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Rebounding Struggles Cost UNC at Texas

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Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

We've seen this movie before. This really should be on the SAT. UNC is to Michigan State as Texas is to UNC. For the sixth time in seven games during the Roy Williams era, the Tar Heels lose to Texas. That is three straight losses and the second straight game decided by two points. In 2014, Marcus Paige's three at the buzzer was off the mark. This time, Texas made the shot at the buzzer and fittingly it came off a defensive rebound.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Three point shooting defense, blah, blah blah. We can talk about that until the cows come home but it is what it is. Some of the threes Texas made were clearly the result of open shooters being left due to poor defensive play. Some of them weren't and it's those contested ones or you know, the rushed shot from 27 feet Eric Davis made because he thought the shot clock was running down, you hope they miss. Ultimately Texas couldn't miss from three regardless of the level of defense being played. That did plenty of damage but not as much as UNC not doing the very thing it is built to do: rebound.

UNC entered the game as one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country at an ORB% of 36.2. The Tar Heels were a top ten DRB% team collecting almost 79% of opponent misses on the season. Meanwhile Texas was comparable to UNC on the offensive glass but really awful on the defensive end grabbing only 63% of opponent misses. The numbers say UNC should have made a dent in Texas' offensive rebounding and cleaned up on the offensive end.

None of that happened. Brice Johnson's early foul trouble was a factor since Isaiah Hicks, for all his many talents, doesn't rebound well. Kennedy Meeks also had foul trouble in the second half. For the game UNC had an ORB% of 16.7. That is the worst ORB% ever posted by a Roy Williams team at UNC and only the second time under 20% in the Williams era. There is one caveat, UNC did shoot the ball well which created fewer rebound to grab. Still, UNC had just four on the offensive end resulting in only seven second chance points.

The bigger concern, as it pertains to this game, was on the other end. Texas abused UNC on the glass to the tune of an ORB% of 41.0 and 21 second chance points. That gave Texas a +14 advantage not to mention, the final four points the Longhorns scored came from offensive rebounds. As much as UNC struggles on defense at times, especially giving up open looks, not securing the rebound and ending the possession is a worst case scenario.

So we can talk about the three point shooting defense but that's always been a weakness. You can argue Roy Williams is being stubborn and needed or needs to make changes to counter opposing teams from beyond the arc. That's fine but it is important to note that if UNC does versus Texas the things that Williams' coach teams do well i.e. control the backboards, UNC wins the game. There is a gamble to be sure in how UNC defends the three. It is a calculation to defend the higher percentage shot versus the lower one.  When a team makes the three a higher percentage shot, the defensive philosophy backfires.

Even with Texas making a high percentage of threes, UNC's failure to play to its strength on the backboards was ultimately the Tar Heels undoing. Two defensive rebounds on Texas final two possessions give UNC the win. Instead it's the Tar Heels' second loss and any good will built from the previous week of wins over Maryland and Davidson has gone up in smoke.