Last night the North Carolina Tar Heels managed to put away UNC Asheville with a final score that could’ve been a Virginia Cavaliers game. The Heels were really efficient shooting the ball: they finished the game making 49% of their field goal attempts, and they went 50% from deep. However, this game was the same ol’ story from the previous two losses, just with a different outcome. The Heels turned the ball over 18 times, which turned into 19 points for UNC Asheville. Defensively, the Bulldogs shot 26% from the field, but the amount of shot attempts they had kept this one close. A win is a win, yes, but it definitely wasn’t a win to feel super great about if you are this team.
Let’s go ahead and discuss three things we learned from last night’s game.
Shot volume is a huge problem
There were a few reasons that the loss to Purdue felt like a better loss than the one against Tennessee, and one of those reasons was on full display in last night’s win. The Bulldogs got to shoot 68 shots from the field to UNC’s 55, and 37 three-point attempts to UNC’s 14. It was equally egregious against the Vols, as they attempted 70 shots to UNC’s 55. I’m pretty bad at math, but I can say with confidence that if UNC Asheville knocked down 35% of their three-pointers, this game could’ve been way more interesting than it had any business being (if you were curious, that would’ve made the score 72-71). I don’t just say 35% to pull a random number out of thin air either — truth be told, the Bulldogs could’ve reasonably made that many shots, as the Heels struggled mightily once again on defense at various points in the game. Poor close outs and getting beat on ball screens were a big problem, and one has to wonder when things will ever get better in both departments.
The other way that the Bulldogs got so many shot attempts was from UNC’s many turnovers. They finished this one with 18, which is disturbing considering the fact that they didn’t have that many against Purdue or Tennessee. The Bulldogs deserve credit for that, because they played tough on the defensive side of the ball and got into passing lanes whenever they could for the steal. However, the Heels need to spend their time off working a lot on their two biggest issues right now, because Michigan would love nothing more than to get spotted points on their way to a big victory in the Dean Dome.
Leaky Black’s impact
I don’t know that I’ve gotten to say this enough this season, but I have been really impressed with Leaky Black. Sure, he hasn’t been perfect, and there are some mistakes that he’s made that were head-scratchers to say the least. However, his presence on the court has been so important in keeping this team intact, and last night night against the Bulldogs he showed yet again why he is so valuable.
Black finished the game with nine points and eleven rebounds. He also finished +15 in the plus/minus ratio department, and a lot of that is due to his defense. He has been the guy Hubert Davis has been able to count on when someone has to defend a team’s best player, and had he played against Purdue over the weekend, I really do think they would’ve came away with a win. Sasha Stefanovic took advantage of everybody Hubert Davis threw at him, and Black would’ve almost certainly shut him down just enough to squeak out a win.
Leaky Black isn’t a guy that Hubert Davis is gong to turn to for a lot of points, or even to shoot the ball at high volumes, but he will do everything else on the court and do it well. I’ve said on Twitter that UNC fans will miss him when he’s gone, and this season is turning out to be the greatest example of that yet.
Understanding Dawson Garcia
I have a confession: I am having a hard time getting a full understanding of Dawson Garcia. A lot of my confusion comes from the fact that he is playing with arguably better talent around him during his first season with the Tar Heels, but he has had some weird struggles. Last season, Garcia scored in double digits in four of his first six games with Marquette. This season? Only two, with one of those performances being his nearly flawless shooting performance against Purdue.
I think the answer to my confusion is that Garcia isn’t having to carry so much of the load this season as he did last season, so he isn’t shooting nearly as much as he did with Marquette. But that’s not the only problem: he has had a lot of stretches of playing downright sloppy basketball. It’s perhaps something I should’ve dug more into before the season started, but looking back at some of his stats with the Golden Eagles, it’s starting to make more and more sense. Last season Garcia averaged 1.6 turnovers per game, and had a handful of games where he had three or more. This season he is averaging 2.2 per game, which is the worst on the team followed by Caleb Love and RJ Davis.
Admittedly this section’s title is a bit misleading, because I feel like we are getting a better and better understanding of where Dawson Garcia’s game really is instead of being blinded by the fact that he was named to the Big East All-Freshman team. I’m a bit concerned with how he is going to develop throughout this season, but honestly it’s still really early. I hope that by March he looks more like he did against Purdue (though he did have four turnovers in that game), and less like he has the last couple of games.