PITTSBURG – North Carolina has shown a gradual improvement in recent weeks as it has amassed profits, albeit mainly against teams in the bottom half of the ACC rankings. Tar Heels finally took advantage of their growth on Tuesday night with a key 75-65 victory in Pittsburgh.
It’s been a long time coming. All college basketball was robbed of pre-season fights and shows, in addition to the compacted board without a conference link, due to COVID-19. These lost opportunities were significant for Tar Heels, who played six freshmen and first-graders with red shirts in their rotation. Instead of playing through mistakes against weaker competition, UNC was preparing for NCAA-caliber opponents in the first week of the season.
The result was four early losses and several wins that were too close for comfort. The early conclusion was that UNC was too inconsistent to shoot the ball, too careless to take care of the ball and too lethargic at times at the end of the defense. One obvious positive, especially considering how the 201
New Year’s is here and this is exactly what is happening for the tar heels, which have won six of their last seven.
“I feel like with this group, we’re just getting a lot better,” Armando Bacot said after the win. “We are starting to talk more about defense. Everyone starts playing according to the way they have to play. ”
The significance of Tuesday’s victory at the Petersen Events Center was twofold: (1) UNC won its first quarterly victory to bolster its NCAA tournament summary; and more importantly, (2) the trends of recent games seem to have solidified into Carolina’s traditional style of basketball, which is more or less absent after Luca May and company left town two years ago.
The list of positives in Pittsburgh was extensive. Tar Heels shot a season of 60.7% in the second half, marking the fourth time in five halves that have exceeded 50% (after five such halves in the first 27). They shot 52.5% for the game, while assisting for 22 of the 32 goals scored on the field. Their 22:13 turnover assists ratio is high for the season (while moving the team into positive territory for season assistance for the first time since opening). It was also one of the team’s best defensive performances, holding Pittsburgh to 41.8% shooting, challenging most attempts for field goals on the edge.
Separately, Bacott solidified his Player of the Month award with 21 points for the season in shooting 8 out of 10 and 10 rebounds. The second center has averaged 16 points with 66.7 percent shooting and 8.2 rebounds in his last five games. Garrison Brooks escaped his recent drop (16 points, 8 of 11 FGAs), Kervin Walton continued his smoothbore (10 points, 4 of 8 FGAs) and as Caleb Love struggled to shoot the ball, he became the most its good assist-turnover ratio for the season (5: 1).
“[We’re] just to play with a lot of confidence and get the ball in, ”Brooks said. “We just play what we are taught to play every day, break the offensive boards, score the ball early and learn to play to the best of our ability.”
The benefit of UNC’s success in January is that the confidence of this team is no longer as fragile as it once was, and Williams could be even more demanding in the coming weeks. While this team is finally coming together, it still has a long way to go to reach its potential.
“I never think you turned the corner,” said the head coach of the Hall of Fame. “You are in the ACC; you are as good as your last game. I will return to what has been said consistently: I think we are getting a little better and a little better. “
Stupid turnovers remain the culprit, as does defective shooting (UNC shoots 67.5% in ACC play). And yet in Pittsburgh it became clear that these tar heels had understood their identities.
It was no longer a tedious task to break through the post, and when Jeff Capel moved into the zone to counter the UNC game plan, Tar Heels moved effortlessly into his zone without the need for an ear from his side coach for direction. . They controlled the boards, defended the rim and even took remarkable steps against the ball screen.
The road ahead remains challenging, although this UNC team finally seems ready for the ACC game.