UNC again gets a slightly out of sorts effort against an inferior team but plays well enough to come away with a 75-60 win over Northern Kentucky.
There probably isn't much point in talking about "What's wrong with this team?" or "How can they beat this team but struggle against this directional school?" If there were any clear answers to that then whatever ails this team could probably be fixed at some point. As it stands they just don't play at the same level against the smaller schools as they do against top ten teams. Maybe that's youth. Maybe it's the inconsistent nature of the offense. Maybe they miss Joel James more than people realize.
At any rate, like the previous two games, UNC had numerous issues keeping perimeter players out of the lane. Despite having a smaller team and nowhere near the size to compete with UNC's interior height, the Norse finished the game with a 28-26 advantage in the paint. NKU got to the rim often and while some of the shots were tough makes, the fact the Tar Heels seem unable to protect the rim is mildly concerning with ACC play looming.
As Roy Williams noted in his post game comments the team lacked focus and the effort wasn't nearly as good as he hoped it would be. Since they came off a five day break, fatigue wasn't an issue but there were far too many instances where Tar Heels players didn't box out or play sufficient defense. Brice Johnson, who keyed an early 14-2 run, also missed two box outs including one where a badly missed three fell off the rim in front of him but instead ended up in the hands of NKU's Jack Flournoy who immediately scored. Possibly the biggest indication of how poorly the Tar Heels interior players rebounded can be found in the fact Marcus Paige lead the team with nine rebounds on the night.
Williams frustration with his team's play led him to start the second half with Marcus Paige, Luke Davis, Desmond Hubert, Isaiah Hicks and Jackson Simmons. The lineup change earned immediate results. During the first four minutes of the half, that group held NKU scoreless and ran off five straight points which included a dunk from Hicks on a heads-up pass from Hubert on the fast break. At that point UNC took control of the game and NKU never really threatened again with the Tar Heels keeping the lead at 10-15 points for much of the remainder of the contest.
For the game UNC actually got a balanced offensive effort. James Michael McAdoo led the way with 14 points and was 6-8 from the free throw line. Paige and McDonald each had 11 points and combined to go 6-13 from three. Johnson and Tokoto had nine apiece and Nate Britt chipped in eight points. Overall UNC shot 47% from the floor but committed 14 turnovers which turned what should have been a more comfortable game into a slightly frustrating one in many areas.
-UNC has not gone to the 3-2 zone defense in two games despite giving up baskets on drives. Williams hasn't given a reason why.
-The Tar Heels have been using the press and the run/jump trap more often in the past two games. The results versus NKU were mixed but given the team's athleticism, it could show up again in future games.
-P.J. Hairston was not on the bench tonight. When asked about it during the press conference, Williams expressed frustration at the question and said, "He is not on our team. I love him...but he is not on our team."
-UNC has just one more game, against UNCW on Tuesday, before starting ACC play. That contest will be this team's last tune-up to see if they can get into some kind of groove in terms of the overall quality of play.