Fifty-five. That is certainly a big number, and while it is rightfully getting much of the focus, in my opinion, the more important number is 9, as in, the North Carolina Tar Heels are now 9-0 in Chapel Hill this season. In a season where home-court seems to be more important than ever (the home team has an 0.810 winning % in ACC games this season, up from 0.688 a year ago), the Heels ability to hold serve on their home-court will be absolutely critical to their attempt to regain a spot in the Big Dance. Was last night's performance flawless? Absolutely not, but if the Heels can continue to replicate the intensity displayed last night, and gradually improve their consistency putting the ball through the basket, then the Heels will have a very good shot at maintaining their unblemished record at home.
Overall, this game was a step towards UNC getting back to a level that was at least similar to what they were doing in December. The Heels were able to crack the 1.0 point per possession plateau (1.03 PPP) for the first time against an ACC opponent and yet, they still held the Tigers to less than 0.9 PPP. While the final numbers, for the most part, point to a general improvement over their last two games (eFG%: 50.0, TO%: 19.2, FTR: 43.1), there was a really massive split in how the game was played from the first half to the second half.
The first half was a track meet. Both teams had 40 possessions. UNC had an eFG% of 55.7, while Clemson shot at a clip of 52.9. But what really separated the teams, and allowed UNC to build an 8-point lead, was the fact that they had an incredible TO% of 10.0, while forcing the Tigers to turn it over 22.5% of the time.
In the second half, the game slowed down to a pedestrian 33 possessions, and despite that (or perhaps because of that), the Tar Heels TO% soared to a terrible 30.3%. And yet, the Heels were still able to outscore the Tigers because they hit 83% of their free-throws (FTR: 52.2%), blocked 16.7% of Clemson's field goal attempts, and held the Tigers to a paltry eFG% of 31.9. With 1-2 less turnovers and a few more defensive rebounds (Clemson's 2nd half ORB% was 39.3) the Heels probably could have put the Tigers away for good earlier in the half, and that is certainly something that they will need to do more regularly to become a real threat. However, until that happens, they have at least shown that they can win games down the stretch at the line, as they have done on 3 occasions this year.
- UNC reached double-figures in both steal % (13.7) and block % (11.3) for the 5th time this season. The most they have ever done that under Roy was 7, in 2007. More importantly, the Heels have now won 36-straight games in which they reach these numbers, and 38 of 39 (Maryland in 2004).
- Through 4 ACC games, the Tar Heels are 20-41 (48.8%) from the free-throw line in the 1st half. In the 2nd half, the Heels are 47-60 (78.3%). That big of a difference is really hard to comprehend.
- Harrison Barnes had a team best Roland Rating, with a score of +18, while Kendall Marshall had the team's worst score, at -18.
- Just for fun: UNC notched its 3rd ACC win 26 days ahead of last year's squad.
Beyond the Box Player of the Game
Before naming the POG for the Clemson game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10%):
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The entire team should be commended for quickly putting the Georgia Tech loss behind them; however, in terms of naming a Player of the Game, there were really only two possibilities, as both Reggie Bullock and John Henson proved to be very worthy candidates.
If there was a "Player of the 1st Half," then there is no question that Bullock would win in a landslide, as he had already notched a career-high 16 points before the game went to intermission. Despite cooling off significantly in the second-half, Bullock still ended the game as the team leader in ORtg (148.5), eFG% (75.0), and TS% (75.6), while also posting an assist % of 32.5. It is unknown whether there is still an issue with Bullock's knee, but if last night is any indication, then it is at least healthy enough for him to be a very dangerous weapon off the bench.
While Reggie Bullock was certainly the Player of the 1st Half, the Player of the Game is going to go to John Henson. Henson not only had the team's second highest ORtg (120.2), but he also lead the team in OR% (20.4) and block % (20.7), to go along with an assist% of 23.4 and no turnovers. More importantly, Henson was able to keep his intensity and production up for the entire game despite being saddled with two early fouls, and he made perhaps the game's most important play when he tapped in a Larry Drew miss with 2:06 to go. It has been said many time this season that John Henson is the team's most irreplaceable player, and last night he demonstrated why.
Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at StatSheet.com.