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UNC vs. TSU: Beyond the Box

Biscuits, double order!! One hundred-point games had certainly been in short supply since Tyler Hansbrough et al. left Chapel Hill, as the Heels had only topped the century mark 3 times in 74 games over the previous two seasons. Fortunately (for us), this team seems determined to make that drought a distant memory, as they have now topped 100 in back-to-back games. How rare is that? Well, it is the first time the Heels have done so since November of 2008, and they join only 3 other UNC teams coached by Roy Williams to do so. Those teams are the 2005 Champs, the 2008 Final Four team, and the aforementioned 2009 Champs. Pretty good company.

Four Factors

A comment was made last night that the game had the feeling of one of the 2009 team's games, where they just dared an opponent to try to score with them, knowing full well that their opponent would eventually tire and they would be able to go in for the kill.  And that is pretty much exactly what happened.  UNC's defense in the first half was almost non-existent.  The Heels defensive efficiency (DE) was a terrible 113.5, the result of yielding an eFG% of 53.9 and an OR% of 42.9.  In the second half, UNC appeared to turn up the defensive intensity, and the stats certainly bear that out.  Carolina's 2nd-half DE was a superb 75.0, while TSU's eFG% fell to 39.3 and their OR% dropped to a paltry 13.0.  More importantly, after giving up a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the second half, the Heels responded with a 14-0 run that essentially ended the competitive portion of the game by the 15-minute mark.  For a team with questions about their ability to put a team away, this was certainly nice to see.

As for the offense, it was awesome.  While much of the focus will be on the Heels' 3-point barrage, it should not go unnoticed that they also shot 62.5 from within the arc (thanks in large part to an unreal team AST% of 78.0), which allowed UNC to crack the 70.0 eFG% barrier for only the second time since the end of the 2008 season.  Combine that terrific shooting with great protection of the ball (TO%: 15.1) and solid work on the offensive glass (OR% 39.3), and it should be no surprise that result was an elite offensive efficiency of 139.7.  Of course, UNC had a very similar performance last November against Hofstra, so in no way should this be viewed as a guarantee of things to come; however, for a team struggling to consistently make shots, seeing the ball go through the hoop time and time again cannot be a bad thing.

Statistical Highlights

  • North Carolina's A/T ratio of 2.91 was the 5th highest game total under Roy Williams', and the 32 total assists are the most that any of his Tar Heel teams have had (as are the 59 assists over the last 2 games).
  • Speaking of assists, after a relatively slow start against Michigan State (5 assists, 5 TO), Kendall Marshall has responded over the last 3 games with an absurd A/T ratio of 5.4:1 (38 assists, 7 TO).  If  Marshall ends up staying in Chapel Hill for 4 seasons, I am fairly certain that he will become only the 4th player in NCAA history to reach the 1000 assist plateau (Corchiani, Hurley, and Cota).
  • In the last BTB, I noted that the guards needed to do a better job on the defensive boards, and there was certainly a noticeable improvement in that regard, as Marshall, Strickland, Bullock and Hairston combined for 12 defensive rebounds.  However, the fact the Harrison Barnes did not have a single defensive board is very surprising.  He is simply too big/athletic/good for that to happen.
  • Despite the poor defensive effort in the first half, the Heels have now held all four opponents to a FG% under 40.0.  This is the first time since December of 2006 that Carolina has had a streak that long, and the first time that any of Roy's teams have started the season with such a streak.

Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings (Glossary)

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John Henson appears to be quickly putting an end to the debate as to who is the Tar Heels' best player and is just as quickly adding a new variable to the question of who the nation's best player is.  When I was developing the P.I.R., it became pretty clear that a score of 50.0 was going to be the mark of an outstanding performance;  Henson has now had two games over 60.0 and has an average of 54.5 over the season's first four games.  While Henson's defense has been everything we thought it would be (4.0 blocks/game, DR% > 25.0 in each of the last 3 games), his offenses has been, in a word, shocking.  Not only has Henson had an ORtg of at least 100 in each of the season's four games, a career-long streak, but his eFG% in each game has been over 50.o and he has also had an AST% over 15.0 in 3 of the Heels' first 4 games.  Oh, and he is also shooting 61% from the line, which is by no means good, but it would still be a significant improvement if it were to hold for the entire season.

While Henson was clearly the star of the game (with an assist from Kendall Marshall), to state the obvious, Reggie Bullock was also terrific.  His scoring will get most of the attention (ORtg: 217.0); however, Bullock was extremely active in all facets of the game (AST%: 19.1; DR%: 20.0; 1 steal, zero turnovers).  And yes, he shot the ball pretty well, too.  After missing 8 of his first 10 3-point attempts to start the season, Bullock has now made 8 of his last 9.  Mechanically, Bullock has a beautiful shot, so assuming he is/stays healthy and his confidence remains high, it is not hard to imagine that he will continue to be an extremely dangerous and valuable weapon coming off of the bench for UNC.

Lastly, while his numbers came during a relatively meaningless portion of the game, how about the stat line Desmond Hubert put together (2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 0 TOS) in just 5 minutes on the floor?  Hubert is still extremely raw, but he certainly appears to have a bit of talent.  It will be interesting to watch how he develops over the course of the next four seasons.

Housekeeping:  Due to the quick turnaround this weekend, there will be no BTB following the game against S. Carolina.  Happy Thanksgiving everybody!