By R.L. Bynum
When you have a guard whose most famous shot to date came from well beyond the 3-point arc with a tall defender lunging toward him, it’s sometimes hard to define a bad shot.
Of all of the shots immortalized in the Carolina Basketball Museum, the marker for Caleb Love’s 3-pointer over the outstretched hands of Mark Williams against Duke in the Final Four is the farthest away from the basket. When you balance that with Love’s percentages this season, defining a good shot becomes murkier.
Ahead of the now No. 18 Tar Heels’ 9:15 game Wednesday at No. 10 Indiana (Big Ten Network) in the final ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Coach Hubert Davis admitted said he was “100% comfortable” with some shots but not with others.
Love is shooting 24.5% from 3-point range this season after hitting those shots at a 36% clip last season. RJ Davis made 36.7% of his shots from outside of the arc last season but is only sinking 27.8% this season.
That’s a problem when those two are taking 51.4% of UNC’s shots. Their 60 combined shots against Alabama tied a record for most by two players in a UNC game.
What does Davis view as a good shot?
“Just getting the shot not only that one person wants, getting a shot that everybody agrees upon, everybody wants, and just understanding the difference between a good shot and a bad shot,” said Davis, who counts a bad shot as a turnover. “That’s a discussion not only have I had with RJ [Davis] and Caleb, but I’ve had with the entire team.”
Coach Davis says that patience rather than a quick early shot-clock attempt is usually the better way to go.
“I also know that some of the shot selections are because they want to make something happen,” Davis said. “Sometimes, in those situations, the best thing is to create and to wait for a better shot. And that’s something that I’ve had discussions with everybody, and specifically Caleb and RJ.”
Love has shot under 17% on 3-point attempts in three games (1 of 9 against College of Charleston, 1 of 6 against James Madison and 1 of 7 against Iowa State), with his best percentage coming when he attempted the fewest: 3 of 4 against Portland.
To say that he shot a lot in the 103–101 four-overtime loss to now No. 11 Alabama would be as much of an understatement as saying that the game had a little controversy. Love shot 36 times, the fourth-most in a game in program history, including going 3 of 11 from 3-point range.
A look at the shot chart above (players’ numbers note who took the shots) from the Alabama loss shows a lot of lengthy shots that you can’t likely classify as good for anybody but Stephen Curry.
The below graphic showing Carolina’s shooting percentage broken down by where the shot went up also shows the same dynamic (except for straight-away 3-point attempts).
It turned out pretty well when Love had double-digit 3-point attempts last season. UNC was 6–2 in such games, including Love going 6 of 13 in both the NCAA tournament victories over Marquette and UCLA.
In many games this season, there has been too much dribbling, not enough passing and not enough movement without the ball. Making it worse, Coach Davis said, is that teams are trapping against UNC coming off ball screens more than last season, trying to keep his guards out of the three-second lane.
“Carolina basketball, we pride ourselves on being good to great in terms of passing a basketball and being able to just distribute and create for others. So far, it’s been difficult,” Davis said.
Carolina is tied for 249th out of 352 in the country with only 12.3 assists per game. The Tar Heels have more than 20 assists only twice — 22 against Portland and 21 against Alabama. In a 60-minute game against the Tide. That latter total only meant that there were assists on 39.5% of UNC’s field goals after that figure was above 50% in the previous three games.
“We’ve got to do a better job of moving the basketball and getting into the lane and drawing defenders and hitting the open guy and having more ball movement with the combination of player movement in our half-court sets,” Davis said. “That’s something that we have talked about a lot in terms of moving the basketball more, and that’s an area we desperately need to improve.”
Indiana has kept the 3-point shooting percentages of five of its six opponents at 30% or lower. The exception was Xavier’s 7 of 17 3-point shooting game (41.2%) when the Hoosiers won 81–79 in their only game closer than 17 points.
That tells you that if Carolina has a hot-shooting game, the Hoosiers could be in trouble because that also will open up the inside more for Armando Bacot.
After a game in which Coach Davis played three starters more than 50 minutes, he bristled at a question from a reporter who suggested that his starters played a lot of minutes. Davis pointed out the consistent minutes he’s given Seth Trimble (11.3 minutes per game) and D’Marco Dunn (9.3).
“I’ve consistently played eight to nine guys the entire season, so I don’t understand that question,” Davis said.
Puff Johnson played all 20 minutes of the four overtimes, but Dunn, Trimble and Justin McKoy combined for only 55 seconds. RJ Davis played all 20 minutes, Love played all but one second and Leaky Black played just over 19 minutes.
Bacot appeared to have an ankle issue that kept him out late in the Alabama game, but Davis said he was part of the team’s short practice Tuesday in Bloomington.
“As of right now, yes,” Davis said Tuesday when asked if Bacot would play Wednesday.
NOTES — UNC is 6–9 all-time against Indiana, the third most games against an opponent that has won more games. Carolina is 2–4 at Indiana, including 2–2 at Assembly Hall. … Indiana won the most recent meeting 76–67 on Nov. 30, 2016, at Indiana. … Indiana has a 3–1 edge over UNC in ACC-Big Ten Challenge games. … This will be the fourth meeting in the last five to be played in Bloomington, the other coming in UNC’s 101–86 victory in Philadelphia in the 2016 East Regional semifinals. … UNC is 11–12 all-time in the Challenge. … This will be the 20th time that Carolina has played a ranked opponent in the Challenge and the 12th time the opponent has been in the top 10. … The only Carolina players who have taken more shots in a game than Love had against Alabama are Lennie Rosenbluth (43 in the 1957 NCAA semifinal against Michigan State and 37 against Furman on Dec. 4, 1956) and Billy Cunningham (39 against Tulane on Dec. 10, 1964). … The only other game in which two Tar Heels combined for 60 shots was that 1957 Michigan State game when Bob Cunningham attempted 17. … Love and Davis became the first UNC teammates to each attempt at least 20 shots since the Dec. 29, 1969, game against Harvard when Charlie Scott had 22 shots and Bill Chamberlain 20. … On the ESPN call will be Dan Shulman (play-by-play), Jay Bilas (analyst) and Brooke Weisbrod (sideline reporter). Weisbrod was the sideline reporter for UNC’s win over Iowa State in Sunday’s Phil Knight Invitational championship game in Portland.
|28||Friday||W, 101–40||Johnson C. Smith||Home||Exhibition|
|11||Friday||W, 102–86||College of Charleston||Home||2–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 80–64||James Madison||Home||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||W, 89–81||First round: Portland||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||L, 103–101, |
No. 3 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||L, 77–65||No. 18 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||5–3|
|4||Sunday||L, 80–72||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||5–4, |
|10||Saturday||W, 75–59||Georgia Tech||Home||6–4, |
|13||Tuesday||W, 100–67||The Citadel||Home||7–4|
|CBS Sports Classic|
|17||Saturday||W, 89–84, OT||Ohio State||New York||8–4|
|30||Friday||L, 76–74||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||9–5, |
|4||Wednesday||W, 88–79||Wake Forest||Home||10–5, |
|7||Saturday||W, 81–64||Notre Dame||Home||11–5, |
|10||Tuesday||L, 65–58||No. 8 Virginia||Charlottesville||11–6, |
|14||Saturday||W, 80–59||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||12–6, |
|17||Tuesday||W, 72–64||Boston College||Home||13–6, |
|21||Saturday||W, 80–69||No. 22 N.C. State||Home||14–6, |
|24||Tuesday||W, 72–68||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||15–6, |
|1||Wednesday||L, 65–64||Pittsburgh||Home||15–7, |
|4||Saturday||L, 63–57||Duke||Durham||15–8, |
|7||Tuesday||7 p.m.||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||ESPN|
|13||Monday||7 p.m.||No. 19 Miami||Home||ESPN|
|19||Sunday||1 p.m.||No. 22 N.C. State||Raleigh||ESPN|
|22||Wednesday||9 p.m.||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||ESPN or ESPN2|
|25||Saturday||6 or 8||No. 8 Virginia||Home||ESPN|
|27||Monday||7 p.m.||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||ESPN|
ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network.
Photo via @UNC_Basketball