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UNC 88 Valpo 77

Except for a stretch in the first ten minutes of the 2nd half, this game was not pretty on a variety of levels. UNC opened up a 24 point lead after halftime on the strength of some efficient offensive execution and some pretty good defense. Outside of that the offense was suspect and late in the 2nd half there were all sorts of maddening breakdowns on defense. Valpo got several open layups and dunks running backdoor cuts to the basket. On top of those add five three pointers in the final eight minutes that allowed the Crusaders to eventually trip a two dozen point lead to nine. Now, it never felt like UNC lost control of the game. The flurry of backdoor layups and three point shots was accompanied by a string of sloppy offensive possessions by the Heels hence the tightening of the game. It should be noted that UNC responded both times Valpo cut it to nine.

The feeling I get watching these Heels on offense is that they are a little uncertain in terms of executing plays with each other. It is quite basically a floor chemistry issue. Look at it this way. Deon Thompson and Marcus Ginyard have played significant minutes together but not since 2008. Ed Davis and Thompson have played together last season but Ginyard missed all of that. Larry Drew played only sparingly last season as did Tyler Zeller and Will Graves. The other players seeing significant floor time are freshmen. So there is not much in the way of real familiarity between the players on this team and I think that shows up in the general execution. You also have the fact most everyone is getting used to new roles, Thompson and Ginyard included in that. You would hope that the experienced players would be able to make the adjustments but even with them we are seeing high numbers of turnovers. Ginyard and Drew combined for nine of the 14 turnovers committed by UNC. That simply is not going to cut it. For his part Drew did have his best shooting game so far and dished out six assists. Likewise Davis and Zeller joined Thompson in providing copious interior scoring.

On the defensive side, much has been made of the Heels length but that length was neutralized for the most part by a smaller lineup that did an excellent job of spreading the floor and pulling the big men away from the basket. The Heels got caught napping at times, did not rotate at times and allowed a couple of hot shooters light them up from three point range. The Heels recorded only four blocks which really speaks more to the way Valpo ran their offense. Basically there were not many opportunities for blocked shots because Valpo did not take it directly to the basket. Rather they penetrated to draw defenders then used kickouts or cuts to the basket to attain open looks. In short, it may be a weakness for the Heels on defense. Smaller teams could give them fits if they can effectively spread the floor and the Heels have trouble recovering from sliding over to help. In some ways that is surprising with Ginyard roaming the perimeter and Drew's length. However, John Henson is still trying to grasp what is happening and Will Graves is too slow. Dexter Strickland is quick enough but inexperienced. All of this points to some necessary work to be done on the perimeter defensive area.

This team is young and there is going to be plenty of this to go around. UNC faces the real deal on Thursday in New York against Ohio State who boasts an excellent guard in Evan Turner and also has four other players scoring in double figures. Getting the offense going, while taking care of the basketball is a must as is fine tuning the defense to overcome some of the present shortcoming, especially on the perimeter. Obviously there is no need to panic or even think about doing so. There are definite issues to be addressed and fortunately plenty of time to address, as long as the possibility of losing a few games to ranked opponents does not bother you too much.