The good news? Just as THF suggested in the game thread, UNC did in fact receive a slight bump in perception as the Heels, for the first time all season, now find themselves in Ken Pomeroy's Top 10. The bad news? It is still a loss to Duke, and no matter how you cut it, that is always going to sting, especially when it was a game that absolutely could have been won. If the Heels did nothing more than shoot their season average from deep (34%) and from the free throw line (65%), then they win by 4. While that may make the loss sting a bit more in the short term, en though it is probably unreasonable to assume that a young team will go into Durham and not have at least a small drop in shooting percentage; in the long term last night was an absolute confirmation that this team, on a neutral court, can beat any team in the country. We will dive deeper into what went right (1st half) and wrong (second half) for the Heel on the other side of the break.
A quick look at the overall game stats shows what the final score shows: Duke beat UNC in a very close game. Overall, the game was so close that each team scored on exactly the same number of possessions (Floor %; 53.7). But despite the closeness of the overall numbers, the 1st and 2nd halves could not have been more different. In the first half, UNC posted an eFG% of 50.0 and held Duke to an eFG% of 38.9, all while speeding the game up to an 80-possession per game pace and forcing the Devils to turn the ball over 22.5% of the time, leading to a 9-0 North Carolina advantage in points off turnovers.
In the second half, the script was nearly completely flipped. Duke was able to slow the game down to a 72-possession per game pace, their eFG% shot up to 56.3 and the Heels fell to 37.5. And while the Heels basically did a good job of protecting the ball in the second stanza (TO%: 16.7), they forced almost no Duke turnovers (TO%: 8.3). As a result, UNC's 9-0 1st-half advantage in points off turnovers turned into a 10-0 second-half deficit, which was arguably the difference in the game.
- While UNC's Assist % in the 1st half (41.2) was not good, in the 2nd-half it fell to an abysmal 25.0, due to a combination of UNC missing several open shots and Duke's decision to force Marshall to shoot off of his drive.
- While UNC did not do a terrible job on the defensive boards (Duke's OR%: 31.9; Average OR%: 35.3), the 21 second-chance points that they gave up as a result were more than they had given up in their previous 3 games (19).
- Harrison Barnes held Kyle Singler to an ORtg under 62.0 for only the 4th time in his career.
- UNC's leader in Roland Rating was Justin Watts (+12), though this is mostly because Watts only played 1 minute in the second half. Dexter Strickland (-14), had the lowest score on the team.
Beyond the Box Player of the Game
Before getting to the POG for the Duke game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10% or minimum minutes percentage: 80.0):
[table id=79 /]
Tyler Zeller is really a pretty simple call for the UNC Player of the Game (obviously, Nolan Smith would be the overall player of the game) Zeller posted a very impressive double-double (24/13), while leading the team in ORtg and OR%, and was the only Tar Heel to have an eFG% greater than 50.0 (71.4).
While this is Zeller's team-leading 5th POG, it is his first since winning it for the Evansville game more than two months ago. While much of the focus of late has been on his teammates, Zeller has quietly averaged 19.3 points per game over his last 3 games and made 22 of 29 FGA (75.9%). As much as anyone on the team, Zeller really seems to be benefiting from his increase in court time with Kendall Marshall, and if his recent level of play can be maintained over the rest of the ACC schedule, then UNC will have a good shot to be playing for more than just pride when Duke makes their trip to Chapel Hill.
Beyond the Box Player of the Year
The BTB POY is based on a points system in which a player gets 10 points for being named the POG and 3 points for having a top five ORtg, with a 2 point bonus for having the top ORtg. What follows are the updated standings through the team’s first 23 games.
[table id=80 /]
Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at StatSheet.com.