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Heel Tough Blog: Ashtin's Analysis - Duke

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

The Athletic

UNC appeared to be in the best position possible heading into Saturday's Duke matchup. They had the experience advantage, even talent, and one of the best guards in the country under pressure. But it did not pan out on Saturday as Duke beat North Carolina 63-57 in a game that was much closer than that final score. In a game that was extremely physical, Duke was the more physical team at home and handed UNC their eighth loss of the year.

UNC started red hot as Caleb Love and RJ Davis opened with baskets to push an early UNC lead to 7-2. But Duke then began to beat the Heels at their own game, getting out in transition extremely well as UNC failed to get back on numerous occasions, leading to 16 fast break points in just the first half. UNC’s largest lead was seven before Duke would rally back around solid defensive play and poor UNC shot selection. Armando Bacot played very well in the first half with 12 points to lead all scorers. The score at the half was 33-32 Duke.

The second half went back and forth as neither team could hold the lead for long. Duke was able to control the lead for most of the half yet it was never by more than 6 until late. UNC was struggling to get the ball down low for the majority of the second half as Duke hacked at Bacot and pushed the UNC guards around. Love on numerous occasions was fouled on the drive with no call, and once was clobbered at the rim with no whistle. Nevertheless, when it mattered, UNC could not score as they did not have any points in the last 3:57 of the game and Duke ended on a 6-0 run.

Despite the whistle not favoring the Tar Heels, there was still plenty that could have been done to win the game for the Tar Heels. Pete Nance had been one for ten when he took a late three on a play where Duke seemed to just leave him alone, he missed it. Nance missed another key corner three a little earlier that would have given UNC the lead. Here are three things that could have helped UNC win this game.

1. Use Puff Johnson More:

It was clear to just about everybody watching that Nance was not dialed in at all on Saturday and the numbers proved it. When UNC did have Puff in he played excellent defense and was more respected by Duke to shoot the three-pointers. With Nance in the game Caleb Love and RJ Davis had one more extra defender to get around because Duke was sagging off of Nance. I’ve said it all season, Puff deserves more minutes and he could very well have changed the game last night.

2. Put Leaky Black on Kyle Filipowski:

Here is another example of Nance not being ready to play, he could not guard Duke’s number one option. At one point in the second half, Leaky Black was put on Filipowski when Bacot got taken out and did a stellar job. Leaky is a lockdown defender anywhere you put him and I believe that with him on Filipowski the whole game, he doesn’t score as much and UNC is in a better position to win the game.

3. Utilize the Pick and Roll More:

This one wasn’t as obvious, but Bacot was getting open off of screens and rolls more often than not in the first half. Sometimes the best spot to hit a big man is charging at the rim, and UNC instead of doing that decided to run their offense fully outside the perimeter in the second half. RJ Davis and Caleb Love are both good off of screens so why not utilize that? Especially RJ with his pull-up ability from mid-range and three-point land. If they do that more, there’s a better chance of victory.

UNC failed to pick up a win on Saturday but all is not lost for the Heels. They will play Wake Forest on the road Tuesday looking to pick up a bounce-back victory.

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