CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 2 North Carolina kept its winning streak rolling along despite playing down to its competition at times in Saturday’s 89-62 win over Boston College.
The Tar Heels (19-2, 8-0 ACC) won their 12th game in a row while the Eagles (7-14, 0-8 ACC) dropped their eighth-straight ACC contest in an uneven affair loaded with unforced turnovers and scoring droughts.
The difference was turnovers, or rather UNC’s ability to capitalize on Boston College’s turnovers while mitigating its own. The Tar Heels converted 23 turnovers into 30 points, their most in ACC play and second-most of the season (31 vs Appalachian State). UNC forced as many turnovers as it allowed made field goals.
Meanwhile, the Eagles managed just five points off UNC’s 11 turnovers.
“We’re a running team and we want to get a lot of shots each game,” said sophomore guard Joel Berry, who had three of UNC’s 12 steals. “By creating those turnovers, we can get out into the open court and not have to come down every time and set up a set. Turnovers are a big thing, and we capitalize on them, too.”
Plenty of Boston College’s turnovers were errant passes and due to poor decisions, prompting head coach Jim Christian to attribute the errors to injuries that sidelined guards Jerome Robinson and Darryl Hicks.
“We’re really shorthanded not having Jerome or Darryl,” Christian said. “That’s two guards down for us. That was the root of a lot of turnovers. A lot of them were on-ball turnovers, ball-handling turnovers. That was the difference in the game, obviously.”
Injuries notwithstanding, the Eagles entered Saturday’s contest averaging an ACC-worst 14.7 turnovers per game in league play. Despite shooting 44.2 percent from the floor, Boston College turned the ball over on 30 percent of its possessions.
The Eagles shot 50 percent overall (11-of-22) and from 3-point range (6-of-12) in the first half despite UNC’s attempts to force even more turnovers.
“We tried to pressure, in fact, we tried to run some scrambles but every time we did the double team was a friendly double team,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “A double team’s supposed to put the guy at jeopardy, take away his vision or his balance, and we were double teaming and he was just looking crosscourt and throwing it and they made two open threes. So more in the second half we just went straight to our regular man-to-man pressure.”
Boston College committed turnovers on its first four possessions of the second half, allowing UNC to push its 41-30 halftime lead to 51-30 with 14:27 to play. The Eagles shot 40 percent and committed 10 turnovers after halftime.
“When we play straight up man-to-man, we’re good, but we want to create more turnovers so we have to work more on our run-and-jumps to create some more turnovers,” Berry said.
Berry’s postgame interview, along with several others, expanded beyond this game, one that UNC was favored to win by 26.5 points. The final 10 games of the regular season has long been circled as the stretch in which the Tar Heels could make their case for the nation’s best team.
Prior to tip-off, Williams elected not to write game-specific X’s and O’s on the locker room whiteboard. Instead, he stressed the need for his team to get better on offense, get better on defense and play with great effort. It was a test of maturity in some ways because Williams understands what lies ahead.
“If we play the way we’ve played the last four games, it will be very very difficult to win any of those games, so we’ve got to play better,” the 13th-year UNC head coach said.