Well, anyone who asks for more offense after UNC’s opener has certainly been rewarded, as the Heels hit the milestone of the century on Friday night against College of Charleston after only getting the Chapel Hill crowd their cookies. coveted once all last season. On the other hand, however, all of the defensive prowess from Game 1 seemed to evaporate against the Cougars, and we ended up with a game quite similar to last year on the CofC floor. As we begin to find out what this team is and will be, here are a few things we took away from the win:
In a bumpy first half, nine Tar Heels got minutes: The starters – Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Leaky Black, Pete Nance and Armando Bacot – were helped by Seth Trimble and D’Marco Dunn, who were the first to come off the bench, as well as Tyler Nickel and Dontrez Styles. Dunn led the reserves with 7 minutes, Nickel and Trimble played 6, and Styles returned to the sidelines after 5, for a total of 24 minutes off the bench out of 100. All played good minutes, at the exception maybe of Styles, but couldn’t really turn the game around from a 1-2 lead in possession of Cougar. In the second half, even after the starting five brought the Heels level and looked like they were finally in the game, Hubert Davis didn’t seem to trust his bench to keep that momentum going. Trimble played a big five minutes where his defensive energy seemed to elevate the team, and Dunn and Nickel came in for about a minute each just to test out some defensive clashes it seems, but that’s 92 minutes in the second half played by the starters, with Amour never leaving the ground. Last year’s Iron Five was, according to the man himself, a feature of Davis losing bench players he could trust. But at the start of the season, it now looks like he has to unlearn that mentality a bit. He has good reserves and can isolate them with different starting formations, and needs to be slower to press the panic button that triggered last year’s race.
The game against UNCW was a bit of a surprise as the Heels struggled to handle pressure, use screens effectively and move the ball (as we were repeatedly reminded on the show). Friday night, the Heels had only 4 assists in their first game), and played the game at sea hawksicy pace. In this game, though it may have been the other team dictating the tempo again – this time the other way around – the Heels were up to the challenge. Even though the usual offensive threats looked struggling, UNC as a team got hot and stayed hot, helped early by Leaky Black’s front two three. Black would finish 6 for 6 from the floor for 15 points. UNC were 50% from the ground in the first half, before hitting different equipment in the second and hitting better than 71% of their shots, including 19/21 of their two-point attempts as they found ways to space the Cougars and get the ball over the edge. UNC’s presumptive top scorers Love and Bacot poured it in the second half, with Love scoring 17 of 25 and Bacot 27 of 28 in the period. And speaking of tempo, the Heels also beat the Cougars in quick break points, 19-6, which was often a problem for this team last year – Caleb Love in particular seems much more comfortable doing so. the break and finish with a last-line defender. Although they weren’t able to regain the defensive mojo from Monday’s game, this game, especially the second half, was a welcome reminder of what they are capable of on the attacking side – and they don’t. didn’t even reach their three.
For the second game in a row, UNC was passed by a smaller team, and while the overall number of rebounds didn’t matter to me, what matters is that CofC mustered 15 offensive boards for a 38% offensive rebound rate and scored 15 second-chance points. out of them, which ended up being a big reason for them building a first-half lead. And even more concerning was the How? ‘Or’ What of this one. Armando Bacot, the nation’s leading rebounder last year, looked slow to read the ball off the edge and did not box effectively, and while his rebound impact was greater than the 6 officially credited to him due to several key tips. , he was a far cry from the dominant board presence we had come to expect. Pete Nance still seems to be adjusting to the physique he has to play with in a UNC jersey, as he was consistently beaten for rebounds by smaller players and finished with just one plateau for the game. And all the UNC reserves, playing wing positions where they’re supposed to bounce, still haven’t gotten their hands in shape to be able to really grab the ball and end possessions – that’s especially a problem for Donrez Styles, who only has one. moving away from being a complete enforcer defensively if he can just hang on to the ball. Most of UNC’s rebounding work, even in the second half as the Heels overtook the CofC, was done by guards, especially Caleb Love, who led both teams with 9 boards with a few catches that would make Josh Downs proud.
I think improvement on that front will have to start with Nance playing to his size, either taking advantage of the attention given to Bacot by opposing boxers or forcing them to commit to him as well and freeing the hands of Bacot to do what they do. We’ll see if he can make that adjustment, in the same way that Brady Manek had to learn how to defend himself more in the position, going forward. But I think we’ve seen enough of that through two games to see it as more than a blip.