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UNC vs. Rutgers: Beyond the Box

I am going to state the obvious here: Good riddance, 2010!  While 2010 will never be a year that Carolina fans spend much (any??) time reminiscing about, the current squad has at least done a solid job of sending it out on a high note.  Tuesday night’s 23-point win over Rutgers gave the Heels consecutive 20-point victories for the first time since the 2009 team closed out 2008 (December 20th, 28th and 31st) with 3 straight, 20-point wins.  This current streak certainly won’t erase the rest of the year’s performance, but it certainly gives fans a reason to be optimistic heading into 2011.

Four Factors

This game is pretty easy to sum up:  UNC shot well (eFG%: 55.6), Rutgers did not (eFG%: 38.1), and UNC completely dominated the defensive boards (Rutgers’ OR%: 16.7).  On offense, Carolina was especially proficient behind the arc, nailing double-digits in three-point field goals for the 3rd time this season, which is exactly three more times than the team did all of last season.  After going 38 for 120 from three (31.7%; approximately 4-13 per game) in their first 9 games, the Heels have now gone 32 for 79 (40.5%; approximately 8-20 per game) in their last four.  In a season that has already seen several (dramatic) improvements, this has the potential to be the most important.  If this team can maintain a 3-point shooting percentage between 37.0-40.0% for the rest of the season, then it will have all the parts to be very dangerous in the ACC and beyond.

Statistical Highlights

  • For the second straight game, UNC was able to force a team that had not played in a game with more than 70 possessions into a 75-possession game.  Carolina is now dictating the style of play, instead of having it dictated to them, and this is great to see.
  • Carolina had their best night of the season on the defensive boards (DR%: 83.3) despite the fact that John Henson was a non-factor (DR% 9.0).  UNC made up for this with a true team effort, as 7 regulars had individual defensive rebounding percentages greater than 10.0, led by Tyler Zeller’s season high DR% of 31.7.
  • While Henson did not do much on the boards, he did contribute on the defensive end, producing his 4th game of the season with a block percentage of greater than 20%.
  • No substitution data is available, so there are no +/- numbers or Roland Ratings.

Beyond the Box Player of the Game

Before naming the POG for the Rutgers game, let’s first take a look at the top five ORtgs for the Tar Heels (minimum possession percentage: 10%):

J. Watts165.0410084.7n/a
L. Drew II153.0587.587.5n/a
L. McDonald145.5677.777.7n/a
R. Bullock 137.8542.842.8n/a
J. Knox118.85100.0100.0n/a

First, another well deserved tip of the hat to Justin Watts, who has not only provided energy and (super) athleticism off of the bench, but has also proven to be a pretty efficient player on the offensive end.  Watts numbers so far this year compare quite favorably to the numbers posted during the junior year of the last player Kryzyzewski “let get out of Durham,” David Noel.  It is (highly) unlikely that Watts will get the chance to really blossom like Noel did during his senior year, but if he continues his current level of play, he will certainly be able to help UNC win a lot of games.

PlayerPTS/40REB/40AST/403P% ORtg
Justin Watts (2010-11) 108.2
David Noel (2004-05)

As for the the Player of the Game, while Watts definitely warranted consideration, the honor really does have to go to Leslie McDonald, who not only led the team in scoring, but was also the only Heel to post double-digit rebounding percentages on both the offensive (14.2) and defensive (11.9) boards.  So far this season, McDonald has demonstrated an elite ability to produce points, having already scored 14 or more points 4 times, all while playing no more than 17 minutes in any game.  Consistency is still a question mark, but should he smooth out his play (while maintaining a 3P% around 40.0-43.0%), then he will become an enormous weapon for the Heels going forward.

Note: For reference, a full stats glossary can be found at StatSheet.com

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49 comments to UNC vs. Rutgers: Beyond the Box

  • Heel To The End

    no bonus pts pushing Watts over the top from John Saunders being so utterly clueless about him?

    still have a football game on the 2010 schedule, but yeah, its going to be great putting this year 6 ft under. maybe 10.

  • 52bgJ

    just as well that Rat passes Dean in the last week of 10 as well. Purge!

  • rathskellar68

    Big Game -

    Amen to that.

    How was today’s visit?

  • LarryS

    It’s good to see the ball go in the basket from outside anytime, but, as someone commented the other day in relation to how McDonald seems to have his best shooting games against weaker teams, I would like to see the Heels do it against some of the better teams. Then I’ll be convinced about their true potential.

    UNC has averaged fewer than 4 made 3-pointers in their 4 losses, and the win against Ky., with only a single 3-pointer, could have gone the other way without Zeller’s heroics down the stretch.

    I think, to establish a truly balanced offense, the Heels need to keep the scoring average close to where it is now, have 3-pointers represent maybe 26-27% of scoring (season avg. is 20.5%), and ideally shoot, as C.Michael suggested, 37%-40% from long-range. That would be around 6-7 treys per game on 16 to 18 attempts, and I believe they have the shooters to pull it off.

    Considering, though, the fleeting aspect of long-range consistency, I still believe the offense should begin with a frontcourt-oriented approach and let the outside take its course. If they can get both working at the same time, then this team will take off.

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    I will never get used to a team in Carolina Blue shooting 52% from the free throw line.

    it is always inexcusable, has already lost us games this year, and will lose the Heels at least 2 ACC games before March.

  • LarryS

    ^They might have won the Minnesota game with better FT shooting-it depends on how they handled the front/back ends of 1 and 1′s. But with a simple percentage improvement, they would have had to shoot 80% vs. 60% to get the 5 extra points to just tie.

    They shot 67% FT (not so bad) in the Vandy loss , so I don’t think it cost them there. Same in the Texas game, where they shot 75%FT. Two or three more would have done it against Texas, but it wasn’t really reasonable to expect much higher than 75%FT shooting.

    With a 12 point loss to Ill., they would have really had to do something special at the FT line to turn their 8 of 17 shooting into 13 extra points.

    And they won the Ky. game because of clutch FT shooting down the stretch.

    So, all in all, I don’t think FT shooting has really cost them but possibly one game, if that, and actually helped them win an important one.

  • Heel To The End

    ^i dont look at it quite that simply, as just final margin.
    expand a lead and the other team plays differently.
    narrow a margin, and the other team plays differently.
    so there are in game reasons to make your FTs.
    not to mention that drawing a foul and getting nothing is a lost possession.

  • 52bgJ

    we can go back & forth all day on this but it also seems to hold that some of Roy’s teams don’t handle prosperity very well (esp the young ones) so like I said before, if some of the other tangibles (ie-free throws) is weak enough to require them to clamp down consistently on defense, then so be it and I think they will be better for it.

    cold & barren rath thank-you, lol, but a good & enlightening visit. she’s got the in-state stats on her side 83/17% acceptance out of 4000 undergrad admissions-we’ll know by March.
    Mama Dips still rocks!

  • LarryS

    ^^True, final margin is a simplistic way to look at it. And I know all these things CAN happen, to your benefit, from making FT’s….. I just don’t know IF they would, and how you quantify them and turn them into points. That gets to be a certain amount of guesswork and what-ifs in itself.

    My main point is, I really only see one game UNC might have lost primarily because of relatively poor FT shooting (60% vs.Minn.), and that is questionable, especially considering that Minn. shot essentially the same FT% that UNC did. Couldn’t one as easily say Minn. would have won by more if they hadn’t shot FT’s so poorly?

    The other loss, where UNC shot poorly at the line (47% vs. Illinois), I believe was primarily a result of other, more compelling reasons, such as giving up 50.8% FG and 66.7% 3 pt. and committing 18 TO’s.

  • faustus1500

    I am going to hate myself for saying this but why not have Watts start on the wing instead of Barnes. Barnes can come off the bench as the sixth man until he really gets a handle of his game.

  • Heel To The End

    i think 90% of the problem would be eliminated if Roy simply told him he couldnt shoot any 3s in the first half.
    post up. drive. use that good fake and step in.

  • CarMichael

    “I want to slap John Henson every time he’s laughing and smiling after bricking a pair of FTs. Nice effort, bud.”

    This is really a terrible comment, clueless as well as ill-tempered. Does the poster really believe anyone misses FTs because they aren’t giving “effort”? Henson misses because he is nervous and trying too hard. If he would smile and relax BEFORE he shoots, he would probably do better. It has been well publicized that Henson shoots FTs just fine in practice.

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    it is ill-tempered, but not clueless, so you’re half right.

    if he had any self discipline, he’d be a better FT shooter; there’s no other explanation for a high D1 player. Self discipline, which he lacks.

    I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but that doesn’t preclude my gut reaction (of which I’m not proud; I’m just being honest in sharing my thoughts) in any way.

  • “I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but that doesn’t preclude my gut reaction (of which I’m not proud; I’m just being honest in sharing my thoughts) in any way.”

    There is a simple solution here:

    If you are not proud of it, don’t post it.

    This isn’t one of THF’s rules, but it is common sense. The beauty of the internet is it allows those who are so inclined to self-filter their thoughts before they are made public. A little more of that would be appreciated.

    Comments, questions, complaints and criticisms can all stimulate the conversation; the keyboard-commando stuff adds nothing.

  • logic

    ^’JohnBrownsBooty’ should NOT write that he/she is not proud of the fact that our beloved UNC Basketball team has a player who might lack the self discipline inherit in most previous Tarheel players? This seems strange.

    I think it was one of the most insightful comments in the thread. Let’s face it - the major problem with this team has been self discipline. I think we all know (at least in our gut) this has been an undisciplined team that has often lacked heart and desire. Was it just me, or was this the overriding reason we ended up in the NIT last year? Was the 2006 team that much more talented than last year’s team? I don’t think so.

    So, I have to say (and I am not proud of it either) that this team has lacked discipline, and I will add, heart. However, I am optimistic and also observe that they are slowly learning to be more disciplined and play with heart. I am proud of this.

  • The original comment has since been edited (by me). What should not be written (and what he is not proud of) is his desire to slap/jab/hit Henson when he misses free-throws.

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    no, Henson’s apparent lack of concern that he continues to shoot free throws like a 4th grader is the problem. everybody misses sometimes, and everybody has a bad day sometimes. The problem isn’t the missing, it’s the obvious lack of self-discipline needed to fix it that frustrates me, and which caused me to express my unfortunate gut-reaction.

    logic is right, and so am I: the team for the last year and a half has, to anyone whose light blue tinted glasses aren’t too blinding, glaringly lacked discipline, heart, and desire. I’m upset by that, apparently more so than some members of the team are. It’s the fundamental problem with this team since May of 2009, and winning or losing every game wouldn’t make it less true. Coach Smith taught that how you play the game matters paramount; how most of these players play the game is at less than their best, and Henson’s obvious lack of concern to remedy his FT shooting to at least Shaq levels is but one example of that.

    You don’t have to try as hard as Tyler Hansbrough every time, but playing hard like my man Justin Knox would be just fine.

  • LarryS

    “it’s the obvious lack of self-discipline needed to fix it that frustrates me, and which caused me to express my unfortunate gut-reaction.”

    If it is so obvious, maybe you could elaborate with examples of his lack of self-discipline. What would be your suggestions for his improvement, and how sure are you he is not already doing these things?

  • partsman5521

    JBB, how on earth can you say anything about Henson’s heart or discipline? It’s a known fact that some taller players have trouble with their ft’s. If you don’t see that he tries his very best on offense and defense every play then we are not watching the same game. His shot,blocks and rebounding are at least twice as better than last year, he’s learning. His ft’s will get better in time. He probably won’t be a 75,80 or 90% guy but he is a player. I think we can live with a 50% guy with what else he does for this team.

    Give the guy a break…….

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    you can’t quantify lazy. It’s a qualitative, eyeball measure.

    and if you can’t see the difference between the effort and desire of players like Knox and Marshall vs. Drew and Henson, then your light blue glasses are blinding you pollyannas.

    “tall guys struggle with free throws”?

    pure moose excrement. He’s not Georghe Muresan or Shawn Bradley. He’s 6’10″.

    He shoots FTs like he’s 3’10″.

    Self-discipline makes you a better FT shooter, not being short.

    he’s not a 50% guy, and what he ‘does for the team’ is moot in all those close ACC games where Roy can’t leave him on the court because of his massive liability at the line. Look at the TX game, where they beat the Heels due to their domination of the glass. Having Henson (who is a great athlete, but a fully unskilled basketball player) on the court then would certainly have helped.

    My original comment was bourne out of frustration that he doesn’t seem to really care that his FT shooting is so abominable. It’s not that he misses, it’s that he obviously has no concern to get better.

    On second thought, I blame John Shoop for Henson’s FT shooting.
    Can we agree?

  • “and if you can’t see the difference between the effort and desire of players like Knox and Marshall ”

    Marshall is a 46% free-throw shooter…

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    exactly, which I can excuse due to the hustle and improvement in the rest of his game.

    Also, due to his position and minutes played, his terrible FT % has much less bearing than Henson’s.

    I’ll take it that you agree with the gist of my point, since this is the only, slightly relevant, nit you can pick.

    Also: I really like J Knox.

  • No, I don’t agree with an iota of your point. I was pointing out how faulty your argument that, “Self-discipline makes you a better FT shooter,” is by noting that one of the players that you do commend for his “effort” is also a terrible free-throw shooter.

    And by the way, point guard is the position where it is MOST critical that the player be a good free-throw shooter.

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    because you can’t trust any obvious observation that its qualitative.

    even when the naked eye shows that the hustle, heart, and effort of Henson and Marshall couldn’t be different.

    what’s the sample size of Marshall’s FT attempts?
    of Henson’s?
    Who’s been fouled more?
    who’s more likely to be fouled more often?

    Your expectations of Henson and the rest of the team are so low. Mine are only for them to live up to modest potential.

  • LarryS

    My end-of-the-year nomination for hypercritical, unfounded, and eyesight-challenged commentary goes to JBB.

    Anyone who seriously questions John Hensons’ heart and effort, a player that became sort of the soul of the team late last year and continues to be one of its most energetic influences, has got to be a pair of brown shoes while everyone else is a tuxedo.

  • makeitWayne22

    Henson is the best rebounder and defensive player on the team. He averages almost 3 blocks a game. That out weighs his free throws. The team is young, and lacks a true leader, John at least trys to lead.

  • makeitWayne22

    Anyways that pass Kendall made to Knox for the dunk was a thing of beauty. Kendall is going to rack up some assists.

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    hows about this:

    we’ll put a moratorium on this conversation until late March.

    If I’m wrong, which I certainly hope to be, I’ll gladly admit it.

    There’s no use continuing the carousel on this topic any more at this point.

  • LarryS

    ^Good idea.

    Not to pick nits, but your incorrect assessment of John Henson (that he doesn’t have heart and effort and that he lacks self-discipline), and the particular things with which I took issue, has nothing to do with what happens between now and late March, as if future success might indicate he has corrected these things….they don’t need correcting to begin with because they are non-existent.

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    whether my assessment is correct or not is indeed the question; it’s my view that his self-discipline and heart need correction. You disagree.

    we’ll revisit it in late March.

  • drdave

    ^ I’ve been reading the comments, I don’t see it. Parts of Henson’s game HAVE improved. He now has a duck under pivot move he uses in the paint with his right hand off the glass or straight at the rim, and a left-handed hook which is actually reliable, as opposed to it last year where he just looked like he was throwing the ball in the ocean. It’s obvious he worked on these things this summer. He’s a lottery pick either way, if he didn’t give a s**t he wouldn’t have made those improvements.

    You misinterpret Henson’s facial reactions- the fact is that he is ENJOYING playing the game. He’s relaxed, but don’t assume that because he is relaxed he lacks discipline. Do you have any idea how good Harrison Barnes would be if he had the same attitude, rather then being all stiff, thinking about being perfect, and playing like he has the world on his shoulders?

    Free throws? Some people just CANNOT shoot free throws- ask Shaq. How many “shot doctors” and times after practice has he spent? It’s well documented. He still can’t shoot them.

  • faustus1500

    Wow. How about College of Charleston? They are taking the Vols to the woodshed.

  • ^And Kentucky won by 15 at Louisville. Could be a real good day for UNC’s SOS…

  • scl11

    Unless you are at every practice and observe every free moment that John Henson does or could spend working on his free throw shooting I do not understand how you proclaim he lacks self discipline.

    I agree that a 3rd grader could shoot free throws better, but from my vantage point the issues with Henson’s free throw shooting appear to be more mental than self discipline in nature, especially since my only insight would be the games that I have seen Henson play. Maybe JBB has a webcam hooked up to Henson’s room and can tap into the security cameras at the DESC where he is able get a more detailed glimpses into John Henson’s self discipline issues.

  • Heel To The End

    ^^^^the difference here being that if we are to believe Roy, Henson has made 75% in practice.
    i still say its his motor racing at 1000 rpms that makes it difficult for him to judge how much force his 8-segmented arm needs to get the ball to fall right in the hoop when he has to calm himself and stand still.
    almost all of his FTs are on line, they are just varied distances.

  • drdave


    It won’t even come down to SOS as far as us making the tournament this year. We will be 12-4 at minimum in the conference. Assuming tomorrow’s night’s last non-conference game that will put us at 22-8 going into the ACC tournament- we will be well above the bubble. By the way, as much as people talk about struggles and question marks with the team, our conference is AWFUL- I’m stretching to find 4 losses in the conference. W/O Irving I don’t think Duke will beat us twice, and we don’t even play at Va Tech. or Maryland this year, either.

  • ^Oh, I agree. I was just thinking about it for seeding… ;)

    And you are spot on about the ACC schedule. Other than at Duke, UNC will likely be the favorite in 14 of their first 15 ACC games, and by March 5, I wouldn’t be surprised if they can give Duke a run at home. 12-4 is completely possible, and might end up being 3-4 games clear of the 3rd place team, as I think the rest of the league is going to struggle to win more than on game in a row.

  • On a different note, it is interesting to see CoC running at will against UT (a team known to play up-tempo), and yet in two games against UNC, they did everything they could to slow it down. Just goes to show how feared UNC’s fast break offense really is.

  • Heel To The End

    ^^i’m not counting any of those 12 chickens before they hatch.
    we might come out of the gate with a loss to Virginia for all i know.

  • CarMichael

    As a physical action, FT shooting is the easiest thing in sports. Any unimpaired person can do it. A random selection of a dozen non-athletic 15-year-old girls could probably learn to shoot 60-70% in practice with a lot less practice than Henson has had. But put them on national TV with a game on the line and it would be more like 10% or 20%. FT shooting is like putting or relief pitching, it’s all about nerves. It’s nothing like taking a shot in the flow of action. That’s why some outstanding BB players can’t shoot free throws.

    Bad FT shooting is 90% mental if you have poor form and shooting touch, or 100% mental if you have decent form and shooting touch, as Henson does have. It has nothing to do with self-discipline or effort, everything to do with fear of failure and remembering how awful that last airball was. So you clench up and spazz and can’t perform a simple motor series smoothly.

  • FT shooting is about routine, execution and trying not overthink something that is really easy to overthink. Catching the ball off a screen, turning and popping a jumper is all reaction. It is almost instinctive so there is not much chance to think about it, you just do what you have skills to do. FT shooting, because you stand at the line, you can think about it and in some ways psych yourself out.

  • LarryS

    Nerves and the compounding effect of not seeing the ball go in the basket. Once he can break the mental cycle he should improve rapidly. His form looks pretty good, and he seems to get good rotation and shoot on line.

    One thing I think would benefit him (and I really haven’t observed his arc that closely) is to try to stay relaxed and maintain the proper arc on his shots. His arms are so long, and his release point so high, that his shots can easily flatten out if he tightens up.

  • JohnBrownsBooty

    fair enough:

    JH isn’t lazy; he lacks the mental toughness and self-discipline to improve his FT shooting above 50%.

    I also agree with the above statement that perhaps if we could swap Henson and Barnes’ brains, they’d both be better off.


  • Heel To The End

    how many points per yr are not scored because no one is man enough to shoot underhanded, no one knows how to use the glass on jumpers, and no one shoots the true hook anymore?

  • LarryS

    Rick Barry has advocated this for years and years. Wilt Chamberlain’s FT’s improved when he went underhanded. He later went back to overhanded because, as he said, “I felt silly- like a sissy.”

    Now who in their right mind was going to call Wilt Chamberlain a sissy? I suppose that may be one reason he slept with all those women; to make up for the underhanded-free-throw years.

    Oh, and by the way, I think Tim Duncan’s mid-range bank shot is one of the prettiest shots in basketball.

  • CarMichael

    “Nerves and the compounding effect of not seeing the ball go in the basket.”

    My theory about why a lot of athletic big men can’t shoot free throws is that they started out missing them in their first organized BB, and so they’ve always had that experience of failure hanging over them when they go to the line. They missed them early because they didn’t practice early-why practice when you never shoot FTs in pickup and you are dreaming about dunking and popping 3s on SportsCenter? Now they’ve learned to make them in practice, but they still choke in games because they’ve never had enough success to feel confident. Also a lot of big guys started playing BB late after a growth spurt made them obvious candidates.

    Little guys who are less talented practiced FTs a lot before they ever got in a junior high game, and they’ve always enjoyed success, so they are confident. Every coach’s son is a good FT shooter. (Well, Drew has been making them lately.)

  • “Also a lot of big guys started playing BB late after a growth spurt made them obvious candidates.”

    a/k/a John Henson, who went from a 6’3, middling-prospect as a guard as a sophomore, to the 6’10, 5-star prospect he ended up in a matter of less than 18 months…

  • Heel To The End

    and i believe what i have heard said before, that a 7 footer shooting a basketball is similar to us shooting a softball, because of hand size.
    too much of their hand is on the ball, and its near impossible to do anything about it. try shooting a softball or any smaller ball. it aint easy.

  • drdave


    Talking about the fast break offense, I’d like to see Marshall, Strickland, Bullock (or MacDonald), Barnes, and Zeller out there. Many good options there.

    1. Strickland can take on his own without Drew getting in the way dribbling aimlessly, just take him out of the picture.

    2. Marshall is great at finding the open man always looking up the floor immediately after receiving the inbounds. He gives Bullock and Mac much better open looks than Drew has the ability to.

    3. Having the three guard line-up forces Barnes to play closer to the basket, and to stop camping out on the perimeter and constantly taking three’s. It forces him to create opportunities with his mid-range game and actually go to the basket.

    4. Zeller belongs in there with his size, and ability to run the floor.

    I don’t care if Drew is the better defensive player in the world, he should not be out there for more than 15 minutes a game, not if Roy actually wants to maximize his primary and secondary break offense.