North Carolina lost its first game of the season on Wednesday night on the road at Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Right from the opening tip, the Hoosiers punched the Heels directly in the mouth, never trailing and moving out to a 17-point lead before the midway point of the first half. While UNC made a run in the second half, it was never able to take the lead or recover from the terrible start. So what went wrong in those first 9 minutes of the game? Let’s take a possession-by-possession look at how the Heels fell behind 26-9.
This is long, but somehow cathartic. Thanks for indulging me.
IU1 (0-2): After losing the opening tip (perhaps an ominous sign in and of itself, as Isaiah Hicks had won the first seven jump balls of the season), UNC fell behind immediately on an OG Anunoby layup. The hoop was created when Robert Johnson beat Justin Jackson off the bounce, forcing Hicks to help (although he likely overhelped based on the circumstances of the penetration). Kennedy Meeks actually made a strong help rotation to contest Anunoby’s shot; he was just out-athleted at the rim.
UNC1 (0-2): UNC’s first possession ended with a missed Nate Britt floater with 5 seconds left on the shot clock. It was a tough, contested look created by pick-and-roll (PNR) action between Britt and Hicks. An unsuccessful post entry to Meeks (tipped out of bounds after a post double) got the Heels into the late-clock situation to begin with.
IU2 (0-5): Dribble weave action allowed James Blackmon to turn the corner on Joel Berry, leading to a drive-and-kick 3-pointer by Johnson. The Carolina defense was solid here– just good offensive execution.
UNC2 (2-5): The Heels got on the board when Justin Jackson hit a contested floater. UNC created this shot via its secondary break, using a Meeks ball screen. Despite the successful outcome, this was a low-percentage opportunity.
IU3 (2-8): Indiana set a double high ball screen on Britt to set up a drive-and-kick 3 for Blackmon. Although Meeks, who had soft hedged the second screen, had the penetration under control, Berry overhelped to leave Blackmon free behind the arc.
UNC3 (2-8): For the second straight possession, UNC used a secondary break PNR with Jackson and Meeks. This time it created a clean 3-point look for Britt (who used a down screen from Hicks to get open). This was solid execution of a secondary break option– Britt just missed the shot.
IU4 (2-8): Finally a defensive stop for the Heels, as Indiana missed a drive-and-kick 3 in transition. Jackson was beaten off the dribble, but Meeks helped in the paint to force a shaky kick-out pass (as Jackson recovered to the shooter). Meeks corralled the defensive board.
UNC4 (2-8): Berry missed a contested layup on the primary break, then missed a clean corner 3 after a Hicks tip-out. This was an early sign that it might not be the Heels’ (or Berry’s) night– as the second-chance opportunity was a great one.
IU5 (2-8): Berry and Meeks combined to successfully defend a ball screen (as Meeks soft hedged and Berry did a great job fighting through/maintaining contact), allowing Hicks to rotate over for a help-side rejection. Bill Russell he was not, as Hicks volleyball spiked a controllable block attempt out of play to give the Hoosiers a baseline out of bounds (BLOB). IU used another PNR involving Berry and Meeks, which the Heels switched with the shot clock dwindling to force a violation (good closeout by Meeks to prevent a 3-pointer). This play demonstrated the riskiness of switching screens, as IU would have had an easy dunk (with Berry defending Bryant) if the shot clock had an extra second or 2 on it.
UNC5 (5-8): Following a Hicks screen out of the box set, Jackson knocked down a tough 3-pointer after a pass from Berry. This was UNC’s first halfcourt set of the game, and Jackson opted to pop out for the 3 rather than curling at the elbow. He was aggressive and confident right from the start.
IU6 (5-10): Indiana again used dribble weave action to allow Blackmon to turn the corner on Berry and force a shooting foul. Blackmon knocked down both free throws. The Hoosiers’ strategy right from the start was to use ball screens or dribble weave to create paint penetration for finishes or kick-out 3s.
UNC6 (5-10): After a secondary break ball reversal, Britt threw a post entry to Hicks. IU doubled hard on the catch, forcing a traveling violation.
IU7 (5-12): Indiana again used dribble weave, this time to create an iso opportunity for Johnson to create space on Jackson and knock down a mid-range jumper. More good IU offense here.
SUB: Kenny Williams in for Britt
UNC7 (5-12): UNC ran a sideline out of bounds set to create another 3-point attempt for Jackson (coming off a Berry down screen). This time, he was just long, however.
IU8 (5-12): Indiana ran a pick-and-pop against Berry and Hicks to create a clean 3-point look for Juwan Morgan. Though Hicks was late to recover, Morgan missed badly and the Heels ended up with a team rebound.
NOTE: These were the only 2 possessions (26 seconds) that the Maui starting 5 (Berry-Williams-Jackson-Hicks-Meeks) played together all game. That quintet was +61 in 36 minutes together in Maui.
SUBS: Luke Maye/Tony Bradley in for Hicks/Meeks
UNC8 (7-12): Immediately after exiting the under-16 timeout, UNC ran its secondary break slip screen action. Jackson hit Maye, who was able to draw a shooting foul and convert both shots.
IU9 (7-14): Another late-clock PNR involving Jackson and Bradley resulted in a switch, allowing Johnson to easily drive past Bradley for a layup.
UNC9 (7-14): After faking a dribble hand-off to Berry following a BLOB entry, Maye blew an open lefty layup with 6’10” Thomas Bryant lurking nearby in the paint (but not contesting the shot). Good execution, poor finish.
IU10 (7-15): The Maye miss led to an Indiana run-out, resulting in a Berry reach-in foul against Anunoby. He split a pair of foul shots but, more importantly, it was the second foul on Berry.
SUB: Seventh Woods in for Berry
UNC10 (7-15): The freelance passing game resulted in a lightly contested 3-pointer for Williams, who used a screen by Jackson to get free. Williams missed, and IU once again held the Heels to a single opportunity.
IU11 (7-17): Running again, Indiana settled for a mid-range jumper by Johnson after good transition defense by Jackson. Williams, however, mistimed the defensive board to allow an easy IU stick-back.
UNC11 (7-17): A quick primary break turnover by Williams, who was trapped on the wing after a hit-ahead pass by Woods. The culmination of a bad 3-possession stretch for Williams.
IU12 (7-17): Following the live-ball turnover, IU was out in transition for the third straight possession. This time, Woods slid in to draw an offensive foul to mitigate the damage from the miscue.
SUBS: Hicks/Meeks in for Maye/Bradley
UNC12 (7-17): After dead-ball substitutions, UNC immediately ran its box set to create a post touch for a fresh Meeks. The good news is that the play was executed well with Woods delivering a good post entry pass. The bad news is that Meeks had his turnaround jumper blocked by a more athletic defender. Another one-and-done for the Heels.
IU13 (7-17): For the second consecutive defensive possession, Woods drew an offensive foul (his second and third of the season)– this time by fighting hard through an illegal Anunoby screen.
UNC13 (7-17): Despite getting back-to-back stops, the Heels were unable to cut into the 10-point lead. Another set play, this time from UNC’s 1-4 set, created an iso opportunity for Jackson. He missed a pull-up, mid-range jumper off the bounce, again rebounded by the Hoosiers.
IU14 (7-19): IU used another double ball screen to create an easy opportunity. This time, Meeks (as a soft hedger) collided with a recovering Woods. Hicks’s help rotation was way late, leaving him no option but to goaltend. This is actually the first time all season that a hedging Heel has actually screened a teammate by accident. With UNC’s old hard hedging strategy, this type of accidental interaction occurred more frequently.
SUB: Brandon Robinson for Jackson
UNC14 (7-19): Immediately upon entering the game (as RoyW used all 10 rotation players within the first 7 minutes), Robinson missed a catch-and-shoot jumper from the left elbow. This shot was set up by a secondary break post entry pass to Hicks, who kicked to the open shooter following a post double. Good offense, bad result.
IU15 (7-19): Indiana ran the same double high screen that caused Carolina confusion on the last possession. This time, the Heels handled it perfectly. After the offensive reset, Hicks forced his man baseline to set up a great help rotation by Robinson, resulting in a steal by Woods. This was probably UNC’s best defensive possession of the first 10 minutes (along with the one resulting in the shot-clock violation).
UNC15 (7-19): Unfortunately, that great work on the defensive end was quickly given away, as Woods bumped into Robinson to result in a backcourt turnover. It was UNC’s seventh straight empty possession.
IU16 (7-19): Woods was badly beaten by a crossover dribble, setting up an open drive-and-kick corner 3 for Devonte Green. He missed badly, with Meeks corralling the board. Brother Danny would have knocked down this look 80% of the time!
UNC16 (9-19): Carolina finally broke its scoring drought, as Hicks drew a shooting foul (converting both shots) following a secondary break post entry feed from Robinson. It was Robinson’s second solid post entry pass since entering the game.
IU17 (9-21): For the first time in the game, UNC sprung its halfcourt trap on Indiana. It resulted in a couple of dead-ball deflections by Williams and Meeks. IU used a ball screen involving Woods and Meeks to create an opportunity at the rim. This time, though, Hicks’s help rotation was much crisper, resulting in a blocked shot. Meeks, however, was beaten to the loose-ball rebound by De’Ron Davis, who knocked down a pair of free throws after Meeks was forced to foul.
UNC17 (9-21): The Heels had a hectic, pressured halfcourt possession in freelance. It ultimately ended with a Hicks passing turnover after a miscommunication with a cutting Robinson.
SUB: Bradley in for Meeks
IU18 (9-23): For the second straight defensive trip, the Heels used a halfcourt trap. This time, Hicks made a bad gamble which immediately resulted in an easy IU layup.
UNC18 (9-23): Woods, pushing hard after the made FG, missed a contested floater in the primary break. This was a tough, bad shot, and was basically the equivalent of a live-ball turnover.
IU19 (9-26): Capitalizing on the suspect shot selection, IU located Blackmon in transition for a 3-pointer from the right wing. This was actually fantastic transition defense by Williams to force a contested shot; it was a big-time make by Blackmon.
UNC19 (9-26): After a bad secondary break post entry pass from Williams to Bradley was almost stolen, Robinson over-dribbled into trouble before (luckily) drawing a foul. This was UNC’s second straight very hectic possession, as IU was ramping up the defensive pressure. Fittingly, Robinson missed the front-end of the 1-and-1 (and first of three first-half front-ends missed by the Heels).
So there it is: 19 possessions (each) that resulted in a Carolina oRtg of 47.4, dRtg of 136.8, and deficit of 17 points. The Heels would outscore IU by eight the rest of the way, but had dug too deep of a hole in the game’s first nine minutes.
In the future, I’m hoping to do (shorter) versions of these that will (hopefully) include videos/GIFs/screen grabs to illustrate important concepts and plays. I’ll store them in the ‘Game Breakdowns’ tab in the top menu bar. Let me know if there are particular things you’d like me to break down/ focus on for one of these features.