ATLANTA – The best #North #Carolina teams under #Roy #Williams have been offensive juggernauts, demoralizing in their efficiency and overwhelming in their ability to outscore their deficiencies.
#Even #Williams is apt to remind reporters that his 2009 national championship team believed it could drown its opponent in points, defense be damned.
#That type of offense was not on display at #McCamish #Pavilion in downtown #Atlanta on #Wednesday, nor has it been a staple of this #Tar #Heel team through the first nine games of the season. UNC shot 44.6 percent from the floor, including 2-of-9 over the final seven minutes, and 2-of-7 from the free throw after halftime. The #Tar #Heels continued their trend of head-scratching turnovers, coughing up 18 that led to 19 points for their opponent. #Point guard #Caleb #Love was called for a double dribble at the midcourt line without a defender even challenging him.
#Even so, #Williams reserved his postgame comments for his defense, explaining his starting lineup change was the result of poor defensive grades in last week’s loss at N.C. #State and how more of the same occurred in this loss, his team’s fourth in six games.
#Georgia #Tech shot 52.9 percent for the game – 45.5 percent from three – and 63.9 percent over the final 26:39. #Despite playing a small lineup with 6-foot-7 wing #Jordan #Usher manning the four spot, the #Yellow #Jackets outscored the #Tar #Heels in points in the paint (24-22) in addition to fast break points (15-8).
“The defensive end of the floor has been a problem for us,” the #Hall of #Fame head coach said following the 72-67 loss. “We haven’t gotten turnovers like we’ve been able to do in the past and a team shoots 61 percent — you’re not getting turnovers, and they’re shooting 61 percent — so your defense is not very good. #You can say that we’re playing a lot of freshmen and that they’ve not bought into it enough, but the defensive end of the floor is the most important thing at this level of college basketball.”
#This was not fiery #Roy, irritated at small, correctible miscues that cost his team a winnable game. #This was exasperated #Roy, understanding the challenges ahead without a clear view to the intended destination. #While #Williams is typically forthcoming in detailing the weaknesses of his teams, his temperament often provides a glimpse into the recesses of his mind.
#His old-school defensive approach – defending from the rim out – is routinely criticized in this advanced metrics era, although it’s effective enough when the ball screen hedges and help defense are adequate. #Both areas have been causes for concern this season, however, as breakdowns on the perimeter have led to far too many layups and assists by savvy guards. #While #Love and fellow freshman guard R.J. #Davis were combining for 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting, #Georgia #Tech veterans #Michael #Devoe and #Jose #Alvarado were combining for 40 points on 15-of-21 shooting.
#Without defensive stops fueling easy transition scores, UNC was once again forced into halfcourt sets with telegraphed intentions of forcing the ball down low. #When the perimeter shots actually fall – as they did when #Kerwin #Walton knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in a span of three minutes in the second half – the #Tar #Heels show signs of life. #Yet those shooting spurts are short-lived, placing the emphasis once again on defense to offset a one-dimensional offense.
UNC took a 61-53 lead with 6:53 to play and then faltered down the stretch, missing seven of its final nine field goal attempts while #Georgia #Tech made six of its last seven. The #Yellow #Jackets closed the game on a 19-6 run.
“You stop runs by other people by scoring yourself or getting defensive stops,” #Williams said. “And we were not able to keep up the pressure on them by scoring and we were not able to get stops.”
The #Tar #Heels’ offensive woes are plentiful, beginning with guard play that is inconsistent at best. UNC ranks 225th nationally in effective field goal percentage (47.2) and 265th in turnover percentage (22.4), according to kenpom.com. #Youth factors heavily into those issues and that’s something that needs time and experience to fix. #In the meantime, #Williams will focus on improving his defense beyond its quality work on the backboards.
#When asked what was being lost in transition from practice to the games, he offered a bleak assessment.
“I’ll say the focus on the defensive end of the floor,” #Williams said. “Our movement without the ball on the offensive end of the floor. #And guys who make shots in practice don’t necessarily make them a lot in games. #And then the head coach is screwing it up himself.”
The year 2020 cannot come to an end soon enough for his #Tar #Heels.
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