Despite a spirited run in the second half, Carolina ultimately fell to Iowa on Tuesday, 93-80. There were things the Heels did better and there were also plenty of areas they did poorly. Luka Garza and the vaunted Iowa offense performed about as you’d expect, shooting 42.5% from three and 44.7% overall en route to notching 93 points.
The Heels’ next matchup will take place tomorrow against the North Carolina Central Eagles. Here are three things to watch for in that one.
Guarding the Perimeter
The Tar Heels got torched by Iowa from outside as the Hawkeyes shot 17-40 from the three-point line. While disappointing, it wasn’t exactly surprising. It’s basically become a staple of Carolina Basketball to struggle defending the three, and it honestly seemed like it was just a matter of time before an explosion like this.
Coach Williams has been adamant about his desire to stick to a traditional two-big lineup despite many teams in college basketball adapting to the small-ball era. This year, he has four legitimate bigs, each of which plays a significant role on the team. Defensively, those guys are oftentimes having to go out to the perimeter and guard smaller, quicker players. To this point in the season, the Heels have largely been able to combat these mismatches with their overall length, but Iowa proved to be a different animal.
Carolina will look to tighten things up moving forward. North Carolina Central certainly doesn’t present the same challenge the Hawkeyes did, but they do have four guys on the roster shooting 43% or better from three. Given this fact and the immense size advantage, the Eagles will likely be launching plenty of deep balls. The Heels must focus on doing a better job closing out and getting a hand in the defender’s face.
If this team is going to find the success it wants this season, Andrew Platek will likely be one of the keys to it. Now in his senior season, Platek’s development as a Tar Heel has been a little strange. Marketed as a knockdown shooter coming out of high school, his three-point percentage has actually gone down every year. However, he’s hitting 38.5% of his deep attempts in the early going this season, which would be a career best if it holds.
Platek had himself a solid night against Iowa, scoring 10 points on 3-7 shooting. His most crucial statistic, though, was his 2-3 shooting from downtown. He looked more comfortable than ever on the offensive side, picking his spots and taking what the defense gave him. Platek’s two triples came at big junctures of the game, too. One shot brought the game back within ten points in the first half, allowing the Heels to stay afloat. The other one came about nine minutes into the second half and brought the Heels within three.
This team’s biggest hole is undoubtedly its lack of reliable spot-up shooters. Although he’s struggled to find that consistency throughout his career, there’s a chance Platek could be that this year. He has the luxury of playing alongside the best frontcourt in the country, so there’s not the same added pressure he felt on last year’s team to knock down any and every open shot. Look for the Heels to try and get Platek some open looks in this game to keep his confidence level high.
Turnovers are almost always an early-season issue with Carolina, but it tends to become an even bigger problem when you have a couple of freshmen starting at the one and two spots. R.J. Davis and Caleb Love appear to be getting more and more comfortable at the college level, but there have been and will continue to be growing pains.
The Heels committed 18 turnovers against Iowa. Like every other team they’ve played, the Hawkeyes brought double teams early in the game when Carolina’s bigs got the ball inside. They played more straight up after the Heels started knocking down some shots but were still able to force this young UNC team into making mistakes. The Tar Heels had six players commit at least two turnovers.
As always, the turnovers should slim down as the season progresses and these players learn to compete as a cohesive unit. It’s still an important area to stress because, perhaps this year even more than ever, Carolina just needs to get the ball on the rim. Once that happens, there are dudes like Armando Bacot and Day’Ron Sharpe waiting there to make a play. That being said, expect the Tar Heels to protect the ball a little better against North Carolina Central.