Turnovers and aggressive play ruled in Cameron Indoor Stadium as #22 UNC swept the season series to end #11 Duke’s undefeated home season and chance for the Blue Devils to take first place and top seed in the ACC Tournament.
UNC makes statement 91-71 over Clemson
Let’s not overstate it, but the North Carolina team that we expected to see all year finally arrived! Steady defense and attention to detail carried the day. Good shot selection off of extra passes and focused guard play helped to show just how good this team can be if they play smartly with a sense of urgency on offense and defense as they did on Saturday.
Little things matter. Who handles the ball and who moves to get open to receive a pass when a teammate is double-teamed. Who plays within the flow of the game, and who dictates the tempo. Leaky Black handling the ball more and initiating the offense was one of many changes that helped UNC’s outlook. Basketball ball is simple. UNC made it hard before this game. It was also a positive sign to see substitutions early in the first half of the game and to see all five starters taken out of the game with 4:22 on the clock. The backups also maintained the lead to close the game. Can the fun continue? We will find out on Monday when Miami comes to town.
Black history moment for ACC officials
James Burch became the first African-American to officiate an ACC basketball game in 1969. Fifty-three years later three African-American officials, Ted Valentine, Jemel Spearman, and Clarence Armstrong called the game between UNC and Clemson in Chapel Hill.
UNC improving rotation
A few weeks back I said D’Marco Dunn was North Carolina’s 2nd best defensive player and messaged that I liked the way he was playing. Response: “Hmm…”
Since that time, Dunn has missed six games due to injury and returned to contribute over 17 minutes a game, shoot 61 percent from the field, 45 percent from three-point range and is perfect from the free throw line! He has also grabbed 8 rebounds and four steals since returning, while only committing three turnovers and showing his strength on defense. Dunn has clearly taken advantage of his time on the floor and is proving to be a valuable contributor for the Tar Heels.
Injuries force changes
Injuries to starters Pete Nance and Armando Bacot have forced Hubert Davis out of his seemingly too short substitution pattern and opened the floor to more playing time for players like Dontrez Styles. Up to the Louisville game, Styles had gotten less playing time than expected this year. Styles waited patiently for an opportunity to contribute. He did not disappoint on Saturday. Puff Johnson has also seen increased playing time and produced. Jalen Washington has been on the floor more recently and shown promise. While Seth Trimble, Justin McKoy, and Tyler Nickel have seen fairly regular playing time, each has limitations that have been a concern. Trimble and McKoy contribute nicely on defense but have shown limited abilities in providing consistent offense. Nickel has a reputation of being able to score, but struggles on defense, and has not scored enough consistently to offset his lack of defensive presence. Dunn, Styles, Johnson, and Washington have more range in their games to be able to hold up on both ends of the floor.
Every game offers different obstacles. The bottom line, as with any team, is UNC needs players with different strengths to win consistently against the multiple styles of play that they face each game. Players have to adjust within games, make plays and pay attention to how the game is being called. Coaches, including Davis and his assistants, have to do more than speak of the talents and abilities of players that are receiving limited playing time. They have to actually give those players real opportunities to deliver on the floor! Simply trust their own words. Substitution patterns and rotations naturally evolve throughout the season and more often, necessarily, within games. Confidently leaning more on the strengths of the bench will help this team perform more consistently like the team most expected when the season started.
1 – UNC 84 – NC State 74. They did what they had to do and move to 21-8 overall 13-5 in conference play.
2 – Armando Bacot was super with 28 points and 18 rebounds. Just work to avoid the touch fouls and stay in the game.
3 – Brady Manek continues to give solid play. Improved defense and rebounding are very noticeable.
4 – Puff Johnson had a career game with 16 points and 5 rebounds while filling in for the Leaky Black who left the game before halftime with a knee sprain and did not play in the second half.
5 – RJ Davis had a quiet, controlled offensive game while playing great defense.
6 – Caleb Love added 16 points and played a good defensive game but continues to turn the ball over at a high rate and continues to make questionable decisions on the offensive end.
7 – Winning by 10 is great. Not scoring in the last 2:07 and allowing NC State to score the last 9 points of the game is concerning.
8 – Key to next game for UNC: Be happy with this win, stay on the game plan, be smarter with fouls and decision making. Don’t look ahead. Remember that the next game is not important until after you win this game.
9 – Avoiding history – NC State needs to win one of their last two games to avoid being the first team in school history to lose 20 conference games.
10 – Any team can win it. As of this post, two games separate the top four teams in the conference with one week to go in the regular season.
From the seats.