We've seen this movie before, right? Heels go down by double digits at some point in the first half, primarily due to their inability to put the ball in the basket, before slowly chipping away and wearing down their opponent to rally for the win. This was nothing more than the UVa Game Part Deux. Well, maybe in the macro, but in the micro there were significant differences (some good, some bad) between the two games. What those differences were, and how they affected the outcome of the game, will be the focus of the rest of this discussion.
While UNC did shoot better against the Hokies (eFG%: 45.2) than it did against the Hoos (eFG%: 39.8), for the second straight game the Heels were forced to overcome a substantial deficit in eFG%, as they allowed their opponent to top 50% for only the 4th time this season. Unlike the UVa game, where the Heels won because they held on to the ball very well and had an enormous FTR (50.0%), in this game, UNC was able to outlast VPI almost entirely because of their dominance on the boards. Against Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels faced a small deficit at the line (though both teams stunk it up equally) and were essentially even with regard to turnovers (again, both teams stunk it up equally), but on the boards, it was a different story all together. Carolina was able to translate its dominance in both offensive (OR%: 41.9) and defensive (DR%: 77.8) rebounds into 10 extra FGA and a 19-9 advantage in second-chance points, which was just enough to overcome the 11 3-pointers that the Hokies hit. This was only the second time all season that a Tar Heel opponent hit 10 or more 3-pointers; oddly enough, they have won both of those games (LBSU).
- When they weren't turning it over, the Heels did an excellent job of sharing the ball. Unlike the UVa game, in which UNC had an awful (and season-low) assist percentage of 35.0, against VPI their assist percentage soared to 65.4, which is their second best performance of the season (Hofstra).
- In stark contrast, for only the second time all season, the Heels forced their opponent to have at least twice as many turnovers as they did assists (VPI A/T: 0.5).
- Despite the fact that VPI had an eFG% of 50.0, this game marked the 6th time in UNC's last 9 games that they have held their opponent to a an overall FG% under 40.0 (39.6).
- Despite the team's overall rebounding dominance, Justin Watts was the only Tar Heel to have individual OR% and DR% greater than 10.0 (21.4% and 25.6%, respectively). He led the team in both categories.
- The Tar Heels blocked more than 10% of their opponents FGA for the 7th time this season (Block%: 11.3); they have yet to have that done to them (it happened 8 times last season).
- Kendall Marshall led the team in Roland Rating (+33), while Larry Drew had a team worst RR of -33. This is a complete reversal of the UVa game, though the magnitude in this game was significantly higher.
Beyond the Box Player of the Game
Before naming the POG for the Virginia Tech game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10%):
[table id=70 /]
Two hundred eighty-two!!!
In a game in which only two other Tar Heels were able to produce an ORtg over 100.0 and the team turned the ball over 24.3% of their possessions, Kendall Marshall's sublime individual performance (ORtg: 282.0, TO%: 0.0) stands out like few others have all season. Not only did Marshall go 24 minutes without a credited turnover, he also assisted on an incredible 71.4% of UNC's field goals when he was on the court. His improved performance alone accounts for the biggest reason UNC's team Assist % jumped from 35% against UVa to over 65% against VPI. Most importantly, especially for a point guard, the team performed much more efficiently when he was on the court, as is shown by his on-court plus/minus of +18, which is an incredible number for a game that was decided by only 3 points.
Sometimes choosing a POG is difficult; sometimes it is not. In this case, it is the latter, and as such, it should be no surprise that the Player of the Game for the game against the Hokies is Kendall Marshall.
Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at StatSheet.com.