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UNC vs. Clemson: Beyond the Box

Well that was certainly ugly, but as the saying goes, an ugly win is about 10-times better than a pretty loss. Actually, there is no such saying, I just made that up; but the logic still holds. After producing four straight games (and wins) with an Offensive Efficiency north of 110.0, the Heels have now failed to crack 100 in two straight. The good news for North Carolina is that three of their next four games are at home, where they shoot much better (eFG% in ACC home games: 52.2) than they do on the road (eFG% in ACC road games: 45.8), and the better news is they get to kick that stretch off with a game versus Wake Forest, who is the worst defensive team in the ACC. As for the Heels' game against Clemson, there was a season's first produced by the Heels, though I'm not sure that it is something that they will be real excited about, but then again, and ugly win is... We will discuss this and more on the other side of the break.

Four Factors

UNC was able to win this game for two simple reasons.  First, they did a terrific job holding on to the ball (TO%: 13.0).  The Tar Heel's impressive TO% becomes even more so when it is compared with Clemson's inability to protect their possessions.  This was the first time since the 2008 team's win at NC State that the Tar Heels had a TO% that was more than 10 percentage points lower than their opponent's.  Carolina's improvement this season in this area has been well noted, both here and elsewhere, but as a result of yesterday's particularly strong performance, the team's season TO% (18.5) sits at a level that would be the second lowest in Roy's tenure at Chapel Hill.  Only the 2009 team, with an  unreal TO% of 16.9, has done a better job taking care of the ball.

The second reason UNC was able to pull out the win at Littlejohn, was because, while they did not shoot extremely well for the game, they were able to shoot well enough in the second-half (71.4%) to be able to capitalize on their tremendous free-throw rate (FTR: 60.4).  This is the 3rd time this season that the Heels have had a FTR greater than 60.0 (after only doing so once the previous two seasons, combined), and in those three games the Heels are shooting a respectable 70.5% from the line.  Not surprisingly, UNC is 3-0 in those games, and over the last 7+ seasons, they have won 21 out of the 22 games in which they had a free-throw rate of 60.0 or better.

Statistical Highlights

  • While UNC's steal % (14.5) was there best in the ACC this season, they were not able to convert those steals into easy points.  UNC only managed 11 points off of Clemson's 16 TOs (0.69 PPT).  In the Tar Heels' first game against Clemson at Chapel Hill, they were able to score 1.07 PPT.
  • Kendall Marshall scored more points from the line (10) than he had in any game since the first game of the season.  Since moving into the starting lineup, Marshall has hit 25 of his 32 free-throws (78.1%).  Prior to that, he was just 11 for 19 (57.9%).
  • Leslie McDonald had UNC's best Roland Rating, with a score or +14, and was the only Tar Heel with an on-court +/- over 4 (+8).  Justin Watts had the lowest score on the team (-12).

Beyond the Box Player of the Game

Before getting to the POG for the second Clemson game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10% or minimum minutes percentage: 80.0):

[table id=81 /]

Now, about that season's first.  You will notice that there are actually only four players listed in the table above.  This is because, while there were five players with a qualifying possession or minutes percentage, the 5th, Justin Knox, happened to have an ORtg of 0.0 (also joining Knox in the "Bagel Club" were Justin Watts and Reggie Bullock).

As for the Player of the Game, while a good argument can certainly be made for Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes, the nod in this case goes to John Henson because of his dominance on both ends of the court.  On top of his 3rd double-double (14/12) in a row (and 8th of the season), Henson led the team in DR% (26.1) and BLK% (15.6, which could arguably be higher), and posted the second best AST%  on the team (20.0).  More importantly, Henson was primarily responsible for holding Jerai Grant (season's ORtg: 121.6) to 0 points and 1 rebound, en route to an ORtg of 16.2.  This was only the second time all season that Grant had an ORtg below 75.0.  The other time?   You guessed it, a whopping 23.3 in Clemson's first game of the season against the Tar Heels.  I can think of at least one person who is hoping than UNC and Clemson have met for the last time this season.

Beyond the Box Player of the Year

The BTB POY is based on a points system in which a player gets 10 points for being named the POG and 3 points for having a top five ORtg, with a 2 point bonus for having the top ORtg.   What follows are the updated standings through the team’s first 24 games.

[table id=82 /]

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