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UNC vs. Rutgers: Beyond the Box

I am going to state the obvious here: Good riddance, 2010! While 2010 will never be a year that Carolina fans spend much (any??) time reminiscing about, the current squad has at least done a solid job of sending it out on a high note. Tuesday night's 23-point win over Rutgers gave the Heels consecutive 20-point victories for the first time since the 2009 team closed out 2008 (December 20th, 28th and 31st) with 3 straight, 20-point wins. This current streak certainly won't erase the rest of the year's performance, but it certainly gives fans a reason to be optimistic heading into 2011.

Four Factors

This game is pretty easy to sum up:  UNC shot well (eFG%: 55.6), Rutgers did not (eFG%: 38.1), and UNC completely dominated the defensive boards (Rutgers' OR%: 16.7).  On offense, Carolina was especially proficient behind the arc, nailing double-digits in three-point field goals for the 3rd time this season, which is exactly three more times than the team did all of last season.  After going 38 for 120 from three (31.7%; approximately 4-13 per game) in their first 9 games, the Heels have now gone 32 for 79 (40.5%; approximately 8-20 per game) in their last four.  In a season that has already seen several (dramatic) improvements, this has the potential to be the most important.  If this team can maintain a 3-point shooting percentage between 37.0-40.0% for the rest of the season, then it will have all the parts to be very dangerous in the ACC and beyond.

Statistical Highlights

  • For the second straight game, UNC was able to force a team that had not played in a game with more than 70 possessions into a 75-possession game.  Carolina is now dictating the style of play, instead of having it dictated to them, and this is great to see.
  • Carolina had their best night of the season on the defensive boards (DR%: 83.3) despite the fact that John Henson was a non-factor (DR% 9.0).  UNC made up for this with a true team effort, as 7 regulars had individual defensive rebounding percentages greater than 10.0, led by Tyler Zeller's season high DR% of 31.7.
  • While Henson did not do much on the boards, he did contribute on the defensive end, producing his 4th game of the season with a block percentage of greater than 20%.
  • No substitution data is available, so there are no +/- numbers or Roland Ratings.

Beyond the Box Player of the Game

Before naming the POG for the Rutgers game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10%):

[table id=61 /]

First, another well deserved tip of the hat to Justin Watts, who has not only provided energy and (super) athleticism off of the bench, but has also proven to be a pretty efficient player on the offensive end.  Watts numbers so far this year compare quite favorably to the numbers posted during the junior year of the last player Kryzyzewski "let get out of Durham," David Noel.  It is (highly) unlikely that Watts will get the chance to really blossom like Noel did during his senior year, but if he continues his current level of play, he will certainly be able to help UNC win a lot of games.

[table id=62 /]

As for the the Player of the Game, while Watts definitely warranted consideration, the honor really does have to go to Leslie McDonald, who not only led the team in scoring, but was also the only Heel to post double-digit rebounding percentages on both the offensive (14.2) and defensive (11.9) boards.  So far this season, McDonald has demonstrated an elite ability to produce points, having already scored 14 or more points 4 times, all while playing no more than 17 minutes in any game.  Consistency is still a question mark, but should he smooth out his play (while maintaining a 3P% around 40.0-43.0%), then he will become an enormous weapon for the Heels going forward.

Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at