Working Through VT's Zone

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Virginia Tech's offensive ineptitude required a stout defensive effort to stay close with No. 19 North Carolina. The Hokies' 2-3 zone did just that on Saturday, frustrating the Tar Heels until James Michael McAdoo made enough plays late to help his team pull out a 60-56 victory.

UNC has seen enough zone this season to understand the intricacies involved in scoring against it. It took 35 seconds for McAdoo to receive a pass in the high point and then dump it down low to Kennedy Meeks for a layup to open the scoring.

That approach provided plenty of looks during the first half. The problem, however, was the Tar Heels' failure to capitalize in the post.

UNC head coach Roy Williams confirmed in his postgame press conference that he was pleased with the quality of shot his team got against the zone, but lamented the inability to finish plays. Williams indicated that his team missed 11 of 16 field attempts in the lane in the first half.

Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson, for example, combined for six points on 2-of-11 shooting. Seven of those misses came in the first half.

"I got some great shots in the middle of zone, but I just didn't take my time with it," Johnson said. "I didn't shoot with confidence when I was in the middle. That's something I'm going to have to work on."

The scoring woes extended to the perimeter as well. After shooting 60 percent from 3-point range (18-of-30) over its past two games, UNC missed 12 of its 17 treys at Cassell Coliseum.

"They've been playing that zone all year," Paige said. "They've got some pretty long, athletic, good-sized guards. They did a good job covering space and bothering our shooters… They just did a good job taking away our perimeter looks."

Spacing was the culprit, according to Williams.

"We just didn't do a good job moving," the 11th-year UNC head coach said. "They're big and close on you quickly. Marcus, we thought, had a wide open shot one time and Jarell Eddie – 6-7 – really closed on him and Marcus almost turned it over. They got out and bothered his shots. We didn't shoot it well and it wasn't just because we were missing, it was because Virginia Tech guarded us."

Virginia Tech pulled within 42-40 with 8:53 to play before Leslie McDonald knocked down a critical 3-ball on UNC's next possession. McAdoo took over from there, attacking the middle of the zone and scoring 10 points over the final 6:56.

The junior forward scored 12 of his team-high 15 points after halftime on 5-of-6 shooting.

"I just tried to get the ball there in the middle of the zone, where obviously it's going to be a little bit weaker," McAdoo said. "Then make plays and find guys when they're open. I feel like I was able to do that in the first half, but I tried to look for my shot and be aggressive a little bit more in the second half."

UNC shot 41.8 percent on 23-of-55 shooting, including a 45.8 percent effort (11-of-24) after halftime.

Saturday's win will undoubtedly be filed in the ugly folder, although the Tar Heels proved once again it can be effective enough against an unfamiliar style of play.

 

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