The weekend win over Georgia Tech was an important one for North Carolina to simply end their losing streak and get back in the win column. They did that, and also looked pretty solid in the process. Tuesday night’s game against The Citadel was likely never going to be in doubt as far as winning goes, but it was an important game to see whether they had truly learned some lessons that they could carry over.
After a 100-67 win, signs from the Tar Heels are pointing in a more positive directoin.
Offense continues to look more fluid
It has to be said to preface this and the other points brought up in this piece: The Citadel is almost certainly the worst team the Tar Heels have played so far. Even before last night’s blowout, they were way behind everyone else on UNC’s schedule according to KenPom.
That being said, this game carried over some of the solid traits from the Georgia Tech one, which had been the first after UNC got nearly an entire week to practice. The Tar Heels moved the ball well all game, finishing with 24 assists on 32 made field goals. It took a little while for the efficiency to get going, as they spent much of the first half shooting in the 40%-ish range, but it’s clear that they were getting open shots.
They then truly got going down the stretch in the first and quickly put the game away in the second. They finished they game with 1.333 points per possession. Everything looks better when the ball goes in the basket, but the chances of the ball going in the basket when you’re consistently able to get good looks like they did on Tuesday night.
Arrival of the three-point shooting?
One of the big reasons for the offense looking more fluid was simply that more three-pointers dropped. That’s been an issue, with an 11-22 performance against Portland being the only previous time this season that this team had knocked down more than 40% of their three attempts in a game. Only three other times besides that game did they even made more than 30%
On Tuesday night, they went 15-31, which was good for a 48.4% total. It wasn’t just from one person going off, either. Seven different players knocked down threes, including Jackson Watkins, who chipped in at the very end to get biscuits. One game against The Citadel is not enough to definitively say that they’re cured and will shoot lights out from here on, but it was certainly a performance that they needed.
Good development from the depth?
One of the issues so far this season has been that many of the games have been close until late in the end. While under Roy Williams, UNC would often try to just ram through tough stretches from the bench, especially early in the season, Hubert Davis isn’t exactly built that way. Only five players have appeared in all 10 games previous to last night, with a sixth in Armando Bacot and maybe a seventh in Puff Johnson only not included on that list because of injury.
Against The Citadel, UNC not only got to give their bench a bunch of minutes because they blew out the Bulldogs, but several bench players were reasons why the final score was so lopsided. Tyler Nickel doubled his previous career high with 16 points, knocking down three three pointers. Dontrez Stylez, whose absence has been notable, went for nine points and six rebounds. Seth Trimble dished out five assists. Jalen Washington scored six points in six minutes. In total, they got 42 points from the bench, allowing the starters to get more rest ahead of this weekend’s clash with Ohio State.
Again, it’s The Citadel, but getting minutes and confidence into the second unit is a big help.