I was looking at the current season stats of all our opponents to see where UNC and Houston differ from the rest. Neither are anything special statistically on offense as compared to teams that we have handled. What sticks out on D is that they are the two best at denying deuces. Their defensive possessions per 2FG are the largest of any of our opponents. The only other opponent that was even close was OU, which was our narrowest victory.
That jibes with the eyeball test. We clearly have a problem on O at present with teams that excel at keeping opponents out of the lane with physical man defense and that aggressively challenge shots. Gafford could help here, but a big in the lane may just keep rim protection near the basket and clog things up further if he isn’t scoring efficiently. Our guards have to generate some inside-out O, and Beard isn’t the main culprit. I thought he was our best player in the first half against Houston, not that the competition for that honor was real fierce. Our guards seem to go into the lane to shoot. We need some kickouts and ball movement when the shots aren’t falling.
Macon may be slowed due to injury. Whatever the reason, he’s not getting to the line as often as he did last season. I don’t believe he went to the line once in the first half with the O bogged down and Houston fouling like crazy. That was a game in which we might have missed Dusty, who was quite good at generating FTs when the offense wasn’t doing much. Macon’s lower FT rate may be a symptom of him not looking to penetrate enough, perhaps to protect his ankle.
I wonder if going small and spreading the court might be a viable option in circumstances like we found ourselves on Saturday. Put Thomas at center and CJ at PF. Invert the offense and let Barford post a guard. Drive and dish at four positions and let CJ create spacing. That’s not ideal for a long stretch, especially on defense, but it might bust us out of a funk.
The defense ended up being atrocious on Saturday, but that wasn’t what got us behind the eight ball. Houston only scored 13 points before the second TV timeout. They were at an underwhelming 57-point pace per 40 minutes at that juncture of the game. If you only have 1 FG by the second TV timeout, you’re probably in trouble on the road. Scoring points is necessary to maintain defensive energy on the road because the crowd sure won’t help.
The offense isn’t going to be there every game, and in the other five contests it’s been outstanding. Some of Saturday was almost certainly travel fatigue and random ups and downs. However, I’m sure we’re going to see other opponents try to attack us the same way.