Torn Apart: Grading UNC In Their 85-78 Loss to Boston College In ACC Opener

Nathan BitnerSenior Analyst IJanuary 4, 2009

(Note: To read this article and more about UNC/ACC athletics, visit my blog at Carolina Tarheel Blue).

At least this ridiculous talk of an undefeated season can end.

UNC joined the likes of Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Duke in losing a stunner to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten.

North Carolina reverted to the poor form it displayed in losses last year at home to Maryland and Duke, as well as the devastating loss to Kansas in the Final Four.

They also showed that no one will breeze through the ACC, including a team that returned all five starters from a national championship contender in 2007-08.

Don't take anything away from Boston College; they played better than the unanimous No. 1 team on this night, and they fully earned and deserve this victory.  It's worth pointing out that Steve Auger pointed out exactly what Boston College needed to do to win in his Creature vs. Creature article from the Eagles' perspective, which can be read here.

Let's look at what I listed as the keys to a North Carolina victory and see how well the Heels did in achieving them.  Afterward, I'll hand out some offensive and defensive grades.

From my Creature vs. Creature article, here were the keys to a North Carolina victory:

1.  Get off to a fast start.

Well, this certainly didn't happen.  Surprisingly, Wayne Ellington shot pretty well in the first half, but Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson didn't get nearly enough touches.  UNC was sloppy with the ball, turning the ball over 15 times while forcing just 11 turnovers.

The Tar Heels didn't take their first lead until five minutes were left in the first half and they didn't keep it long.  They were down by six at halftime.

2.  Force turnovers and keep the Eagles running.

The Eagles were running just fine, but it was due to North Carolina turnovers, not their own.  Sloppy passing was the primary culprit.  Tyrese Rice, Reggie Jackson, and Rakim Sanders made them pay repeatedly. 

Lawson looked incapable of defending Rice at times and missed many of his own runners on the offensive end.  Boston College players were often left with uncontested threes and the Eagles' offensive rebounding (at least in the first half) provided them with plenty of second-chance opportunities, something the Heels usually shut down.

Boston College took care of the ball better than any foe North Carolina has played thus far, turning the ball over just 11 times.

3.  Don't get lazy on defense or rely on the three on offense.

The Tar Heels weren't too bad from behind the arc until the last five minutes of the game.  They would have been better off forcing the ball inside instead of launching one long three-pointer after another.  Still, for the majority of the game, they didn't fall into the trap of settling for long perimeter shots.

As far as their defense, I would credit impressive Eagles play more than I would call the UNC defense "lazy."  Rice outclassed Lawson time and time again.  Deon Thompson wasn't much of a factor on either end of the court and Hansbrough didn't get enough touches or get to the line as much as he should have. 

Finally, Danny Green picked up four fouls early, some of which did qualify as "lazy."  Without Marcus Ginyard at full strength, this really hurt the Heels ability to pressure Boston College as much as they would like.

Boston College shot .457 from the field, but it was UNC's .384 that hurt far more.


Finally, let's hand out some grades to North Carolina:


Perimeter Shooting:  B-

UNC shot well from the perimeter until the end of the game.  In crunch time, neither Green, Ellington, nor Lawson could get the threes to fall.

Interior Game:  D

Thompson was practically non-existent.  Hansbrough missed nearly two-thirds of his shots, going 6 of 15 from the field.  Lawson could not convert the fast break nor did he shoot well in the halfcourt sets, shooting a miserable 3 of 13 (.231).  Worse yet, he and Ellington failed to get the ball to Hansbrough throughout the game.

Transition Game:  D+

A one to one turnover to assist ratio will not get it done.  Lawson had those numbers (four and four) and so did the team as a whole (15 and 15).  When they did get steals, the Tar Heels failed to convert many of them into buckets at the other end.  They forced only 11 turnovers, and Boston College was rarely pressured into mental mistakes.

Free Throw ShootingD-

Usually one of the Tar Heel strengths, UNC shot just .556 from the charity stripe.  The only reason they don't get a failing grade is because Deon Thompson was the main culprit, going a pathetic one of six.  Though he's one of the lowest percentage shooters anyway, that performance means it's time for Thompson to spend some extra practice time shooting free throws.

Hansbrough was the best from the free throw line (.750 on nine of 12 attempts), but even he was 12 percentage points below his average.

Offensive ReboundsB-

If UNC was given a first-half grade, it would have probably been in the range of a C or D.  They stepped up the offensive rebounds in the second half and ended the game with 28, compared to Boston College's 16.  Of course, the reason they got so many offensive rebound was because they missed so many shots.




Perimeter Defense:  D-

The Eagles shot .375 from behind the arc, but it was the timing of the shots and how open they were that give UNC such a bad grade.  When they did go out and guard the perimeter, they were slow in rotating, giving Boston College easy interior points.

Double-teaming was rarely effective and Tyrese Rice ran around Ty Lawson and the defense like a hot knife through butter.

The Tar Heels once again gave up far too high of a field goal percentage (.457) and could not get enough defensive stops at the end of the game to climb back into contention.

Interior Defense:  C-

UNC had five blocks; Boston College had eight.  Those numbers should have been reversed, at worst.  Boston College had 40 rebounds, 16 of them offensive.  This is also far worse than UNC normally allows. 

For their part, the Heels grabbed 50 boards.  Hansbrough had nine total rebounds, but most of those were toward the end of the game.  Thompson contributed just five rebounds for the Tar Heels.

Though Joe Trapani was generally shut down (minus a key three-pointer in the second half), Reggie Jackson repeatedly scored on the UNC defense.  If you take away the last five minutes of the game, North Carolina drops a full letter grade.

Turnovers ForcedD-


Hopefully, this loss is exactly what North Carolina needs.  There will be no pressure of going undefeated.  There will be, presumably, a real battle for the regular season championship.  The players will hopefully find an easier time focusing on "one game at a time" instead of their goals for March.

I would love to be a fly on the wall in practice on Monday.