North Carolina

Inside the numbers: After a season-opening win, here’s what UNC needs to improve

No. 9 North Carolina won its season-opener 76-65 at home against Notre Dame on Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean it was all good.

There were a number of areas the Tar Heels struggled, including turnovers and getting back in transition. UNC faces UNC-Wilmington on the road on Friday. It’ll be a good opportunity for the Tar Heels to work on their mistakes before they get to the tougher part of the schedule later this month.

Here are three area the Tar Heels must improve:

Getting back in transition

When you think of UNC teams, you think of rebounding and fast breaks. The Tar Heels did only one of those well. Notre Dame had 26 fastbreak points while UNC had 12.

Part of the reason Notre Dame had so many fastbreak points was its ability to force turnovers. Another part was the Tar Heels’ inability to get back in transition.

There were a few instances when the Tar Heels trotted back on defense and allowed the Fighting Irish to score.

With about three minutes left in the game, UNC freshman Cole Anthony missed a 3-pointer. It was rebounded by Notre Dame’s John Mooney, who passed it to his outlet, Prentiss Hubbs, who found a streaking T.J. Gibbs for layup. The ball did not touch the floor and Gibbs was fouled as he scored the bucket, cutting the Tar Heels’ lead to 11 points.

There also appeared to be some miscommunication issues on defense. For instance, in the first half, Hubbs scored a transition 3-pointer with no one guarding him. Two UNC defenders chased Rex Pflueger, leaving Hubbs alone.

Cameras caught UNC coach Roy Williams watching the play with his arms crossed. He did not look pleased.


The Tar Heels committed 18 turnovers. Some were unnecessary and occurred when the Tar Heels were trying to make plays they likely did not have to make.

UNC led Notre Dame by three points with 4:44 left in the first half but committed three turnovers in the final five minutes to allow the Fighting Irish to take a 31-30 lead at halftime. Two of those led to transition points.

The Tar Heels gifted the Fighting Irish 18 points off turnovers.

“I jumped on (Cole Anthony) and Christian (Keeling) in the first half because he had two turnovers and Christian had four,” Williams said Wednesday night.

Keeling finished with five turnovers, while Anthony had four. Garrison Brooks had three turnovers.

Other than the points off turnovers and getting back in transition, the Tar Heels played a pretty good defensive game, contesting shots and grabbing defensive rebounds.

Scoring when Anthony’s off the floor

Anthony, who scored a game-high 34 points, played the entire second half because Williams really had no choice.

When Anthony took his first break with 5:48 left in the first half, the Tar Heels led 21-16. In the three minutes he sat on the bench, the Fighting Irish went on a 12-2 run and took a 28-23 lead.

Anthony did it all for the Tar Heels, creating shots for his teammates and shots for himself. He took 43.2 percent of the Tar Heels’ shots, which is 15th in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy’s advanced analytics.

But Williams said he doesn’t want to get into the habit of playing Anthony for an entire game.

“I don’t believe in this ‘load management’ junk that you hear about in the NBA,” Williams said. “Pay me $25 million a year or something like that and my load’s always going to be pretty light. But I do believe you’ve got to rest some players during the course of the game and some times in practice.”

Senior wing Brandon Robinson, who suffered an ankle sprain last week and missed Wednesday’s game, was supposed to be the Tar Heels’ third point guard behind Leaky Black. He is expected to be out for at least a couple of weeks.

Until then, Black will have to step up in a big way and others will have to score.

UNC at UNC-Wilmington

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Trask Coliseum, Wilmington

Watch: Flosports

Listen: WTKK-106.1, WCHL-97.9, WCHL-1360 in the Triangle; WBT-99.3, WBT-1110 in Charlotte

Related stories from Durham Herald Sun

Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
Support my work with a digital subscription