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Heel Tough Blog: Appalachian State Preview

As tough as Saturday was for the Tar Heels, it is time to move on to the next challenge which is App State, who will visit the Smith Center tomorrow evening. Carolina is coming off one of the worst losses in recent memory, as Kentucky made easy work of UNC 98-69 in Las Vegas over the weekend. The final margin of defeat was the largest since 2012 (@ Florida State), and the largest deficit the program had seen since 2010 (@ Duke). Following the game, head coach Hubert Davis said the loss humbled his team, and now we’re going to find out if the team will sink to the bottom, or swim to the top.

App State enters with a respectable 6-6 record, as they look to make a return to the NCAA Tournament, where last season they lost in the First Four. The Mountaineers have dropped games to common opponent Furman (73-65), and future ACC opponent Duke (92-67). Of their six wins, three have come against Division II opponents, but make no mistake this is a veteran team. Dustin Kerns returns 88.9% of minutes played last season and 92.9% of last year’s scoring production. Led by Adrian Delph, App State gets its offensive in a variety of different ways, and won’t be intimated by playing in the Smith Center.

This is the final non-conference game of the year for Carolina, as once the team regathers after Christmas, it is all ACC games to close out the regular season. After Saturday’s debacle, Carolina will look to get back on track and gain some confidence heading into the holiday break. Here is how they can do just that:

  1. Effort: Had Carolina played their hardest on Saturday, and still lost, it would have been easier to live with the result, but that wasn’t the case. From the opening tip, the Tar Heels showed no desire to be on the court, and they got embarrassed because of it. What makes it more disappointing is after the Tennessee loss back before Thanksgiving, Hubert Davis said that as long as he was the head coach, he’d never have to coach effort again. A little less than a month later, here we are. There isn’t going to be a lively crowd behind the Tar Heels tomorrow night, so Carolina will need to create their own energy, especially against an opponent as experienced, and well-coached as App State is. Hubert has been cautious to pull players even after bad mistakes, and lack of effort, that need to change to show he’s going to hold them accountable.

  2. Defense: This follows up with the effort. After taking steps forward during the 5 game win streak, and even forming an identity on the defensive end of the floor, Carolina is back at square one, after Saturday. UNC struggled to contain the dribble, allowing 54 points in the paint, 53% shooting from behind the arc during Saturday’s loss, and while the effort and communication were bad, it is not all on the players. It’s hard to fathom, knowing the Hubert Davis played for Dean Smith, who changed defenses constantly, not changing anything when his team is struggling. To make matters worse, after seeing the way Kentucky’s press affected Carolina’s offense, there was never a point in the game where Carolina tried to counter with a press of their own, which was puzzling. Carolina has proven to be a good enough defense in the man-to-man, when they play with effort, and communicate, but when that breaks down, they need to have a backup option, instead of allowing the opponent to score at will.

  3. Play With Rhythm Offensively: Ever since Carolina had the six days between the Georgia Tech game, and the Elon, the offense hasn’t been the same. Against Elon and Furman, they still scored relatively efficiently, but it didn’t look like the offense we saw earlier in the season. Then it all came crashing down on Saturday, as they mustered only 69 points, and shot just 8% from behind the arc. Carolina has slowed the tempo down it appears to help out defensively, which isn’t allowing them to play in the open court. They also aren’t forcing turnovers, to help them play in transition, either. When you add that up, with poor execution in the half-court, you get the result you got on Saturday. They need to get to the basics, of playing inside-out, and taking perimeter shots when they present themselves, as opposed to living or dying by the long ball.

Series History: Carolina is 5-0 all-time against App State, with Carolina winning the most recent matchup 94-70 back in 2015. Carolina’s margin of victory in the previous 5 games is 25, and they are averaging 94.6 points per game lifetime against the Mountaineers.


UNC - 37th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 112.8 (16th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 97.2 (97th)

App State - 176th overall. Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 99.7 (199th) Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 100.4 (161st)


UNC - 49th.

App State - 2214th.

TV Info: Tomorrow’s game will start at 7 PM, and will be televised on the ACC Network

The Four Corners Podcast:

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