When we did the basketball roundtable almost four weeks ago, I stated that the Charleston game was the first of the three most important games on the (regular season) schedule. While the Heels certainly did not lay a beating on the Cougars, they did win, which is at least a small step in the right direction (i.e. away from last season.) As THF stated in his postgame report, "it was a win that required copious amounts of toughness and players who kept their heads," and while none of that will be found directly in the boxscore, there are some indirect signs that can be observed.
Inconsistency has really been the theme over the first part of this season for the Heels. Against UNCA, the Heels played strong halfcourt defense, rebounded well and did serious work at the foul line, but because they turned the ball over like crazy, the game was far closer than it should have been. Last night, despite another strong effort on the defensive end and a much better job protecting the ball (TO%: 19.7), the game was again much closer than it should have been, this time due to poor defensive rebounding (CoC's ORB%: 40.4) and a terrible free throw shooting percentage (the FT Rate of 45% is quite good). The Heels inconsistent play can even be seen from half-to-half, as the Heels had an eFG% of 42.9 in the first half, but raised it to a robust 53.1% in the second half (the defense, for the most part held steady: 41.7/46.3).
UNC's defensive effort is particularly evident when you compare last night's results to the game from last season, in which CoC had an eFG% of 52.0 and shot 40.6% from three (as opposed to 44.4/30.0 last night). Individually, the biggest drop was for the Cougar's point guard Donavan Monroe, who had an eFG% of 50.0 and an A/T ratio of 3.0 in January; last night, Monroe posted an eFG% of 36.3 and an A/T ratio of 0.5. Even "Harold Arcineaux, Jr., " a/k/a Andrew Goudelock (eFG% 50.0), found things significantly more difficult than he did last season (eFG% 60.0) or against Maryland (eFG% 69.4).
- Last night was the slowest game of the season, as the Heels were held to only 71 possessions. For the season, UNC is averaging 74.5 possessions/game. At first glance this seems like a good improvement over last season's 72.9 possessions/game, but through 6 games last season, UNC was averaging 76.5 possessions/game.
- UNC averaged 2.38 points per minute (PPM) when Kendall Marshall was playing versus only 1.59 PPM when Larry Drew was on the court. However, UNC gave up 2.31 PPM when Marshall was playing versus only 1.44 PPM when Larry Drew was on the court. The net effect was that UNC was +0.07 PPM in Marshall's minutes, and +0.15 PPM in Drew's. That being said, it would be interesting to see how Marshall's numbers changed if he was playing more with the first team.
- UNC was 0-5 last season when they had a defensive rebounding percentage less than 60. This was the first time they rebounded so poorly this season.
- John Henson was the UNC leader in Roland Rating, with a score of 17. Justin Watts had the lowest score for the game (-19).
Beyond the Box Player of the Game
Before naming the POG for the CoC game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10%)
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Leslie McDonald missed being on the list by one possession, but deserves mention for his outstanding ORtg (238.6) and eFG% (133.3). McDonald has posted an ORtg of 104.2 for the season and has improved his eFG% from 34.9 to 56.0. It is still early, but it certainly appears that McDonald will be a legitimate source of points off the bench for the Heels.
As for the player of the game, this was an easy call, as John Henson had the type of game that earned him a top-5 ranking as a high school recruit. Henson was brilliant on offense last night, demonstrating patience around the rim and a nice use of his baby hook en route to career highs in points (19) and shooting percentage (72.3; min. 7 FGA). While Henson did have his worst rebounding game of the season (OR%/DR%: 7.2/14.6), he did stuff the statsheet with 2 blocks, 2 assists and a steal against only one turnover. Going forward, Henson's foul shooting will likely continue to be an issue, but if he is only averaging 4-5 free throws a game, it certainly will not be a big enough issue to overshadow his potential to average a double/double with 3+ blocks a game.