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UNC vs Ohio State: Getting back on track in New Orleans

UNC’s takes on their sixth major conference opponent.

NCAA Basketball: Wofford at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After falling to the Wofford Terriers on Wednesday, North Carolina now shift their focus to Ohio State on a neutral court contest in New Orleans. Boasting a 10-3 record with wins over Stanford, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will pose one more stiff out of conference challenge. Here’s how the Tar Heels can get back on track.

When North Carolina has controlled the tempo from the jump ball, they have looked almost unbeatable. The games in which they have struggled (Michigan State, Tennessee, and Wofford) can be partially attributed to slow starts that they found difficult to recover from.

Whether they are still shaking the rust off from exams or just got comfortable with a successful start to the season, the past week has been a roller coaster of emotions. This is a team that can legitimately turn it on and off as they please. While exciting, that’s also a dangerous trait. There are only so many times a team can dig a hole, before they dig so deep they can’t get out. They learned that on Wednesday.

Hopefully they apply those lessons learned this weekend.

This may sound like a broken record and I touched on it yesterday after the Wofford game. As was pointed out then, the Heels have a TO% of 17.6, or they’re giving the ball away approximately 17 times per 100 possession. That’s a higher rate than either of the last two seasons when they had a TO% of 16.2 and 15.4.

Conversely, Ohio State is forcing their opponents to commit a turnover on over 20% of their possessions. That is not an encouraging situation for the Heels. For as much as the upperclassmen are lauded for their leadership, there have been moments where the team has looked leaderless. Again, Exhibit A being Wednesday against Wofford.

In young seasons that is to be expected and it’s hard to complain with an 10-2 record. However, there are some worrying signs that shouldn’t be ignored. This is one of them.

The Heels attempted just 30 two-point field goals in their loss to Wofford, easily their lowest output of the season. They settled for 25 three-point attempts, their highest total they hoisted 26 attempts against Stanford. That is not going to win many games.

Ohio State is holding opponents to 67 points per game, while only allowing opponents to shoot 47% on their two-point attempts. On the surface, it would seem like constantly attacking would not be in UNC’s best interest. However, the Tar Heel offense is dependent on inside-outside movement. (Note: Movement without the ball is key to attacking the rim. It is not dependent on isolation/one-on-one matchups).

In UNC’s two losses, the lack of production inside the paint was not what caused so much frustration. It was the fact that the Heels allowed themselves to get pushed around and never took control. Perhaps they were unable to return fire against Michigan State, but against Wofford they just appeared disinterested at times. Screens, cuts, and overall movement were not as crisp or efficient.

Attacking the paint can opens up the outside for better outside shot selection, create foul trouble for opponents, and force the defense to constantly move. Over the course of a 40 minute game those all add up to have a significant impact on a team. Hopefully the Heels get back to basics against Ohio State.