Heels boxed out by Longhorns
Posted December 19, 2013
North Carolina Coach Roy Williams has been known to take the rims off for certain practices when his team has not been rebounding well.
Since that wasn’t an option after the Tar Heels’ dreadful first half against Texas, Williams could only implore his team to play smarter and tougher in the trenches. Certainly, the Heels could not rebound any worse.
In a word, Texas observed Boxing Day eight days early. The Longhorns put up shots, and they went after the misses. And they got most of them, including a couple of easy rebound baskets, that in the vernacular of the season, came gift-wrapped. One and done was not part of the Texas vocabulary.
In the first half, Texas chased 24 offensive rebounds, and collected 14 of them. Carolina pulled down just 10 defensive rebounds. I cannot recall a half where one team was so dominant on the offensive glass that its numbers blew away the defensive team, which after all, should have inside position and get most of these missed shots.
The ACC now keeps offensive and defensive rebounding percentages, and for my money, there is no more important statistic in basketball. Good teams should rebound their opponents’ misses at least 70 to 75 percent of the time.
Against Texas in the first half, Carolina rebounded less than 42 percent of the Horns’ misses. Every offensive rebound equates to an extra possession. Texas picked up 14 extra possessions in the first half, and you could make the argument that each of those Texas offensive rebounds had the same effect as a Carolina turnover.
Texas did not surprise North Carolina. The Longhorns are not a great shooting team – they are a team that drives and continues to attack the basket. The Tar Heels not only did not box out very well on missed jump shots; they compounded matters by failing to stop dribble penetration.
When Jonathon Holmes, Isaiah Taylor, and Demarcus Holland drove past their defenders, one of the Tar Heels in the interior had to leave his man to help. When the Longhorns then put up a runner, a floater, or a lay-up, any misses usually found four orange shirts going to the glass, with the home team having just a nano-second to find somebody to box out.
Most possessions, someone from Texas went to the glass unchecked. Five different Longhorn players grabbed offensive rebounds in the first half.
How great is North Carolina’s rebounding crisis? Radio analyst Eric Montross, who demonstrated during UNC’s 1993 championship run that he knows a little about rebounding, spent several minutes during his post-game wrap-up discussing the Tar Heels' deficiencies in the lane and on the glass.
No question North Carolina received a boost from Leslie McDonald, who found out just hours before tipoff that the NCAA had cleared him to play. McDonald teamed with Marcus Paige to give the Tar Heels an unprecedented 1-2 punch (unprecedented in this strange season) from behind the three-point line.
UNC hit 9-of-19 threes for the night. Carolina’s three-point shooting might have been enough to overcome its rebounding and defensive deficiencies, on most nights. But on this night, the Tar Heels also couldn’t shoot free throws. Again.
Even with the normally solid McDonald now available to help this team’s woeful numbers at the charity stripe, Carolina missed 23-of-47 attempts. McDonald actually became part of the problem instead of part of the solution, missing 5-of-8.
Paige drained all 8 of his attempts, meaning the other Tar Heels hit just 16-of-39. This comes after a 22 for 48 adventure in free throwing in the loss to Belmont and a 4-of-11 outing in the defeat at UAB.
Roy Williams said after the game that he was not in a holiday mood, and he scheduled a 5 a.m. practice – he would have practiced at midnight if it had been allowed by NCAA rules – to prove his anger.
To be fair, Carolina did play tougher and smarter in the second half. The Heels stopped dribble penetration, forced Texas into shooting mostly jump shots, then got most of the defensive rebounds. But not all.
Note that Texas began the game with an offensive rebound basket. And ended the game with a rebound basket- Demarcus Holland missed two pressure free throws; but oh yes, nobody boxed him out, and his putback put Texas in the driver’s seat.
Paige did get a really good look in the final second, and his shot to tie the game nearly dropped. But that’s almost beside the point.
While a good shooter can have an occasional off night, a good rebounder is a good rebounder every night. And right now Texas (which has now beaten UNC in six of the last seven) has way more good rebounders than North Carolina.