Rebounding the difference as Texas clips No. 3 North Carolina
Entering Saturday’s game at Texas No. 3 North Carolina was ranked sixth in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, as opponents were managing to grab just 21.4 percent of their available offensive rebounds. That wasn’t the case in Austin, and it was fitting that Javan Felix’s jumper as time expired to give the Longhorns the 84-82 victory came on a second-chance opportunity.
Texas grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, which worked out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 41 percent and 21 second-chance points. In a game that played as if the team with the ball last would win, the rebounding was the biggest separator between the two teams.
Texas senior center Cameron Ridley, who grabbed six offensive rebounds and finished the game with 12 points and 13 rebounds, proved to be the toughest matchup for North Carolina on the boards. Ridley outplayed Kennedy Meeks, who finished with four points and six rebounds and struggled defensively when involved in ball screens. That led to Meeks at times being replaced by the slender Isaiah Hicks, who chipped in with 14 points and three rebounds off the bench.
Hicks’ contributions were key, especially when also considering Brice Johnson’s early foul trouble, but the Tar Heels’ lack of rebounding ultimately caught up to them.
Ridley wasn’t the only Longhorn who gave North Carolina issues either. Felix scored 25 points, combining with fellow guard Isaiah Taylor to score 43 points on the day. Add in 16 points and four rebounds off the bench from Eric Davis Jr., and Texas’ three most effective guards outscored the North Carolina triumvirate of Marcus Paige, Joel Berry II and Nate Britt 59-33.
While Paige scored 20 points to lead North Carolina, Berry (eight points, no assists) and Nate Britt (five points, two assists) were largely ineffective against the Texas perimeter. That represents a step back for those two, who had played well for the Tar Heels to this point in the season.
Of course, whether or not a foul should have been called when Connor Lammert ran into Marcus Paige before Felix’s shot will be debated ad nauseum. But when looking at why Texas had a chance to win the game, look no further than the rebounding numbers. North Carolina didn’t take care of business on the defensive glass as they had in their first eight games, and in the end they paid for it.