UNC-Ohio: The Good & the Bad

The North Carolina Tar Heels put together positive performances over a three-game stretch twice this season. And both times the Heels' fourth game in that stretch was, well, awful.

UNC followed up its season-long three-game winning streak in late December with an ugly 22-point thrashing at home by Wake Forest. On Wednesday, the Heels were humbled by Ohio University after a seven-day period that included respectable losses to Maryland and Virginia and a win over Florida State.

Here is the good and the bad of UNC's 86-78 loss to the Bobcats, Carolina's 17th loss in 24 games.

GOOD

Freshmen – UNC's trio of Jackie Manuel (seven points, six rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal), Melvin Scott (17 points, two assists and two steals) and Jawad Williams (15 points, five rebounds, one block and two steals in just 16 minutes) led Carolina's impressive comeback, cutting an 18-point deficit to three in four minutes. They combined to score six consecutive field goals and each played well in the same game for this first time this season. They gave the Heels needed energy and earned the right to play more minutes. At this point, why not?

Comeback – The comeback wasn't just because of the freshmen. The Heels' extended pressure defense worked extremely well and prompted the question, why they hadn't gone to it earlier in the game or more often this season? In a game that had few positives, they can be proud of this run.

Assist/Turnovers – Despite having difficulty at times against Ohio's 1-3-1 extended zone, the Tar Heels had 24 assists against just 11 turnovers.

Fans – Kudos to the 13,252 fans that made the effort to show up for the quintessential "who cares" game, considering the circumstances. They were loud when Carolina was making its run and showed the kind of support few – if any – other teams would have received this late in the worst season in school history against a relatively unknown non-conference opponent. The students' ovation after the game displayed why so many observers feel this is the most special place to play basketball in the nation.

BAD

Defense – UNC allowed 26 field goals in the paint – mostly dunks and layups – before Ohio netted its final nine points from the free throw line. Carolina was slow to react and get position around the basket. The helpside defense could not have been worse and few entry passes were – other than during the run – were challenged. The Bobcats' dominance inside afforded them many open perimeter shots, of which they hit eight in the first 26 minutes of the contest.

Poor start – The Heels' awful start from the field helped dig a hole they ultimately couldn't overcome. Scott said the early offensive struggles were the main reason they lost. He may be right despite poor defense and a lack of energy. UNC didn't react well to Ohio's zone even though they got some quality looks. After experiencing success with a more freelance approach, UNC was too passive and played into Ohio's defensive hands too much, thus the missed looks and lack of energy.

Energy - The cold start appeared to affect the team's confidence, which was evident in their low energy level. But pride, however, should have been a factor with respect to energy, but it wasn't. One would think the Heels would have been extremely focused and determined to not let another school from a non-major conference beat them in their hallowed hall, but that wasn't the case.

Free throw attempts – UNC attempted just eight freebies for the night. Eight! After having success at getting to the line and from the line the last couple of weeks, Carolina was unable to get the Bobcats (10 total fouls) in foul trouble.

Rebounding – The Heels were outrebounded 39-30 for the game – 17-11 in the second half – and allowed 12 total offensive rebounds to the Mid-American Conference squad. Positioning, effort and sporadic boxing out created this statistical disparity.

Loss – UNC's 17th loss means it will most likely lose an unthinkable 20 games this season. With trips to N.C. State and Duke and a home game with Clemson remaining before the ACC Tournament, it's difficult to imagine UNC not losing 20 games.

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels take to the road at rival N.C. State on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be televised by Fox SportsNet.


Andrew Jones is in his sixth year covering football and basketball for Inside Carolina. He is also in his fourth year as a copy editor and staff writer for the Wilmington Star-News and hosts a nightly radio show on WAAV-AM980 in Wilmington. He has also written for ACCNews and once published The College Game and the former Total Sports. He can be reached via e-mail at: AJWAAV@aol.com.


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