I’m a little late to the party here, so I’ll just group some thoughts on the Georgia Tech loss into a few primary buckets. No real cohesive theme—just some observations that I jotted down when re-watching and charting. In general, I was expecting to be a lot more disgusted by Carolina’s zone-offense execution than I actually was upon further review. While it certainly wasn’t scintillating, the Heels attacked the zone in a fairly organized manner that created plenty of quality looks.
One of the big stories, especially in the first half and first few minutes of the second, was Carolina’s carelessness with the basketball. The Heels turned it over 13 times in the opening 20 minutes, then on their first three second-half possessions. In the final 11 minutes, however, UNC committed just a single miscue. While turnovers may have prevented the Heels from opening up a working margin in the first 3 minutes, they didn’t have anything to do with the team’s inability to pull the game out in the final 10 minutes. Let’s take a quick mistake-by-mistake look at Carolina’s 20 turnovers:
- Joel Berry (1): bad pass to the wing in transition (live-ball)
- Justin Jackson (1): bad interior pass in transition (live-ball) –> led to transition lay-up
- Berry (2): bad high post entry pass to Luke Maye (live-ball)
- Isaiah Hicks (1): travel after receiving a secondary break reversal pass (dead-ball); happened right after Hicks was beaten down the floor by Quinton Stephens for a lay-up; seemed overeager to attack/compensate for that defensive lapse
- Seventh Woods (1): travel after picking up his dribble and sliding his pivot foot on the perimeter in the half-court
- Nate Britt (1): mishandled post entry pass by Hicks (live-ball); actually thought this was a good decision/entry and that the turnover should have been assessed to Hicks (who should have caught the pass cleanly)
- Luke Maye (1): bad pass attempting to feed Tony Bradley at the rim from the short corner (live-ball); this was a good idea, just well-defended by Georgia Tech
- Maye (2): bad pass after getting trapped in the short corner (live-ball); tried to pass diagonally to the top of the key, but too much air against Tech’s active zone; possibly the worst of UNC’s 20 turnovers –> led to transition lay-up
- Hicks (2): ball-handling turnover after receiving a high post entry and attacking (live-ball)
- Brandon Robinson (1): bad perimeter pass against the zone (live-ball); this type of turnover was especially bad since it wasn’t really made while trying to penetrate/attack the zone (just a careless station-to-station miscue)
- Robinson (2): ball-handling—stripped while attacking the rim in transition (live-ball)–> led to a transition lay-up
- Berry (3): bad pass on a deep BLOB entry to White (who immediately fouled)
- Jackson (2): bad pass on a drive-and-dish attempt to Meeks after getting the ball in the short corner against the zone; probably could have hit Meeks earlier (he had good position with a smaller defender on his back), but Tech’s pressure made the entry pass tricky
- Jackson (3): bad pass to Hicks on a BLOB entry (dead-ball); it’s unusual to have someone other than UNC’s point guard enter the ball on a baseline-under set; Carolina struggled to get the ball in all game, and didn’t create anything quick/easy from its BLOB sets
- Berry (4): bad pass on a drive-and-dish to Hicks (live-ball); probably could have been handled by Hicks (who would have had an easy lay-up), who had a tough time with his hands in this game (may have been fouled on this catch attempt, though)
- Berry (5): bad pass to Hicks on a high post entry attempt (live-ball)–> led to two FTs in transition
- Hicks (3): stripped in the deep paint after bringing the ball down following an offensive rebound (live-ball); missed opportunity for an easy put-back
- Hicks (4): ball-handling turnover after attacking off the dribble following a short corner touch (live-ball)–> led to two FTs in transition
- Berry (6): bad pass attempting a lob entry to Maye (dead-ball); not a bad decision here (and it probably would have worked to UNC’s other bigs), but execution of the pass wasn’t great (nor was Maye’s athleticism)
- Britt (2): stepped on the baseline immediately after collecting one of his five steals (dead-ball); not really much he could have done here—good defense, bad luck
The Heels allowed 10 costly transition points that resulted directly from live-ball turnovers. Most of these turnovers weren’t really bad decisions, though—just a combination of poor execution of really quick, active Georgia Tech rotations and hands. Lammers is a really good defensive anchor, and I was pretty impressed with the effort and quickness of the Yellow Jackets’ wings/guards.
After allowing just five FTAs in the first half, the Heels allowed 28 FTAs in the second stanza (of which Georgia Tech knocked down 25). Here’s how the Jackets created their second-half opportunities at the line:
- 8 FTAs when the Heels were fouling to extend the game
- 6 FTAs in transition from live-ball turnovers/missed shots
- 6 FTAs from backdoor cuts (Williams was beaten once, and Berry twice)
- 2 FTAs from a Lammers post move (with Hicks playing the 5)
- 2 FTAs after a Lammers offensive rebound (after Britt was switched on to him after a half-court trap)
- 2 FTAs after an attacking Stephens forced a Maye hand-check in isolation (he drew a couple such fouls on Maye; only the second led to FTs, though)
- 2 FTAs after Jackson was beaten by Stephens curling around a screen
The backdoor cut was an issue in general for Carolina’s defense; Berry allowed three backdoors, and Williams and Jackson gave up two apiece. Britt was posted up once by Tadric Jackson, but didn’t allow any backdoors.
Tech ran most of its half-court offense through Lammers in the high post. It involved some simple dribble hand-offs, ball screens, and back cuts, all of which gave UNC some problems throughout the game.
After allowing just 29 points in 38 first-half defensive possessions (defensive efficiency of 76.3), the Heels gave up 46 points in 37 second-half trips (124.3). As highlighted above, Tech’s ability to get to the line was the biggest half-to-half difference.
UNC also gave up 21 points in 15 possessions with Hicks at the 5 (140.0). These were all in the second half; even removing the four possessions of intentional fouling, the Hicks-at-the-5 lineups allowed 13 points on 11 possessions—a less-than-stellar defensive efficiency of 118.2. Lammers had five of his 11 points on these 11 possessions (Meeks did a much better job defensively on him). With a true center (Meeks or Bradley) on the court, the Heels allowed just 54 points on 60 possessions (defensive efficiency of 90.0).
UNC’s Zone Offense
As I alluded to earlier, the execution was better than I recalled upon my initial (real-time) viewing. Tech’s aggressive 1-3-1 zone made it difficult to enter the ball to either the high post (where UNC generally prefers to attack high/low with its bigs against the zone) or the low post. The short corners were open all game, and the Heels did a pretty good job of attacking them (either with its baseline big or by swinging its 3 (Jackson/Robinson/Williams) from corner to corner). Carolina created seven open or lightly contested short corner (or “baseline extended” in the parlance of Tim Brando, who is also apparently very confused about the distinction between the “wing” and the “corner”) jumpers, but made only two (one each by Britt and Hicks; Robinson missed two, and Maye, Berry, Bradley one each). UNC also attacked frequently after receiving short corner passes, but was unable to generate much from these opportunities. Tech’s defense forced UNC to finish with floaters/pull-up jumpers rather than letting them get to the rim (where Lammers was waiting to contest) or drive-and-dish to open bigs. The Heels also made just 2-of-7 floaters—Jackson made only 1-of-5 (on the final possession of the game), although he did draw a shooting foul on another. Berry knocked one down, too, but wasn’t looking to consistently attack gaps in the zone (I think his endurance/energy was still an issue after battling the flu). Kenny Williams is also a bit of a liability against a zone due to his inability/unwillingness to attack gaps with the dribble. The only time he did, he knocked down a sweet 13-foot pull-up jumper.
Although too many of Carolina’s 3s came after perimeter passing without getting a paint/high post/short corner touch, most of them were lightly contested. There was a little too much wing-to-wing ball reversal/perimeter passing on some zone possessions (which generally led to missed 3s), but this was less common than I thought while watching live. On most possessions, UNC made (or attempted to make) a pass to one of the zones soft spots or attacked a gap off the dribble. The Heels missed all five of its 3s that were create by drive-and-kicks. They missed some clean transition/secondary perimeter attempts, too. Ultimately, a team’s zone offense is only as good as its ability to knock down perimeter jumpers. Although 26 3s is too many (and reflects Carolina’s mindset to settle for what it was given rather than probe for what it wanted), their average quality was high.
It will be interesting to see how much zone UNC faces moving forward. Prior to the Tech game, the Heels had only seen it sparingly in the first 14 games (no more than a handful of possessions in any given game). This group is much more comfortable attacking the 2-3 (using post exchanges and hi/lo action) than Tech’s swarming 1-3-1. To paraphrase Roy, “things always look a lot better when you knock down some dadgum shots.” It will also be interesting to see how Theo Pinson’s return to the lineup might help against the zone. Though not known as a shooter, his creativity as a playmaker/penetrator will help in attacking gaps and getting others easier looks. His ability to crash the offensive glass could be crucial in defeating future zones, too.