That was emphatic. North Carolina used last night's first half to show that their defensive output against Nicholls was no fluke, nor was it entirely the result of beating up on a hapless opponent. The Heels took KenPom's 20th ranked team (and 20th ranked offense) behind the woodshed over the game's first 20 minutes, and the rest was mostly academic.
UNC was absolutely suffocating during the the first 20 minutes of last night's game, holding the Longhorns to a paltry offensive efficiency (OE) of 71.9. The Heels' first-shot defense was so tenacious that Texas went into halftime with the same number (9) of turnovers (TO%: 28.1) as they had made field goals (FG%; 25.0). About the only thing that UNC did not do well in the first half was grab defensive rebounds, as they allowed Texas to grab a ridiculous 56.0% of their misses. A big reason for this was John Henson's lack of presence on the defensive glass. Not only did Henson have a DR% below 10.0 (8.5) for only the 5th time since he became a starter, but he had a grand total of zero defensive rebounds and knocked at least one out of Harrison Barnes' hands and back to Texas. I hesitate to rag on Henson too much, because he has obviously been terrific this season, but this has the potential to be a big deal, even though last night all it probably did was keep Texas from just getting on a bus at half-time. And in fairness, UNC did do an excellent job of tightening this up in the second half, as they grabbed all but 3 of Texas' missed shots (DR%: 84.2).
On offense, UNC was solid, but fell well short of spectacular. Their 118.8 OE is certainly good enough to win most, if not all the games that they will play in, but it still felt like something was missing. While they did not turn the ball over a lot (TO%: 18.8), many of those TOs that they did have appeared to be unforced and sloppy, which makes it easy to see where they could have scored more. One thing the Heels did do very well was get to (FTR: 49.2), and capitalize at the line (FT%: 74.2). This was especially true in the first half, as the Heels went 9-11 from the line and rebounded their two misses, turning them directly into field goals. Any time a team gets 13 points off of 11 free-throw attempts, you know that they are living right.
- After averaging 16.2 3-point field attempts a game over their last 5 games, last night's contest saw the Heels shoot only 7 from downtown (making 3; 42.9%). Of course, when you are doing this, and this, over everyone, taking a lot of threes seems relatively moot.
- In the four games that everyone had circled on Carolina's preseason calendar (Mich. St., Wisconsin, UK, and Texas), UNC is a pretty solid 68 for 92 (73.9%) from the free-throw line. In the other 9 games, they are an awful 60.6% from the line. Whether it is an increase in concentration, getting the right players to the line, or a fluke is yet to be determined, but it is certainly something the bears watching.
- Roy Williams is now one win away from 650 for his career (24th season; Kryzewski was in his 29th season when he got to 650). If the Heels can win their next 11, he will be back to having a career winning percentage of 0.800. Pretty amazing.
Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings
[table id=155 /]
With the lights shining, and the questions again starting swirl (if only minimally), Harrison Barnes once again reminded us why he was almost unanimously considered the top recruit of his class. Barnes was simply spectacular, becoming the third Tar Heel this season to reach the 50-point P.I.R. plateau in what may have been his best all-around game as a Tar Heel. Not only did Barnes produce a career best 177.5 ORtg, but he also recorded his first game as a Tar Heel in which both his OR% and DR% were above 15.0, all while turning the ball over not a single time. Throw in a assist% of 11.7 and a season's best steal% (4.6), and it is hard to argue that he could have been better. Barnes may still be at a point in his development where he needs to "flip the switch" to be great, but make no mistake about it, when that switch does get flipped, he is just that: great.
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=156 /]
Last night's game against Texas saw the first real shake-up in the season P.I.R. standings, as Barnes jumped over Kendall Marshall and into third place and Reggie Bullock overtook Dexter Strickland to move into 5th place. Bullock has essentially become the team's 6th starter, as he is averaging 22 mpg over the last 4, and the results certainly speak for themselves.