A few quick thoughts on our game against Ohio State. Most of these (on my end at least) will be notable things on our Game Plan page on Kenpom, expounded on by what it looked like on television. I'm just going to comment with italics here, and for equity's sake I'll take the baton in the review of the UK game tomorrow
First off, I thought a huge key to the game was making Ohio State's center Kosta Koufos look bad on the court - he looked so bad that Matta sat him on the bench for much of the second half despite not being in foul trouble. For a 7-footer to be playing only 27 of your team's minutes with just one foul, that's saying a lot about his inability to do anything positive for you on the court, be it on offense (Koufos shot 1-10, and collected just one offensive rebound) or defense (Hansbrough was able to score 13 points and collect five offensive rebounds). Yeah, one of the storylines going in was the fact that Roy pushed hard recruiting Koufos, and I'm not exactly upset we missed out after his performance. Everything I had heard about his being in the mold of a soft European player was confirmed as he seemed to wither under outstanding post defense by UNC's three-headed PF/C monster.
In addition to keeping Koufos in check, we also did an all-around good job of playing defense on the Ohio State shooters. The Buckeyes shot 27% for the night - a pretty terrible number. Only one player had a good game in terms of shooting, and that was Jon Diebler. Everyone else (including Jamar Butler, who recorded 17 points but shot only 6-22) was forced into bad shots. Helping this matter was OSU's seeming eagerness to put up the 3, they came in shooting in the low 30% range from 3, on average they take 37% of their FG's from behind the arc, but against UNC it rose to nearly 50%, though this is in part due to the absence of Koufos for much of the game I can't help but wonder what would make a mediocre 3pt shooting team lean so heavily on the 3 ball.
Both sides did an excellent job not turning over the ball. 10 and 11 turnovers for them and us, respectively, are fine numbers for a 70-possession game. One thing we did do poorly was our free throw shooting - we didn't get to the line often (some would say that's the refs' fault, but I refuse to take that stance), and when we did, we shot poorly, allowing ourselves to get PUNK'D by the Buckeye faithful. 7-14 free throw shooting is simply unacceptable. On the whole this seems to be in line with OSU's early season profile, keeping their own TOs down (21st) but not forcing any either (304th), they have a similar skewing in Free Throw Rate, (233rd/3rd) not getting to the line often, but not allowing their opponent to get their either. As for the students punking our players, they are 53rd in %FT defense cough, sample size, cough.
Overall, we didn't have our best shooting night ever, but we played excellent defense, meaning Ohio State's shooting was even worse, and we completely shut down Ohio State's big man Koufos. In doing so, we were able to overcome our relatively cold shooting night from the field and from the line and record a victory. Like I say, we can screw up on one end of the floor at a time, if our offense is off, our defense better be on, and it was against OSU. Promising was the fact that the defense defended shots well (24% on 2pt FG) as opposed to forcing turnovers, which helps explain the lack of offense (no TOs forced = no transition points). This game was quite a confidence builder because the Heels won while playing out of their comfort zone and without their star point guard and, for argument's sake, MVP. Notice the fact that neither John nor I spoke of our +16 rebounding margin. I feel that this was more an artifact of the Buckeyes only shooting 27% (creating plenty of oppurtunities), hustling back on a transition prevent defense to allow us to gather a large majority of their 51 misses, and on defense playing a zone which allowed us to get more offensive boards than usual.
As for the Kentucky game, Billy Gillespie already has his fingerprints all over this program. They're top 10 in defending both 2 and 3 point FGs, and 30th at forcing TOs, and 7th in Adj Defensive Efficiency. However, these numbers are based on games played against pretty weak opponents (241 average KenPom ranking, and that's with Gardner-Webb at 130 skewing the numbers towards the impressive end, all 4 other opponents are in the 230's or worse). The Heels should be able to shut down the Wildcat offense, and with any luck will drag UK into a high paced contest to wear out their injury thinned bench.