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UNC vs. Creighton: Beyond the Box

Pyrrhic victory \PIR-ik\ , noun:

A victory achieved at great or excessive cost; a ruinous victory.

Yeah, that about sums it up.

Four Factors

Lost, or at least overlooked, in the fallout of the news that broke shortly after the game on Sunday was the fact that UNC had one of its crisper offensive performances in 2012.  For only the 4th time in the last 21 games, the Heels ended the game with an offensive efficiency greater than 120 (OE: 120.8).  Perhaps the most impressive part of their offensive performance was the balance with which the achieved it: UNC hit at least half of its shots from both inside (51.0) and outside (50.0)the arc, and was proficient on either side of the intermission (1st-Half OE: 116.2; 2nd-Half OE: 125.7).

Defensively, UNC was actually better than their unadjusted numbers might appear.  Yes, they allowed Creighton to score 1.01 points per possession, which is about 0.1 PPP higher than UNC's season average, but when you consider that Creighton averages 1.17 PPP, and is ranked 5th nationally in adjusted Offensive Efficiency, UNC outing looks a whole lot better.  UNC held Creighton to an eFG% more than 10 percentage points below their season' average, thanks in large part to a block percentage of 13.1.  And while the Heels did not turn Creighton over much at all (TO%: 12.5), they did ensure that the Jays did not get a number of extended possessions by rebounding more than 3 out of every 4 Creighton miss (DR%: 78.6).

Statistical Highlights

  • Despite turning the ball over on 4 of their first 8 possessions, UNC demonstrated remarkable care with the basketball from that point on, ending the game with a TO% of 12.5 (over the final 36 minutes, their TO% was 7.8).  This was the 15th time that UNC had a TO% under 15.0, more than the last two seasons, combined.  It will be interesting to watch this number for UNC's games, for as good as Kendall Marshall is, he does turn the ball over at a very rate (TO%: 27.2)
  • Over the previous three games, UNC had 7 blocks.  Against Creighton, they had 9.  Welcome back, John Henson.  Welcome back.
  • Carolina's starting backcourt: 31 points (12-15), 12 rebounds, 13 assists.  Not bad for a team that is known mostly for having the best frontcourt in the country.

Beyond the Box: Player Impact Ratings

[table id=218 /]

There is a whole lot to like about the boxscore UNC produced against Creighton:  Six players with a P.I.R. over 20.0; eight with an ORtg better than 100.0, 5 of which were north of 130.0.  There was John Henson making a triumphant return, never missing a step and demonstrating the all-around game (DR%: 30.6, BLK%: 11.9, AST%: 11.0) that earned him All-ACC accolades.

But the story of the game, even before he got injured, was Kendall Marshall.  If this turns out to be the last game Marshall plays for UNC this season (or perhaps ever), then what a memory he will have left us with.  Marshall was as aggressive as we have ever seen him, and while that aggression cost him and the Heels a bit early (3 turnovers in the first 4 minutes), once he harnessed it, he basically did anything he wanted.  His raw boxscore after those initial 4 minutes was: 16 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1 block, against only one turnover, allowing him to end the game with an outstanding 140.7 ORtg and 93.7 eFG%.  No one, outside of Marshall himself, can really know if this recent upswing in his scoring was a direct response to "criticism" that he is/was too "one-dimensional."  But one thing is for certain: it was a whole lot of fun to watch.

Season P.I.R.

[table id=219 /]

The cumulative impact ratings for each player can be found below.  A player’s average P.I.R., both for the season and the last five games only considers games in which the player officially logged at least 1 minute of game time.  The C.V. is a measure of variation; the smaller the percentage, the more consistent the player’s performance has been.  While it is not technically correct to use in this instance, because P.I.R. is an interval scale (it can go into the negative), it still has some value for the top-tier players, who will likely have a positive P.I.R. in every game.