The Tar Heels (5-2) outshot the top-ranked Hoosiers (7-0) 48.5 percent to 46.3 percent in the opening 20 minutes and matched their opponent on the defensive glass (12-12). Yet, UNC trailed by nine points.
Indiana’s 16-2 edge in points off turnovers may have been the stat to jump off the box score, but Tom Crean’s squad grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in the first half – five more than UNC – to control the rebounding margin and hold the second-chance points advantage (10-6).
It took the Hoosiers one half to become the sixth opponent of seven on UNC’s schedule to pull down 10 or more offensive boards. Only Gardner-Webb (9) grabbed fewer. While it may be understandable for quality opponents like Indiana (15 total) and Butler (12) to find success against UNC on the offensive glass, teams like Florida Atlantic (13), Long Beach State (12), Mississippi State (17) and Division II Chaminade (15) have no business posting those kinds of numbers.
Especially not against a program that’s made a name for itself by dominating the rebounding margin category nationally in recent years.
When asked about the offensive rebounding issues after the game, Roy Williams offered the following response: “Part of it is want-to, part of it is experience, part of it is quickness.”
“We are who we are,” the 10th-year UNC head coach continued. “We’ve got to get better with what we have. They had 15 total offensive rebounds. We had 14, but the problem is they turned theirs into 19 points and we only got 10. We get one in the second half and James Michael [McAdoo] throws it out to Reggie [Bullock] and he’s wide open from three, but he decides to pump fake and dribble in and then takes a contested shot, so you don’t get any points for that.”
Zeller’s putback to close the first half wasn’t the only glaring example of UNC’s rebounding woes. Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, standing all of 6-foot-5, soared over a flat-footed Joel James for an offensive rebound and putback to give the Hoosiers a 19-point lead and force a Tar Heel timeout early in the second half.
If that timeout message revolved around rebounding, it didn’t carryover onto the court. Ferrell – listed at a generous 6-foot – emerged from the congested interior with an offensive rebound on the next possession and found teammate Jordan Hulls open at the top of the key for a wide-open 3-ball to increase Indiana’s lead to 59-37.
McAdoo told reporters following the game that UNC can improve its offensive rebounding with basic textbook box-outs.
“We knew that they had a great rebounding margin right now,” McAdoo said. “We knew coming into the game that we were going to have to keep Zeller, Oladipo and everyone off the boards. We did it for some plays, but other plays we just took a lackadaisical approach.”
It’s worth noting that McAdoo had more offensive rebounds (4) than Indiana’s starting frontcourt of Zeller (2) and Christian Watford (0). Eight Hoosiers, however, grabbed an offensive rebound – five had two – while five Tar Heels had an offensive board. Reggie Bullock (2) was the only other UNC player with more than one.
“We’ve just got to box out,” senior guard Dexter Strickland said after the 83-59 loss. “We’ve just got to do the simple things that count. I don’t think we did a great job with that. They did a great job of crashing the boards and we didn’t do a great job of finding them and boxing out. It’s as simple as that.”
Indiana won the total rebounding battle, 49-42, marking the second time in three games that UNC has come up short in that statistical category.
The Tar Heels have been outrebounded on the offensive glass in three straight contests and their opponents are averaging 13.3 offensive rebounds per game.
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