Can UNC replicate its success off high ball screens in win at Duke?

By R.L. Bynum

NEW ORLEANS — For Carolina to replicate the Tar Heels’ dominance of Duke in the March 5 game in Durham, there is a lot that has to go right.

One area that UNC had overwhelming success in that 94–84 victory, which ruined Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game, was creating plenty of offense off of high ball screens.

With RJ Davis seemingly making one good decision after the other, he was able to penetrate and either score or dish off and the Blue Devils never seemed to be able to adjust. If Carolina has the same success in Saturday’s second national semifinal at the Final Four, it will give the Heels a huge advantage.

Armando Bacot said that Carolina was so lethal off of those screens because of the myriad options.

“It’s because we got so many reads out of it,” Bacot said. “Out of that high ball screen, we may have 30 or 40 different things we do. So, a team guards us one way, we do it another. We’ve got so many different reads of it, so it’s really hard to stop.”

It helps that those options for Davis included Bacot and the dangerous outside shooting of Caleb Love and Brady Manek.

“Just because we have so many offensive weapons,” Love said, explaining the success at Duke off of screens. “Them switching their defense up, we switch our offense up. When we put Mark [Williams] in a ball screen, how he plays, he plays back. So, we’ve either got the jump shot, mid-range or we’ve got Mondo rolling to the basket and we have Brady to pop.”

RJ Davis said that it was a battle of adjustments during that win in Durham to make the play that worked best at any given moment against the Blue Devils.

“My coaches put us in the right positions to make big-time plays,” Davis said. “We took what the defense gave me. At the same time, we worked well as a team. We executed plays down the stretch and we all bought in.

“It was just more about reading the defense and trying to see where open guys were and how to get baskets, not just myself and my teammates,” Davis said.

The Blue Devils had to go to a zone to finish off Michigan State in the Sweet 16 but UNC’s perimeter strength might shoot down that strategy. Duke never seemed to be able to adjust during the game in Durham but Bacot had a word of caution for anybody who thinks success will come just as easily on Saturday.

“We’re playing against Coach K, so I’m pretty sure they’ll figure out a way to adjust this time,” Bacot said.

Final Four

At Superdome, New Orleans
Saturday’s national semifinals

No. 2 Villanova (30–7) vs. No. 1 Kansas (32–6), 6:09, TBS
No. 2 Duke (32–6) vs. No. 8 North Carolina (28–9), 40 minutes after first semifinal, TBS
Monday’s final
Semifinal winners, 9:20, TBS

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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