Although UNC suffered an inexplicable road loss to Georgia Tech on Dec. 31, the Tar Heels won four straight ACC contests following their Atlanta trip.
North Carolina is averaging 2.5 more points per game in ACC play — 92.1 PPG in league games, compared to 89.6 over the entire season. The wins over NC State, Wake Forest and Florida State marked the first time since 1992 that UNC scored 90 or more points in three straight ACC games.
UNC’s three biggest guns — juniors Joel Berry and Justin Jackson, and senior Isaiah Hicks – have all produced at a higher level since ACC play began.
Berry is averaging 20.4 PPG over UNC’s five ACC contests, compared to an average of 16.2 points a game over the entire season.
Jackson’s scoring is also up in recent games as he’s averaging 19.2 PPG over five ACC outings, compared to a season average of 17.9 PPG. Hicks, averaging 12.7 PPG for the season, is averaging 13.2 PPG over UNC’s last five contests.
It hasn’t really mattered where UNC has played. The Tar Heels have shot 50 percent or better seven times this season, and four were away from the Smith Center. UNC is 6-1 in those contests, with the only loss coming to Kentucky.
When examining UNC’s losses, a few glaring stats stand out. Only twice this season have the Tar Heels failed to score 70 points. Both were in losses to Indiana (67 points) and Georgia Tech (63 points). The Tar Heels have failed to shoot at least 40 percent in four contests, with two being the losses to the Hoosiers and Yellow Jackets.
The production of UNC’s two veteran big men, Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, was down considerably in Carolina’s three losses. Despite averaging 13.1 PPG in UNC’s 16 wins, Meeks averaged just 9.7 PPG against Indiana, Kentucky and Georgia Tech. Similarly, Hicks, who is averaging 13.5 PPG in Carolina’s victories, averaged just 8.7 PPG in the three setbacks.
UNC not only took a large volume of three-pointers in two of the losses, but the Heels struggled to convert. They’re averaging 19.5 three-point attempts per game as a team this season but shot a whopping 26 against Georgia Tech, making just five. UNC was also above its three-point attempts average against Indiana, sinking just six of 21 attempts against the Hoosiers.
Outside shooting didn’t fail the Tar Heels against Kentucky — UNC actually converted 9-of-17 from long range against the Wildcats. The Tar Heels are 9-1 this season when shooting 40 percent or better from three-point land, with the only loss coming to Kentucky.
UNC, the national rebounding leader, is 16-1 in games in which it out-rebounds the opposition. The only outlier was the Georgia Tech game. Kentucky is the only team to out-rebound North Carolina this season, while Indiana tied UNC on the boards.
It’s easier said than done, but teams that have rebounded competitively with UNC while forcing a lot of missed three-pointers, have found success.