Brooks went 4-for-4 from the floor, split his 10 rebounds evenly between offensive and defensive, and dished a career high in assists. He scored 12 points in two of the three games before the matchup with the Wolfpack, where he turned in his most complete game of the season.

And it’s not a coincidence that UNC has won 10 out of its past 11 games while Brooks is playing well. He has played more than 20 minutes in eight of the past nine games — the most minutes in any stretch this season — a stretch where each of the Tar Heels’ wins have come by more than five points.

They key, Brooks said, has been to focus on rebounding. The rest will follow. His 10 rebounds on Tuesday were second behind Luke Maye’s 12. The top rebounded on N.C. State collected five boards.

“I make the easy play and I am more confident,” Brooks said of his success. “I just try to do what Coach says, and rebound the ball. It’s just the emphasis that coach always puts on rebounding because he says it’s the difference between winning games and we believe him.”

Added Williams: “You go back to what I said earlier in the season. He’s dependable. We can count on him to be in the right spot.”

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