CHAPEL HILL — It’s no secret that North Carolina and Duke are vastly different offensive teams. The Tar Heels want to work the ball inside, where they believe they have an advantage with post players Tyler Zeller and John Henson.
The Blue Devils, meanwhile, want to shoot a lot of 3-pointers – a team strength given they have many quality shooters. The difference between the Heels and Devils manifested itself in a large way during Duke’s 85-84 victory against UNC at the Smith Center on Feb. 8.
During that game, Duke attempted 36 3-pointers, and made 14 of them. UNC, meanwhile, was just 1-for-6 from beyond the 3-point line. So the Blue Devils outscored the Tar Heels 42-3 on 3-pointers – an enormous differential that was the primary reason Duke remained alive in a game that UNC mostly dominated for 38 minutes.
UNC coach Roy Williams earlier today described the challenges of defending Duke’s perimeter offense. Williams charted each of Duke’s 36 3-point attempts during the first meeting between the teams. Here are his comments in full:
“First of all, we do have to get out and guard the three better. We have to get closer to make them more challenged. You’re not going to stop Duke from shooting three-point shots because that’s what they practice every day. It’s hard to stop us from blocking shots, or rebounding the ball or running the ball because that’s what we work on every day.
“But we’ve got to do a much better job of getting closer to shooter, trying to make sure that we get a hand up on the shot, not giving a pose after the ball has already been released. We’ve got to get closer. They’re really good. Their offense is really good.
“Steve [Kirschner] and I were just talking about it on the way down here, their 36 three-point shots, I took every one of those out, looked at it on tape, graded it myself, classified it myself and it’s like nine different categories. We all worry about dribble penetration and a guy flying in there to support and they pitch it out to a three-point shooter.
“There were only four of their 36 that came from dribble penetration. They had five of them where we did a poor job going underneath the screen … had five of them where we went under the screen. We had one of them where the guy did a great job on the screen, we played great defense and a kid made a big-time shot.
“We had four of them where I call it the stare-down. You know, the kid’s just staring down at the ground and you wonder what he’s doing and all of a sudden he pulls up and shoots it. That was a little bit of Austin Rivers’ last play. I mean, that’s basically all that was. I mean, it wasn’t any cross-over dribbles, step back or anything like that.
“There were two step-backs, I think. There were two after staggered screen on the elbow. There were two or three double-screens across the top of the key. There was one where [Seth] Curry just made a fantastic cut and lost Kendall [Marshall].
“There was one where we made a really silly play because we talk about retreating in the direction of the pass and Thornton fakes a pass and we go running over to where he faked the pass and then he pulls up and shoots the three, you know. And there was no dribble in between – I mean he faked the pass and so we go running over there like a good little boy and then he shoots the three.
“So that’s the good thing about – from their side – that’s the good thing about their offense because it does emphasize three-point shots. But a variety of different ways, with a variety of different guys screening and a variety of different guys spacing.
“I mean, there were two of them where they throw it in the post diagonally across from their five man to their four man. So again, that’s probably more information then you need. But [I] went through 36 three-point shots and there’s nothing that is a common thread more than five times.
“So that means it’s really difficult to prepare … there’s not any one thing you can do to cover that.”
So to summarize … among those Duke’s 36 shots from behind the 3-point line, Williams counted:
-Four that came as a result of dribble penetration and passes out to the perimeter.
-Five that came after a UNC defender went under a screen, instead of over it.
-One that came when a Duke player made a “big-time” shot when UNC correctly defended the player.
-Four that came on what Williams described as a “stare-down.”
-Two that came after a staggered screen at the elbow.
-Two (or three) that came after double screens across the top of the key.
-One that came after Seth Curry lost Kendall Marshall after Curry made a nice cut.
-One that came after Tyler Thornton’s fake pass faked out the UNC defense, leaving Thornton open.
-Two that came after the center threw it diagonally across the court to a forward.
That only accounts for 23 of the 3-point attempts, of course. But, as you can see, defending the 3 against Duke isn’t as easy as it might sound.
David Scott has been with the Observer for 28 years and has written about ACC, SEC and other college sports in the Charlotte region. He covers Wake Forest, South Carolina and college soccer for the Observer and (Raleigh) News & Observer.
J.P. Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997, and the Observer.
Andrew Carter covers the North Carolina Tar Heels for the Observer and News & Observer.
Laura Keeley covers the Duke Blue Devils for the Observer and News & Observer. Follow her on Twitter.
Chip Alexander covers the Carolina Hurricanes and college football for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1979, and the Observer.
Luke DeCock has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist for the Observer and News & Observer in August 2008.
Tim Crothers is an author and former senior writer at Sports Illustrated who is joining the sports staff to write a regular column during the rest of the college basketball season.