UNC beat Boston College in dominating fashion on Tuesday night. Even though BC stayed in the game, the Heels maintained a double digit lead for a majority of the night. After a game, the only statistic that truly matters is the final score. However, we can break it down and see what helped the Tar Heels prevail, what they should continue to do and what they need to continue to work on.
For the season UNC is averaging a shooting percentage of right below 45%. They are currently ranked 99th in the country in that category. Contrary to that statistic though, they are 8th in the nation scoring 79 points per game. There has to be a reason for this discrepancy because one would think that these two categories would be close to directly correlated. One of the biggest factors is Roy Williams‘ high-paced offensive. UNC averages 74 possessions a game. That is ranked for 5th in the country. Obviously, more possessions equals more shot attempts. Many of their possessions are negated by a high turnover margin though. They average about 14 giveaways a game. Despite their high scoring offense, they need to work on protecting the ball in order to maximize their shot opportunities. During the Boston College game, they did just that, keeping their turnovers to a mere eight. Another equalizer to poor shot percentage is the long ball. The Heels shot 7-13 including a perfect 4-4 from P.J. Hairston before his head injury.
Another strong suit for the Heels is their rebounding. This is yet another thing that can negate poor shots and poor shot selection. On Tuesday night, UNC snagged 9 offensive rebounds with three of those coming from new support player, Jackson Simmons. Nine second-chance shots is huge in college basketball. They bettered BC on the boards 33-25 overall. Thirty-three is well below their season average of 42 but it got the job done.
In my opinion, the statistic of the night for the Tar Heels was that they shot 15-20 from the free throw line. Seventy-five percent from the charity stripe does not sound that great. As we all know, everything is relative. Compared to that of the season average of 64.7%, 75% is amazing. Field goal percentage can altered by defenses and decision-making on a nightly basis. Free throws are the same every night. (Yes I realize there are different situations with different pressure levels, but from a mechanical standpoint, they are the same.) A large part of that percentage was Dexter Strickland who has been shooting an abysmal 63.5%, shot a perfect 6-6 on the night. The Tar Heels shooting better from the free throw line is great but I still think they need to attempt more than 20 in a game. Forcing fouls not only gets you more free throws but it also gets opponents in foul trouble which lessens their minutes. This statistic says that the Heels are soft and need to start playing stronger inside.
Defensively, UNC held Boston College to shooting 35% from 3-point range. Opponents 3-point shooting has been a huge problem for the Heels thus far this year. Their perimeter defense has not been up to par. Holding BC to such a low percentage was a key stat for the Carolina. The Heels are ranked pretty low in opponents scoring per game but this goes back to the fact that if UNC has a lot of possessions, so will the team they are playing. So BC scoring 70 points on the Tar Heels defense is pretty high from a national standpoint but very low given the Tar Heels’ run-n-gun offense.
Hopefully UNC will be able to continue their perimeter defense as well as continue to shoot great from the free throw line. These are the little things that people talk about that a team needs to do to win championships. These are the things that win close games against solid opponents. Not every UNC team can be like the 2009 Heels where if they did not win by 20, something was wrong.