UNC vs. Iowa State: Three things learned

Black Friday was a nightmare for UNC fans, and unfortunately not because their favorite discounted items were sold out. Instead, the football team lost to NC State in double overtime, and the basketball team lost to Iowa State in the final three minutes. When it comes to pride, losing to NC State was the most frustrating in football. However, when it comes to living up to expectations, Carolina basketball was possibly the most galling for those who expected them to go undefeated in the non-conference portion of the season.

Here’s the thing, though: This team would lose a few games before ACC plays. The reality of college basketball is that it’s very, very difficult to win the non-conference portion of your schedule when you actually plan properly. Does that make it easier to swallow the pill the Heels lost to the state of Iowa? Of course not, but puzzle me: which Final Four/national championship team hasn’t lost a few mind-bending games? The amount for the heels is a very, very small number.

Let’s discuss the three things we learned from the frustrating loss of the heels in Portland.

Caleb grilled love

Caleb Love had a really bad day yesterday, but it wasn’t for any reason we usually talk about. Yes, you could point out that he left the field 4-14 and argue that the source of his troubles lies there, but what really bit the whole team in the butt was Caleb Grill. The senior Cyclone, who incidentally averaged 16.7% from the three-point line before yesterday’s game, seared Love 31 points, 21 of which came from deep. His 63% shot rate from the three-pointer was reminiscent of a string of nonsensical feats from Carolina’s past – players who normally couldn’t hit a three-pointer to save their lives. At one point, Grill even hit on a Steph Curry-type threesome over Love for fun. Needless to say, it was extremely frustrating for Hubert Davis’ junior guard.

It’s too early to worry about what happened, especially since Love was actually pretty good on defense from an aggressiveness perspective. Right now I think what happened is pretty simple: Caleb Grill was just the next guy to want to show off against UNC and there’s a good chance he won’t repeat that kind of feat for the rest of the season. One has to wonder why Hubert Davis didn’t put Leaky Black on Grill, but also: would it have mattered? Maybe, but we’ll never know.

Points from turnovers doomed this game

Iowa State plays a really aggressive style of defense, and as a result, the heels could foul them pretty badly. The Cyclones committed 23 fouls, resulting in UNC attempting 25 free throws for the game. It seemed like that would be enough to keep the Heels in the lead, but unfortunately there was a big problem: dropping points.

UNC rotated the ball just four times more than Iowa State, but things really went awry in the no-turnover points division. The Cyclones were able to score 21 points by picking UNC’s pockets compared to the Heels, who could only score six points. We knew at the start of this game that this is what Iowa State is doing, but the fact remains that it’s really hard to win when you’re giving. so many points thanks to own mistakes. Of course, the game’s most game-changing turnovers came in the closing minutes, ultimately giving Iowa State the win. If the Heels want to leave Portland with a tournament-winning record, they’ll have to take better care of basketball.

This team is still really unpredictable

Before every game this season, I always tell myself that this will be the first full game of the season. However, what was frustrating is that each game had a different pain point that was preventing full games from happening. If Caleb Love and Armando Bacot are great, RJ Davis and Pete Nance aren’t great. With Pete Nance and Leaky Black on fire, the bank walks in, doing more harm than good. So what happened this time? Surprisingly, every starter played a role in this loss.

Despite all the criticism we gave UNC bench for not doing well after the game, they were actually the literal positives of the game. For those who care about +/- stats, all three players who came off the bench were positive, while every starter was negative. D’Marco Dunn had the highest +/- on the team at 6, while RJ Davis had the worst at -11.

While there’s no reason to think the Starters will repeat this any time soon, I think this is a solid step forward for the bench. They finished the game with 12 points overall, which is one of their best collective performances of the season. If they can continue to improve their performance, this team should become more and more dangerous as the season progresses.

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