Defending Jack Gibbs:
Jack Gibbs, averaging 24.3 points per game, is one of the nation’s elite scorers. Slowing him down without Joel Berry, probably the Heels’ best on-ball defender, figured to be a daunting challenge. And, while Nate Britt (who drew the primary assignment on Gibbs) did a better job upon further review than I thought while watching in real time, Gibbs was still able to score 30 points in a fairly efficient fashion.
Let’s start with a breakdown of the Heels tasked with defending Gibbs and how each fared. These statistics represent how Gibbs did on possessions used against each primary defender– they don’t necessarily reflect which defender was responsible for scores/stops on those possessions (although it correlates quite closely with the defensive boxscore). Maye got switched onto Gibbs on a baseline out-of-bounds play, and once on a ball screen after Britt slipped (and struggled to get up/recover). Williams, who defended Gibbs on the game’s final 10 possessions, did the best job. Had he not committed a silly foul in the backcourt on Davidson’s final possession, Williams would have pitched a shutout on Gibbs.
Upon my live viewing, I was left with the impression that Britt really struggled to defend/contain Gibbs. But that’s why it’s often so helpful to re-watch and chart. While he wasn’t a defensive stalwart, his performance on that end was serviceable. In the first 10 minutes, in fact, it was excellent. He repeatedly denied Gibbs the ball in the backcourt to force other Wildcats to facilitate the offense. Britt also fought over the top of a screen to contest Gibbs’s first jumper (a miss), and drew an offensive foul by working hard to navigate a (moving) ball screen.
Woods actually did a better job of limiting Gibbs’s opportunities, although he made a couple of predictable freshman mistakes that resulted in points. He also forced a couple of turnovers by Gibbs, one aided by a strong halfcourt trap with Stilman White.
- Britt: 43 possessions– 6-14 FGs (2-5 3Pt.), 4-6 FTs, 18 points, 3 forced TO
- Woods: 16 possessions– 2-3 FGs (2-3 3Pt.), 2-2 FTs, 8 points, 2 forced TO
- Williams: 10 possessions– 0-1 FGs (0-0 3Pt.), 1-2 FTs, 1 points, 1 forced TO
- Maye: 2 possessions– 1-2 FGs (1-2 3Pt.), 0-0 FTs, 3 points, 0 forced TO
Looking at Gibbs’s 14 scoring plays (9 made FGs and 5 trips to the line) in a bit more detail (these are chronological):
1.) Baseline out-of-bounds: This is the downside of UNC’s current (as of about 2011 to leverage Henson’s absurd length) BLOB defensive strategy (which puts its longest defender on the ball, then plays a sort of matchup zone behind it)– it creates mismatches (that some ACC teams strategically exploit) when UNC scrambles back to find its men upon entry. In this case, Maye ended up on Gibbs, who, following a miscommunication, ended up with an open 3 as Maye looked to switch with Britt (who was being posted by a Davidson big). The upside, of course, is that UNC gets the occasional deflection/turnover on the BLOB entry.
2.) Off-dribble: Gibbs banked in a well-contested 28-footer as the shot clock expired. Terrific defense by Britt, terrible luck.
3.) Ball screen: Hicks “soft hedged” a screen as Britt fought over the top. It wasn’t a perfectly defended screen (Hicks didn’t do enough to curtail penetration), but still resulted in Gibbs needing to make a contested layup (right-handed from the left-side while falling to the floor).
4.) Off-dribble: Britt bit on a ball fake, crashing into Gibbs to send him to the line for a pair. Bad defense here, as Britt was off-balance trying to contain Gibbs off the dribble.
5.) Halfcourt trap: An over-aggressive Jackson bumped into Gibbs while springing a trap on him. Since Davidson was in the bonus, Gibbs went to the line again and knocked down a couple free throws.
6.) Off-dribble: After Britt gambled on a wing overplay to become slightly unbalanced, Gibbs was able to attack off the dribble to create a clean midrange jumper. A bad decision by Britt that was exploited by a first-class scorer.
7.) Off-ball screen: Curling off an elbow screen, Gibbs was able to draw a foul (split the free throws) after Britt stumbled/fell. One of Britt’s biggest defensive weaknesses is his ability to fight through ball screens and (like in this case) navigate through screens away from the ball. It’s mainly an issue of physicality/strength, although Britt’s technique could improve, too (especially off the ball).
8.) Inside-out: As the strong-side wing defender, Woods scraped down to help following a post entry. Davidson quickly kicked it back out to Gibbs, who knocked down a 3 over a late-recovering Woods. I’d chalk this one up to inexperience/knowing when (and when not to) dig down in the paint (Bobby Frasor was always very good at this aspect of UNC’s defensive scheme).
9.) Ball screen: Woods and Hicks were involved in this one, and handled it well (Hicks dissuaded penetration much better than in 3.) earlier). Gibbs just hit a tough, step-back 3 over a recovering Woods. Just good offense here.
10.) Dribble penetration: Gibbs turned the corner on Britt here (without the aid of a ball screen) and drew a foul (split the free throws).
11.) Off-ball screen: Britt fell asleep a bit here, getting a late start in following Gibbs through a series of screens. He never quite recovered, closing out too late to affect Gibbs’s 3-pointer. This happened immediately after Britt bricked a quick mid-range jumper– definitely one of his poorer sequences of the game.
12.) Ball screen: Meeks “soft hedged” as Britt worked over the top of the screen. This one was well-defended, too, but Gibbs made another tough step-back jumper. The “soft hedge” strategy will limit drives to the hoop at the cost of allowing some open mid-range jumpers. That’s a good trade-off, in my opinion, and we’ll just have to live with some big-time scorers hitting shots like this off of ball screens.
13.) Transition: Gibbs hit a pull-up jumper in transition as Britt was a little late to locate him. Meeks tried to help, but lacked the foot speed to make much of an impact.
14.) Backcourt foul: On Davidson’s final possession (with the game out of reach), Williams bumped Gibbs in the backcourt while applying ball pressure. This sent Gibbs to the line, where he split a pair to cap off this 30-point outing. Head-scratching decision by Williams, but no big deal in this case.
Defensive Charting Insights:
- Hicks, who was responsible for 16 points allowed in 17 minutes, really struggled to defend Peyton Aldridge’s versatile inside-out game. Though he was definitely a stretch 4, Aldridge had more interest (and skill) in posting up than many of today’s hybrid forwards. In addition to allowing some hoops, Hicks managed to corral just a single defensive board. Not surprisingly, perhaps, UNC’s defensive efficiency was very poor (111.1) during Hicks’s minutes. Carolina will need him to be much better on the defensive end to reach its potential.
- In Hicks’s defense, Aldridge was also able to score pretty consistently on both Luke Maye and Justin Jackson (as a small-ball 4). Had Aldridge not missed so many of his lightly contested 3s, his 22-point night would have been even better (he made 7-of-9 2s, and all 5 of his free throws).
- Davidson was essentially a 2-man show on offense, running just about everything through Gibbs and Aldridge. This is pretty clearly reflected in UNC’s defensive usage metrics (%Poss.), as the players defending Gibbs (Britt/Woods) and Aldridge (Hicks/Maye) had active defensive charting lines, while most other Heels had below-average defensive usage.
- Bradley pitched a defensive shutout (albeit with a little bit of “missed shot luck”). In general, he moved his feet pretty well and had a couple good closeouts against Davidson’s perimeter-oriented bigs.
- Robinson continues to be an effective and disruptive defender. At some point (probably in league play), teams might start to exploit his slight build/lack of strength. But for now, he sits near the top of UNC’s leaderboards in Stop% (4th), On-Court Defensive Rating (2nd), and Floorburns / 40 (1st).