Despite win, No. 20 UNC still needs inside game

CHAPEL HILL, NC — Early season blowouts against

undermanned teams aren’t always throw-away games in college basketball.

You can actually learn a lot about a team,

especially things it doesn’t do so well. It stands to reason that if a

club struggles in a certain area against a patsy, it’s an area of

concern. If it happens in a few such games, it’s worth discussing.

North Carolina’s 78-55 demolition of East Tennessee

State on Saturday night at the Smith Center was at times a thing of

beauty for the Tar Heels. They ran the floor well, often finishing with a

variety of flushes from guards, wings and their athletic bigs.

The Heels showed once again they aren’t shy

attempting shots from the perimeter and are pretty good at making them.

They hit only 11 f 31 on the night, but entered the contest converting

46.6 percent on the season. So, 3-point shooting isn’t an issue for this

Carolina team like it has been at times in recent seasons.

Neither was ball movement. Carolina has mostly been

unselfish thus far, and on Saturday handed out 30 assists on 31 made

field goals. Many dishes came in the open court, but quite a few came

winging the ball around the perimeter looking for open threes.

The only field goal not accompanied by an assist was

put-back after Leslie McDonald missed an alley-oop dunk. Even still,

UNC coach Roy Williams wasn’t entirely pleased.

“It

shows that when we move the ball we’re very successful, when we share

the ball we’re very successful,” the Hall of Fame coach said. “But most

of the time when you have 30 points you’re going to score 110, 120

points. But we didn’t a very good of all those other

times.”

Carolina (7-2) held the visitors to 12

first-half points in part because it did defended well, which included a

stretch executing its scramble trapping defense. It worked pretty well,

as the Tar Heels scored 17 points off of 13 first-half turnovers and

finished with 28 points on 22 giveaways.

Other than a

couple of periods in the second half, the Tar Heels also played hard.

But some of that is human nature and young kids learning how to maintain

focus.

But No. 20 UNC’s struggles getting offense

in the post in a mismatch game is potentially troubling. ¬East Tennessee

(2-5) played zone most of night, which had something to do with it. But

this was an opportunity to make going through the post a point of

emphasis, even against a zone. If it’s a struggle getting decent looks

inside against the Bucs, what will happen in ACC

play?

Carolina post players of James Michael McAdoo,

who is more comfortable shooting jumpers and floating from the lane,

Joel James, a raw freshman, Desmond Hubert and Jackson Simmons combined

to score 18 points in 58 minutes. Facing a zone or not, Williams wants

more touches, which means more points, from the

interior.

“Yes, I think I’ve always talked about

balance, we need to get it in side more,” Williams said. “I didn’t like

the first part of the game, we were 0-for-4 and all of them outside

shots. Just because the other team plays zone does not mean we have to

shoot the outside shot.”

Shots at the rim don’t

always have to come from traditional entry passes to the blocks or a

rolling big man. The Heels can find driving seams for runners,

dump-downs and shots right at the rim.

“In the first

half and the second half we were settling a little bit with the 3-ball,

trying to get outside shots,” junior wing Reggie Bullock said. “I still

like we could have run our plays to get the ball inside. I had a

turnover when trying to pass it in from the perimeter… I feel like we

have to do a better job when playing against a zone of getting the ball

inside.”

Nine games into the season, North Carolina

knows it will shoot – and probably make – a lot of 3-pointers this

season. It is also a united team that has off-court chemistry and a

willingness to find it on the floor.

The Tar Heels

are athletic enough, long on the perimeter, which is why they should

develop into a terrific trapping team, and they are generally going to

play hard.

But UNC’s concerns inside are too great

to ignore.