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UNC Basketball vs. Elon: Three things to watch

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After winning in a tough environment earlier this week, the Heels look to keep the ball rolling.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Wofford Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Tar Heels have opened their season with a road win against Wofford, they will travel down I-40 West to take on Elon. The Phoenix are coming off a 62-56 win against Manhattan and will look to replicate what Wofford was able to pull off against the Heels last year.

While UNC is predicted to win this game, there are a few things worth watching in this matchup. They were able to beat the Terriers by 11 points, but it probably should’ve been more of a blowout than it was. We will discuss this, as well as a couple of other things as we take a look at what to keep your eye on Friday night.

Will we see a more poised Coby White?

Following the exhibition game against Mt. Olive, Roy Williams wasn’t shy about saying that Coby White would more than likely start against Wofford. This indeed is what happened, and in White’s first regular season college game he looked like a talented freshman that had trouble calming down and just playing basketball.

While this may sound like a negative, it’s important to consider the situation that Coby was in: it was his first real college game, on the road, in an electric atmosphere, and he was the starting point guard for the University of North Carolina. That’s a lot to process, and it is perhaps a human element that is ignored way too often in sports.

With all of that considered, the truth is that White didn’t play badly. He finished the game with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and two turnovers. His shooting percentage was a bit rough, as he shot 30% from the field, but his numbers wouldn’t look that bad if it wasn’t for a couple of forced shots.

When White entered the game near the end of the second half he looked a bit more like what Roy Williams saw from him during high school. He made a couple of good plays, including a layup in transition and a three-pointer from the corner. Now that he has had his first taste of what it’s like to play in Carolina blue, on the road at that, it will be interesting to see if we get a poised, yet aggressive Coby White.

Cutting down on turnovers

Far and away the worst part of the game against Wofford was how often the Tar Heels turned the ball over. While they finished the game with 21 assists, they also finished with 15 turnovers, giving them a +6 assist-to-turnover ratio. Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams led the team with three apiece, while Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks, and Coby White tied for the second-most with two each. In total, UNC had 8 players turn the ball over during the course of the game. To put that number into perspective: Wofford only had 4 players turn the ball over.

With the way that UNC has been able to push the ball so far, it’s not completely surprising that they are turning the ball over this much. They have been trying to do a lot in transition, and at times they have maybe tried doing too much, losing the ball in the process. In a way, some of the turnovers were probably ones that Roy Williams didn’t mind for that specific reason.

However, it must be noted that 9 of the turnovers were dead ball turnovers. If the Heels don’t want things to get too interesting in Elon they’ll need to find a way to correct this as soon as they can. This is a good shooting team, and so far a good defensive team, so cleaning those up would go a long way.

Improvement on the offensive boards

It is becoming more and more apparent that Wofford knows how to rebound against UNC, as they managed to once again cause problems for the Heels on the offensive boards. Last year, the Terriers held UNC to just 9 offensive rebounds, and pulled down 27 defensive rebounds themselves. This year, while Wofford only managed to get 18 rebounds, the Heels only improved from last year by one board, giving them a total of 10 offensive rebounds for the night.

The silver lining is that UNC shot the ball well, making 49.2% from the field and 40.9% from three. However, there are still quite a few opportunities that’s were missed to put more points on the board because of the Heels’ failure to clean up the offensives glass. Cameron Johnson led the team with 8 rebounds, with Luke Maye having the second highest with 7.

Players that had noticeably low rebounding numbers were Sterling Manley and Nassir Little. While Little has the reasonable excuse of it being his first game, Sterling Manley didn’t do a whole lot to stay on the court longer than the 8 minutes of action that he saw. Garrison Brooks’ numbers also could be better, but given the size advantage that Manley has over a lot of college players, it’s quite the head-scratcher as to why he was a non-factor in this game.

Again, it could be that Wofford has UNC’s number when it comes to cleaning up the glass, but UNC has too much talent to keep letting this happen. Hopefully the Heels will have a much better rebounding game against Elon, and we will see a more dominant performance to lock up their second road win in a row. Bet you never thought you’d read that sentence going into the second game of the season.