North Carolina’s loss highlights a serious flaw in its game
North Carolina’s flaws were exposed in a surprising 90-80 loss to UNLV Saturday night. But I didn’t expect the frontcourt to be one of those problems.
Neither did coach Roy Williams.
“We could never get our focus offensively the entire game,” Williams said. “What killed us, they got 20 points on offensive rebounds to our six.”
That was a start. The Tar Heels’ NBA-ready frontcourt of Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson combined to shoot 11-34 and committed five turnovers. Zeller played just 24 minutes because of foul trouble and Barnes was nursing an ankle injury throughout the second half, but Mike Moser, Bryce Massamba and Chace Stanback outplayed them in nearly every facet, mostly because the Heels seemed so passive.
The other major issue? Point guard Kendall Marshall’s inability to defend quicker guards – Oscar Bellfield torched him for 16 points and nine assists – which will certainly surface again this week when he faces Kentucky’s Marquis Teague. (Though Dexter Strickland may be tasked with that.)
Also perplexing? The Heels’ poor shooting inside the arc. Their 3-point shooting will be hot and cold all season, but the 2-point buckets should come a little easier. Yet Tar Heel Fan notes that UNC made just 32.2 percent of their 2s in the second half. That’s unacceptable for a team this talented.
Scarier for UNC should be their trends on the offensive glass. Again, from Tar Heel Fan:
This hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I was surprised that we didn’t rebound the basketball better,” Williams said. “I was surprised about a lot of things we didn’t do. We have to be stronger with the basketball. We have to guard the basketball better. We never did get the flow going. We have to be whole lot more patient.”
UNC’s timing couldn’t be worse, either. Next up are Wisconsin (Wednesday) and Kentucky (Saturday), the two top teams in kenpom.com’s ratings. The Heels are certainly capable of winning both, but they’ll have to be more precise against the Badgers and more aggressive against Kentucky.
Nothing like some March-esque games in early December.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.