“We kept hanging around because we were doing a good job rebounding the ball, but we weren’t finishing the plays when we got the offensive rebounds,” UNC head coach Roy Williams told reporters following his team’s 73-67 loss. “You look down there and you have 24 offensive rebounds and that should be more than 17 points, but we weren’t tough enough, physical enough, strong enough, explosive enough – whatever – to finish the plays at that point.”
Williams noted in his press conference on Friday that rebounding had typically been an area where UNC has hurt Wake Forest in recent years. Judging by the season stats entering Sunday’s ACC-opening tilt, that edge may not have been as apparent, as the Demon Deacons ranked 28th nationally in rebound margin at plus-7.3.
That, however, wasn’t the case at LJVM Coliseum.
North Carolina manhandled the Demon Deacons on the glass (53-34), especially in the first half. UNC held a 36-14 rebounding edge at halftime, including a staggering 17-1 advantage on the offensive boards.
Despite that significant differential, UNC outscored its opponent, 7-2, in second-chance points in the first half and trailed 34-32.
“That’s really frustrating, especially when we have such great size and athleticism and skill,” junior forward James Michael McAdoo said. “Not to be able to capitalize on that is deflating.”
UNC’s field goal percentage – the Tar Heels shot 35.3 percent (24-of-68) after converting 5-of-7 to start – helps to explain the numbers discrepancy, although the bigger issue was the failure to capitalize.
“Usually we put it right back in the rim,” sophomore forward Brice Johnson said. “They just weren’t falling. We were trying to go back up and they either pinned it against the glass or we just didn’t make the shot. We’ve got to convert on those. That was a big deal.”
Those short-range failures were apparently contagious. Six different Tar Heels pulled down two or more offensive rebounds, while three grabbed four or more.
McAdoo dismissed the notion that the large quantity of misses on putbacks was fluky, instead saying, “I sucked - I couldn’t make lay-ups.”
Williams credited the Demon Deacons’ size on the interior, highlighting their six blocks and various other shot attempts affected down low, but consistently harped on the misses from short range throughout his press conference.
“When you get the ball on the offensive rebound two or three feet from the basket, you should finish the play or get fouled,” Williams said.
Wake Forest countered UNC’s second-chance point total with 10 points on eight offensive boards. By contrast, the Demon Deacons scored 19 points off 17 UNC turnovers compared to the Tar Heels’ 15 points off 13 WFU errors.
UNC outrebounded Wake Forest by 16 on the offensive glass, yet was outscored in the paint, 46-44.
Sunday marked the second time this season that the Tar Heels have outrebounded their opponent by 15 or more and lost. UNC outrebounded Belmont, 44-29, but the root problem in that loss was free throw shooting (26 misses) and not second-chance points (22-13).