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UNC vs WCU: Three Things We Learned

The Heels had a record day from the perimeter in a blowout against the Catamounts.

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In what was by far their easiest win of the year, UNC tied a Roy Williams-era record for most three-pointers made and set a program record for 3-point efficiency on more than 20 attempts, knocking down 16 of 22 outside jumpers. It was really just a matter of time before the team’s three-point percentage improved to where it should have been. Besides the obvious, here are a couple of takeaways from the game against the Catamounts:

UNC is going to be an absolute offensive force

As mentioned before, this game was one for the UNC record books as far as three-point shooting is concerned. It featured the second most three-point makes in program history, the second-best three-point shooting percentage in program history, and the best three-point shooting percentage in program history at high volume. Six players hit multiple three-point shots: Jalek Felton hit 4, Andrew Platek and Kenny Williams hit 3, and Brandon Robinson, Joel Berry, and Luke Maye all hit two apiece. The scary part about this team, though, is that despite all this, this wasn’t a one-dimensional game from the Heels: just less than 23 of their attempted field goals came from inside the arc.

The three scholarship freshman big men, Brooks, Manley, and Huffman, totaled 22 points on 9-13 shooting, flashing the same ability that they did early in the season to produce when not physically outmatched. And only one player who scored - Platek - did not score a two-point basket. This team has a lot of shooters, but even on a day where just about everything was going in, it remained an offense built on attacking, then setting up the three-pointer. One more note about the structure of this offense: 31 out of 37 made baskets were assisted. That is insane volume AND efficiency.

Oh yeah, and this all happened without Cameron Johnson, who was being billed as UNC’s best offensive threat, in the lineup. Once the team gets rolling with him in the lineup, this team has offensive potential to match anybody in the country.

Jalek Felton has arrived

In the final minutes against Tulane, the highly touted freshman point guard put together a stretch of play that reminded Tar Heel fans why exactly he’d been getting all the hype he had. He continued that momentum against Western Carolina, leading the team in scoring with 15 points while playing just 18 minutes, dishing out 5 assists and going 4-4 from outside the arc in the process. The level of competition still was not the highest, but Felton was arguably, at least at times, the best player on the floor on a roster filled with excellent players. He found open teammates, made spectacular plays as well as simple ones, and generally ran the offense like a veteran while showing his own unique strengths. It was the kind of game that could be a turning point for the young guard, and hopefully he will be able to maintain his level of play when play resumes on the other side of finals week.

Also, he did this:

The Heels need to take care of the ball better

A detail that might get lost in the lopsidedness of this win is that the Heels actually set a season high with 17 turnovers, one more than they had in the loss to Michigan State. UNC had been quite good at taking care of the ball this season, ranking 46th in the country in turnover percentage, but this game featured far too many cheap giveaways. Sterling Manley and Theo Pinson each had 3 turnovers to lead the team, while Felton, Brandon Huffman, and Luke Maye all had 2 apiece.

Felton, Huffman, and Manley will improve as they become more comfortable playing at the college level, but veterans like Pinson and Maye have to do better. A somewhat comforting part of this is that Felton, Pinson, and Maye all had more than two times as many assists as they did turnovers, but still, they need to clean up their games. Hopefully this is a point of emphasis during the nearly two weeks between yesterday’s game and the next. Turnovers were a big part of the reason that the Heels lost against Michigan State, and once they are habitually facing high-caliber competition, they cannot let carelessness cost them more games, starting with a road matchup against Tennessee on the other side of finals week.