Tar Heels sputter and clank past Wake | Sports
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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tar Heels sputter and clank past Wake

Posted by on Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 11:18 PM

McDonald and others arent hitting open jump shots
SMITH CENTER/CHAPEL HILL—North Carolina should have blown out Wake Forest. I thought so, you thought so, the oddsmakers who established a 22-point spread thought so, and Roy Williams probably did, too.

But the Tar Heels’ woeful perimeter shooting resulted in an unsatisfying 78-64 victory over by far the worst team in the ACC. Wake isn’t just struggling or hovering below .500; they rank at or near the bottom of the conference in numerous categories and have been romped on several occasions by average teams.

In this game, however, Wake actually out-shot UNC, 38 percent to 37 percent. The Deacons easily out-shot Carolina from the three-point line, hitting 40 percent (8-for-20) while the Heels converted on only 19 percent (5-for-27). The winning spread owed to UNC’s edge at the free throw line (21 makes versus only 10 for the Deacs) and in rebounding, where Carolina dominated their opponent 50-35.

All those numbers suggest one thing: UNC played down to the level of its competition. Roy Williams said after the game that so much attention was devoted to the recently completed four-game stretch that his team took a deep breath and failed to play with the necessary intensity for 40 minutes.

And yet, Carolina’s big men played very well. Junior Tyler Zeller is the most consistent player on the team, and on this night he hit 6-for-9 from the field en route to 18 points and nine rebounds. John Henson, who didn’t finish as well inside against Wake’s length as usual, tallied 14 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.

The problems were on the perimeter. Freshman Harrison, on a recent tear, had some good moments but hit only 1-for-8 on threes and 7-for-20 overall on his way to 17 points. The backcourt and bench shot terribly: Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald and Reggie Bullock combined for only 6-for-25 shooting.

Carolina can get away with that kind of shooting against several weak ACC teams, but against Duke or in the NCAA Tournament, those results likely will condemn the team to defeat. Not only did the Heels fail to make threes, they attempted far too many. On a night when the big men mostly delivered inside — and certainly relative to the guards — jacking up three after three made little sense.

Of course, as the team’s shooting woes accumulate, they’ll continue to face packed zone defenses that attempt to force the Heels away from their preferred inside-out offense.

Nothing too dramatic should be read into this performance, of course. It’s common for teams to slack off against a weak foe, and Wake definitely is that. The elevated concern level is due more to the trend; Carolina hasn’t shot well since the first half of the Duke game last Wednesday, resulting in 100 minutes of shooting futility.

The Tar Heels stay at home for their next contest, Saturday afternoon versus Boston College. To view the UNC/Wake box score, click here.

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