Pity the school who gets Long Beach State as their opening round match-up in the NCAA Tournament this year. The 49ers proved that last year was no fluke, pushing UNC right to the edge for the second straight game. However, unlike last year, the challenge issued in this game by LBSU came at the end of the first-half, forcing the Heels to respond, rather than just hold on. They did, and given their inability to do so against UNLV, that should at least be viewed as a small step forward.
As was alluded to earlier, this game was really a story of two halves, and even the first half can be divided evenly in two. UNC actually came out of the gate fairly well, hitting their first first 5 shots and over the first 20 possessions of the game (10 minutes), the Heels had an offensive efficiency (OE) of 140.0. Unfortunately, the Heels then decided to imitate Duke, as they flopped over the half's last 20 possessions. UNC's OE fell to an awful 60.0 as their defensive efficiency (DE) ballooned from 100.0 (average) to 125.0 (ugly). What is curious about UNC's drop in DE is that it coincided almost perfectly with Casper Ware's diminished impact on the game. Ware scored 16 of LBSU's first 20 points (6-7 from the field, 4-4 from three); however, from the 11:46 point on, Ware was held to a fairly modest 13 points, on 6 of 17 shooting (0-5 from behind the arc).
In the second half, the Heels played much closer to their potential as their offensive (118.9) and defensive (89.2) efficiencies both ended up exceeding their season averages. With little difference from first to second half in either rebounding or turnovers, the turnaround really boiled down to Carolina making (eFG%: 64.2) and challenging (def. eFG%: 42.9; 0-8 3PA) shots at a high level. It's a pretty simple concept, but when this team does it well, there aren't many (if any) teams that can match them.
- UNC assisted on an incredible 80.0% of its field goals. For the season, they are assisting on 64.5% of their makes, which if it holds, will be the most of the Roy Williams' era.
- For the 3rd time all season, UNC had a team A/T ratio greater than 2.0 (2.15). The Heels have now won 28-straight games when they have a team A/T better than 2.0, and overall, they are 44-1 in such games under Roy Williams (@Maryland in 2007).
- Tyler Zeller hasn't missed a free throw in four games (17 straight). He has a long way to go to catch Jeff Lebo (41), but it is still pretty impressive for a 7-footer.
- John Henson has had at least 3 blocks in each of the last 4 games, a career long streak.
Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings
[table id=148 /]
This was the least balanced game Carolina had all season, as only 5 players produced an Impact Rating over 10.0. Of course, when five players combine for 78 points, 30 rebounds, and 26 assists, it probably doesn't matter what the rest of the roster does.
Leading the way for the Heels, for the 6th time in 10 games, was John Henson. It is easy to get caught up in Henson's ability to change the game on defense, but this season he has really turned himself into a legitimate weapon on offense. Last season, Henson had an ORtg over 120.0 in only 8 of UNC's 37 games (21.6%). This season, he has already done it 5 times (50.0%), and his ORtg for the season is up 14.1%, which is an enormous jump. Clearly Henson has worked very hard at his game, but one also has to wonder if at least part of this is the result of Henson learning how to be a "big man." It is easy to forget that Henson entered college with only about year and a half in high school to learn how to play with his length, as a late growth spurt took him from a lightly recruited guard prospect to a highly coveted recruit that many gurus considered to have the highest ceiling in his class. Now, with the benefit of both time, and the aforementioned hard work, Henson appears well on his way to reaching the ceiling that so many scouts projected.
The cumulative impact ratings for each player can be found below. A player’s average P.I.R., both for the season and the last five games only considers games in which the player officially logged at least 1 minute of game time. The C.V. is a measure of variation; the smaller the percentage, the more consistent the player’s performance has been. While it is not technically correct to use in this instance, because P.I.R. is an interval scale (it can go into the negative), it still has some value for the top-tier players, who will likely have a positive P.I.R. in every game.
[table id=149 /]