North Carolina has some things to figure out after its 83-59 loss at No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday night. ROBERT WILLETT
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — North Carolina entered its game at top-ranked Indiana on Tuesday night expecting to learn a lot about itself. Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they learned they weren’t prepared for the kind of challenge they faced inside Assembly Hall.
The look back at the Heels’ lopsided defeat:
Three things to take away from UNC’s loss:
1. The Tar Heels are a long way from where they hoped they might be.
It’s not the least bit surprising that UNC is still evolving after losing four starters who were all selected among the top 17 picks in the NBA draft. That’s understandable. What is surprising, though, is just how far away UNC seems to be. After the game was tied at 31 with about four minutes to play in the first half, the Hoosiers dominated the Heels as if they were a lower-tier team from the Southern Conference.
2. Seven games in, UNC appears to have major problems on the interior.
Entering the season, we knew that the Heels lacked depth and proven production on the interior. James Michael McAdoo was the lone returning forward who played meaningful minutes a season ago, and he’s not exactly a traditional post player. Now, though, it’s clearer than ever that UNC is lacking on the inside. The problems are twofold: Offensively, UNC doesn’t have a reliable interior scoring option. McAdoo is more comfortable shooting medium-range jumpers than finishing in the paint, and Brice Johnson, who had some nice moments at Indiana, needs to become stronger with the ball. Defensively, the Heels have lacked toughness on the interior – especially when it comes to rebounding and limiting second-chance opportunities.
3. What happened to the 3-point shot?
The Heels were just 1-for-8 on 3-pointers against Indiana. Not only is that representative of a poor percentage, but it’s also a surprisingly-low number of attempts. Throughout coach Roy Williams’ tenure at UNC, opposing teams have used 3-pointers as a way to neutralize the Tar Heels’ talent. So, with a supposed abundance of shooters, why can’t UNC employ the same strategy this season? Yes, Williams prefers for his offenses to rely on interior players first, and to go through the post. And yes, the Heels were without P.J. Hairston on Tuesday night. But they still had Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald, Dexter Strickland and Marcus Paige – all of whom believe they are capable shooters from the perimeter.
BY THE NUMBERS
4 – blocked shots for Cody Zeller, who also finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
8 – assists for UNC, on 26 made shots. That’s not the kind of ratio, not even close, that Roy Williams wants to see.
19 – points off of turnovers for Indiana, which maximized the Heels’ 12 turnovers.
19 (again) – second-chance points for Indiana, which had 15 offensive rebounds.
22 – combined points for UNC frontcourt players Desmond Hubert, James Michael McAdoo, Joel James and Brice Johnson.
46 – points in the paint for Indiana, which outscored the Heels 46-34 there.
UNC player of the game: Though it’s not saying much, Dexter Strickland played about as well as anyone for the Heels. He finished with 14 points, three assists and no turnovers. There were long stretches when Strickland was in charge of the Heels’ offense, with Marcus Paige sidelined by early foul trouble.
Observations and thoughts:
--A lot about his team’s performance on Tuesday night bothered Williams. One of the things that had to be most troubling was how often Indiana beat the Tar Heels in transition for easy baskets. Zeller was especially adept at running the floor and getting behind the defense in transition. Watching Zeller, Williams said he was reminded of how Tyler Zeller used to run the floor during his days at UNC.
--Even while UNC hung around early, the Tar Heels weren’t necessarily sharp. Only six of UNC’s 16 first-half field goals came with assists, and that was indicative of the Heels’ offensive inefficiency. Most of the Tar Heels’ made shots during the first half came off of broken plays, or as a result of improvisation. Even when the game was tied at 31, UNC was having to work much harder for its points, while scoring came more easily for Indiana.
--Williams said he’d never heard of Indiana guards Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo when they were in high school. Williams knows plenty about them now, though. Hulls scored 13 points and added eight assists and seven rebounds. He didn’t have at turnover. Oladipo finished with 19 points and four rebounds.
--After a one-game absence from the starting lineup, Desmond Hubert started again on Tuesday and finished with no points or rebounds in seven minutes. He did have one assist and one blocked shot. Williams said on Monday that he had “no idea” who he’d start at that position – whether it’d be Hubert, Johnson or somebody else – and who to start there will likely to continue to be an ongoing debate for Williams.
“The good news for them is that we’re getting close to the exam period and a couple of things going on tomorrow, so the greatest thing that’s ever happened to the North Carolina basketball team at this point is that we have no practice tomorrow.” –UNC coach Roy Williams
After five consecutive games on the road, the Tar Heels return home for a Saturday game against UAB, which is coached by former longtime Heels assistant coach Jerrod Haase.