Through UNC’s first nine ACC games, the core interior rotation combined to average 30.4 points per game on 54.5 percent shooting (108-of-198). They also got to the charity stripe 89 times during stretch, attempting an average of 9.9 free throws per game.
Those are quality statistics by any measure, although the eye test suggested that a combination of misses from point-blank range, inconsistency in establishing position on the block and questionable shot selection prevented those numbers from being significantly higher.
Those concerns have seemingly whittled away ever since the calendar flipped to February. UNC has played five times this month, and in those games, Meeks, Johnson and Hicks have combined to average 41.4 points per game on 64.7 percent shooting (90-of-139). They’ve also increased their trips to the foul line to 10.4 attempts per game.
In terms of efficiency, the trio has combined to make six more field goals per game over the last five outings while only taking 5.8 more attempts.
“We’ve stress all year long about trying to get a better position and be ready early,” UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters on Monday. “You know where you want to go, so prepare. Take your man away from that spot and try to get to it. And I think they have done a better job of that.”
The coaching staff has put UNC’s bigs through more physical drills in pre-practice 1-on-1 work to enable the players to be able to play through contact and finish at the rim.
“They’ve really done a nice job with that part of it,” Williams said. “I keep telling them all of the time, if they just raise their motor and do a better job on the defensive end, then they’re becoming really a complete player and a very successful player.”
The improved post efficiency has resulted in UNC shooting 51.3 percent from the floor over its past five games.
“They’re taking good shots and they’re hitting good shots,” junior wing J.P> Tokoto said. “We’re one of the best teams getting points in the paint. That’s one of our focuses, getting the ball into the post because that opens up a lot.
“If we get our post men going, the other team is going to have to switch up something defensively. They’re going to have to sacrifice something, like a double team in the post, which opens it up for our perimeter players.”
That type of production in the paint will be critical in countering N.C. State’s backcourt trio of Trevor Lacey, Cat Barber and Ralston Turner. Meeks, Johnson and Hicks combined for 37 points on 63.0 percent shooting (17-of-27) in UNC’s win over the Wolfpack at PNC Arena on Jan. 14.
Post Efficiency on the Rise
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