Heels Handle Davidson's Double Teams

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – No. 6 North Carolina’s frontcourt was tested not by a packed-in zone on Saturday, but rather a swarm of double teams on the low block in the 90-72 victory over Davidson.

Roy Williams spent a portion of his press conference on Friday discussing how future opponents weren’t likely to scrap their defensive preferences in order to throw a zone at a UNC offense limited in perimeter shooting options and long on interior length.

Davidson, which primarily plays man-to-man, provided an example of how to defend the post without switching to a zone. The Wildcats doubled off the opposite block on entry passes throughout the game, forcing quicker decisions and lower positioning by UNC’s post players.

While the Tar Heels have not spent much time on that particular type of double team in practice to date, according to sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks, they were introduced to the defensive approach during practice on Thursday and Friday in preparation for Saturday’s game.

Unlike a more traditional double team that involves a wing defender collapsing down on the post, the best decision is not a quick pass back out to the perimeter.

“First, Coach [Williams] wants you to make a quick move,” junior forward Brice Johnson said. “The second thing is if you can’t get your shot off, the other big is supposed to go to the front of the rim. We’re supposed to just look for him, and if not, just pass it back out.”

Hicks told reporters the coaching staff detailed a scenario in which Johnson received a pass on the block and immediately got double teamed, which left Kennedy Meeks open. Meeks was then supposed to get to the basket.

“The coaches don’t like you shooting against the double teams, so the easiest thing to do is just pass it to the open man,” Hicks said.

Davidson’s frontcourt starters – 6-foot-7 Peyton Aldridge and 6-foot-9 Jake Belford – lacked the size to guard UNC’s bigs effectively one-on-one, but was able to limit the damage by doubling up.

Williams said his post players “got better” at working against the double teams as the game progressed, but stopping short of praising their overall success.

“Teams we’ve had in the past have really done a nice job with that because we’ve moved it quickly to the other big guy,” Williams said. “But I thought, if you’re just picking out that one thing, I think it was to their advantage doubling us in the post because we didn’t hurt them nearly as much as I wanted to or thought we could have.”

UNC outscored Davidson 44-22 in points in the paint and 24-15 in second-chance points. Meeks led UNC with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Johnson and Hicks both added nine points apiece.

Despite a strong performance in his hometown, Meeks wasn’t pleased with how he handled Davidson’s double teams.

“I don’t think I executed it well,” Meeks said. “I had Brice cutting a few times and I could have passed it a lot quicker. Getting the ball out quicker is important.”

Through three games this season, the Tar Heels have encountered two zone variations, a box-and-1 and post double teams out of man-to-man. Navigating such defensive nuances will help fine-tune UNC’s halfcourt efficiency as the season progresses.

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