After a brief home game stay, UNC will go back on the road to face off against Boston College. The Heels are fresh off of a win over a lowly Louisville team that threw their hardest punch in the second half of the game, only to still lose by 16 points. Meanwhile, the Eagles managed to take down Notre Dame at home to improve their conference record to 2-4 in conference play. They haven’t managed to earn a signature win quite yet, and have a big opportunity to do so against Carolina this Saturday.
This game is another ones that the Tar Heels should easily win, but truly they may be battling some inner demons for the first time this season. Let’s talk about that as well as two other things to keep an eye on in this game.
The elephant in the room
Carolina has been on a tear ever since they lost to Kentucky last month in Atlanta, and their stock in the college basketball world is only going up. They have been playing some of the best defense in the country since the CBS Sports Classic, and it bled into the first half of the game against Louisville. What happened in the second half, though, is a performance that is worthy of burning the tape, burying it, and setting the ground on fire for good measure.
At one point during Wednesday’s contest Louisville was shooting 90% from the field. Yes, you read that correctly, and no it wasn’t the first 30 seconds of the half. UNC had to step up their defensive intensity and the result was the Cardinals shooting 64% from the field, and 75% from three. It’s reasonable to conclude that the Heels simply let off the gas in the second half because they could, because considering how well they’d been playing defense to that point in the game — Louisville made just 37.5% of their baskets in the first half — the Cardinals shouldn’t have been allowed to catch up like they did. The Heels are facing a better team in Boston College on the road, so they can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal. If they do, they may earn their first bad loss of the season.
Can Jae’Lyn Withers have a repeat performance?
Hubert Davis has been playing a good amount of his bench this season, but it has felt like a couple of players haven’t been very effective offensively. One of those guys is Jae’Lyn Withers, who is averaging 4.6 points per game so far this season. Wednesday night he faced off against his former team, and the result was a 15-point double-double, which is his first double-double in a Carolina uniform. Prior to the game against the Cardinals, Withers dropped 10 points on Syracuse in UNC’s blowout victory. It finally feels like the Louisville transfer is starting to put everything together, which bodes well for Hubert Davis and his team.
The most interesting detail in Withers’ glow-up is that in both the Syracuse and Louisville games he shot 80%+ from the field, which is well above his 51% average for the season. This already dangerous Carolina team could be even more dangerous as we move deeper into ACC play if they can get consistent production from Withers off of the bench. He hasn’t been able to have that good of a game on the road just yet, so the game against Boston College is the perfect opportunity to make it happen.
Slowing down Quinten Post
BC senior Quinten Post has been having a solid season so far. He is currently leads the team in scoring (16.9 ppg), and also in rebounding (7.4 rpg). Post dropped 17 points in the Eagles’ win over Notre Dame, and he shot 42.9% from three-point range. He is a dangerous three-level scorer that will likely give the Heels fits, but as mentioned earlier when discussing defense, it’s likely that his production largely depends on how committed the Heels are to the defensive side of the ball.
Armando Bacot should be able to hold his own against Post, but it’s also very likely that we see Harrison Ingram spend some time guarding him on the perimeter. The Heels have been blessed with a lot of versatility on defense this season, so this situation could work out in their favor as long as they don’t get caught in mismatches off of ball screens. One major tweak that Hubert Davis has made is that the Heels are only switching on the ball, so it’ll likely be more difficult for Post to get favorable looks. There are still some other good players on this Eagles team, but something tells me that if UNC can deal with Post, the rest is history.