In the second edition of our weekly blog series covering assist data from noteworthy games throughout the college basketball season, we examine a game from college basketball’s biggest rivalry: Duke-UNC. On Thursday, February 8th, the Tar Heels hosted the Blue Devils at the Dean Dome in their first meeting of the season and defeated their rivals in a thriller, 82-78.
Despite scoring about their average in points, the Tar Heels only had 15 assists on the game, down from their average of 18. UNC did not shoot particularly well on the game (30-77, or 39%) and did not rely on their passing as much as they usually do to generate good looks. On the season, the Tar Heels rank 46th in the country in assist percentage at 58.5%; however, in this game they only assisted on 50% of their made shots. Despite the below average assist numbers, UNC was able to win because of their offensive rebounding and ability to force turnovers. Against the Blue Devils, the Tar Heels recorded 20 offensive rebounds, up from their average of 14 (8th in the nation) and recorded 7 steals, up from their average of 5.4 (267th in the nation). These two factors allowed UNC to get up 15 more shots than their rivals and ultimately win the game.
Interestingly enough, only the five UNC starters produced either a made shot from the field or an assist during their win over Duke. All five starters played at least 30 minutes, with the bench only playing a combined 33 minutes. Point guard Joel Berry II had 6 assists on the game, with four of them going to Kenny Williams. Forward Theo Pinson trailed with 4 assists, two of which went to Cameron Johnson and the others to Luke Maye and Kenny Williams. Finally, Kenny Williams and Cameron Johnson finished with two assists each. It will be interesting to see how UNC’s offense, currently ranked 11th in efficiency, finishes the season as we head toward March.