Well, that was fun.
UNC managed to take down the Duke Blue Devils 82-78, in what was one of the more definitive victories they’ve had against in the series in recent memory. Duke managed to pull out to a 12-point lead in the first half, only to see that lead dissolve to 4 by the end of the first half, and UNC continued their onslaught to lead by as much as 10 for a good part of the second half. Duke made a push to cut down the lead, but ultimately they didn’t have any answers for the intensity the Heels fought with.
Before we get into the three things that we learned from this game, I just wanted to share some numbers with you to show just how amazing of a victory this was:
- Duke scored 30 points in the paint in the first half. In the second half, they scored 29 points total.
- Duke only took two two-point shots in the last 11:30 minutes of the game.
- At one point in the game, Duke out-rebounded the Heels 20-12. UNC finished the game with 44 rebounds to Duke’s 38.
- UNC’s two turnovers were tied for the lowest amount of turnovers in school history.
- Finally, Carolina finished with 12 second-chance points to Duke’s 7.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at a few things we learned from tonight’s statement victory against that team in Durham.
The Return of Kung-Fu Kenny
Going into this game, one of the big questions was whether or not Kenny Williams had legitimately regained his shot, or if the game against Pitt was an anomaly. I think it’s safe to say that not only was it not an anomaly, he looks like he is ready to help carry the Heels through the rest of this three-game stretch. Williams finished tonight’s game with 20 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists. He shot 46.6% from the field, while shooting 50% from three.
Beyond his strong shooting night, Kenny Williams was also extremely important in keeping Duke’s shooters in check. Gary Trent Jr. couldn’t get much going from three (despite still scoring in double-digits), and when Alex O’Connell entered the game he was only able to do so much with Williams harassing him and making it extremely difficult for him to get a good look at the basket. Overall UNC had a strong defensive performance, especially in the second half, but Kenny Williams was definitely one of the biggest reasons why.
Just remember folks: whatever happens on earth stays on earth (bonus points if you understand the reference).
The Defensive Revival
I have never been so happy to be able to type this: Duke did NOT shoot 50% from three. There was no 15-30 clip, there was no shooter that got particularly hot — UNC managed to figure out how to slow down one of the best offensive teams in the country.
Everything just looked better on the defensive side of the ball for UNC: they played better against ball screens, they didn’t allow nearly as many open / lightly-contested shots, and despite struggles in the paint early, they managed to figure out how to keep Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. from doing as much damage as we’ve seen them do to teams throughout this season. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing Theo Pinson stand up to the six-foot-eleven star freshman in Bagley and visibly affect his shots in the paint.
Joel Berry spoke with reporters earlier in this week about how he sent videos of Virginia’s defense to his teammates to provide examples of what they need to do in order to fix the issues they have been having as of late:
“Virginia is one of the best defensive teams in the nation,” Berry said after the Tar Heels beat the Panthers 96-56. “I watched one of their games (Satur)day -- against Clemson. I recorded a couple of them on my phone and put them in our group chat and told (the guys), ‘This is how we have to play the screen on ball and this is how our defense has to be.’
”I think guys saw that and took that out onto the court.”
We thank you Joel Berry for your dedication to the cause. Now, let’s try to keep Allerik Freeman from shooting 7-7 from three Saturday afternoon.
Theo Pinson continues to be key to UNC’s success
It goes without saying that we are very used to Theo Pinson’s box stats not always reflecting just how important he is for UNC. This game was yet another example, as Theo finished the game with 4 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He did manage to get into foul trouble late in the game, but when he came back in the game he wisely avoided getting fouled out and even put the exclamation point on the game with a big dunk in the final seconds.
As I mentioned above, Pinson was instrumental in what he did on the defensive side of the ball. It cannot be said enough that UNC will sorely miss what Pinson is able to do each and every night, being able to play pretty much any position on the floor and play it well. No matter who he was assigned to throughout this game, that particular player had to work hard for every point they got. There is no telling how many looks the likes of Bagley, Bolden, and Carter would’ve gotten without Pinson in the game (though to be fair: Brooks, Maye, and Johnson also did well themselves against the trio). It will be extremely important for Theo to stay out of foul trouble Saturday, and if so, the celebration will continue until the Heels return to the Dean Dome to take on Notre Dame.
And as always....
Go to Hell Duke.