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UNC vs. Ohio State - Game Preview

Can the Tar Heels respond in a big way after a let down against Wofford on Wednesday night?

NCAA Basketball: Citadel at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

What do you do when you suffer a loss like the one the Tar Heels experienced on Wednesday night? Dean Smith has been attributed with the best answer: “What do you do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it.”

North Carolina was thoroughly handled by Wofford in almost every phase of the game. The Terriers simply outplayed the Tar Heels. However, it wasn’t like they were lighting it up from long range. They were able to methodically work the ball inside and score from close range. Although Fletcher Magee was guaranteed to score at a high clip, it was expected that it would come from the outside, but the Tar Heels were able to hold him to just 4-12 shooting from three. He, however, booked an efficient 6-11 from inside the line. The biggest cause for concern was the ease at which Cameron Jackson seemed to get the ball under the basket and finish with a score. He finished with 18 points on 8-15 shooting and added SIX blocks.

How do we learn from that? Check out this entry posted yesterday from Jake. He does a great job on explaining how the Tar Heels can move forward from this ugly loss.

I won’t rehash everything he said, but let’s preview our next opponent; the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State

The Buckeyes are coming into this game with a 10-3 record, boasting wins over Stanford, Wisconsin, and Michigan. They don’t come without their own blemishes, though. A thrashing at the hands of Gonzaga, a last second heart-breaker to Butler, and a lapse against Clemson in the ACC/B1G Challenge sums up their loss column.

As a team, the Buckeyes are an extremely patient offense, using multiple dribble penetrations and kickouts before finding the best shot. This is evident through their over 50% assist rate on made field goals. However, against a quick defense, they tend to rush more and pass one too many times, causing nearly 14 turnovers per game. Defensively, though, they hold teams to just under 70 points per game on 41% shooting.

Individually, keep an eye out for Keita Bates-Diop who’s currently averaging 18 points and nine rebounds per game. He’s not the only offensive threat, though, as the Buckeyes have four players averaging in double-figure scoring; Bates-Diop (18.2 ppg), C.J. Jackson (13 ppg), Jae’Sean Tate (12.9 ppg), and Kaleb Wesson (12.2 ppg). The rebounding load isn’t relegated to just one player either. Bates-Diop is averaging nine, Jackson, Tate, and Wesson all haul in between four and five per game.

This isn’t the first time that head coach Chris Holtman has faced North Carolina. In 2014, Holtman had just been named the interim head coach for the Butler Bulldogs after Brandon Miller (Brad Steven’s replacement) left unexpectedly on a medical leave. I don’t need to open old wounds. I’m sure most of us remember the day that Butler defeated the fifth-ranked Tar Heels in the Bahamas. However, that wasn’t the only time Holtman faced the Tar Heels at Butler. En route to the 2017 National Championship, (still has a beautiful ring, doesn’t it!) North Carolina defeated Butler in the Sweet 16.

Holtman has another opportunity to beat the fifth-ranked Tar Heels in his first season with a team. This time in New Orleans and with Ohio State.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels enter their final non-conference match up against Ohio State at 10-2. This is effectively the final “dress rehearsal” before ACC play begins one week from today against Wake Forest.

There’s so many things the Tar Heels need to focus on if they plan on being successful in the conference, but typing all of that out here would take far too much space and time, so we will keep this abbreviated.

The Tar Heels continue to force the three point shots. On the season, they have taken 230 shots from the perimeter with only 88 (or 38%) of them finding pay-dirt. Once they work the ball inside, they are much more accurate hitting over 50% of their two-point attempts. This is not to say that they don’t miss a lot of easy shots. It seemed there was a lid on the basket against Wofford.

North Carolina still gives up the easy perimeter shot, but that is a foregone conclusion because of the style of man-help-defense Coach Williams uses. Wofford exposed a weakness, though, as they were able to score often from inside. The Tar Heels are holding opponents to an average of 72 points per game, but are only 1-2 when they don’t score at least 80 points. It seems that slow offensive games upset their defensive intensity, as well.

We know the story individually. Luke Maye (19 ppg, 11 rpg, 2 apg), Joel Berry II (17 ppg, 4 apg, 3 rpg), and Kenny Williams (13 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg) are the offensive threats. Theo Pinson is normally the distributor, but his four-assist-to-five-turnover performance against Wofford was less than impressive. Andrew Platek has seen an uptick in minutes over the last few games, but that may have been short-lived as Cameron Johnson made his regular-season debut for the Tar Heels (scoring 10 points in 17 minutes).

The freshman bigs are a conundrum. They were dominant against Bucknell (expected) and all but disappeared against Wofford (granted Garrison Brooks scored 10 points). Maye is currently averaging a 19 point, 11 rebound double-double. Adding the per-game averages of Garrison Brooks (6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Sterling Manley (6.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Brandon Huffman (3.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg) yield interesting results. Together, their 16.7 ppg and 12.4 rpg stat-line looks like what one would prefer from one of them.

Maybe this will be another game for Sterling Manley to assert himself. Manley is from Reynoldsburg, Ohio which is about 20 minutes from Columbus. He has stated that he was a Buckeye football fan growing up, but didn’t particularly pay attention to the basketball team (instead opting to watch the NBA). However, Ohio State didn’t offer a scholarship to the hometown kid and Manley landed in Chapel Hill. This could be a game that he uses to show what they missed out on.


Prediction

Coming off of an ugly loss, you want to pull for the big rebound game. However, this game has all of the markings of another close contest. If the Tar Heels can run the game at their pace, there should be no problem. However, if the Buckeyes are able to slow down the game and find holes in the defense this game could be dangerous.

North Carolina - 83; Ohio State - 78