“It was big for us,” ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. “Getting to the line more than them in this game is pretty big. We get there a different way, we have to get off the bounce, off the perimeter, off drives”
In the first half, UNC committed only four personal fouls and allowed ECU two trips to the free-throw line.
But in the second half, North Carolina couldn’t maintain the clean defense from the first half and committed 15 fouls, 10 of those coming in the first 11 minutes of the second half. Those fouls turned into 23 second-half free throw attempts for the Pirates.
The 27 total free throw attempts were the most by any of UNC opponents this season. The Pirates also converted 21 of those attempts for the most free throws made against the Tar Heels this season.
By comparison, the Tar Heels hit 12 of 14 attempts in the second half and 19 of 24 for the game.
Bullock became the first Tar Heel this season to foul out, but the Kinston, N.C., native attributes his fouls to the extra intensity that comes from playing a hometown school.
“I was just trying to bring that defensive intensity for our team, let them know that I was here to play,” Bullock said. “Team from back home with ECU, and those are a lot of my friends on that team. Some of my toughness just turned into fouls, but I still feel like I played great on defense.”
For a team that has traditionally tried to make more free throws than its opponents attempt, this game was a wake up call that the Tar Heels need to improve their defense.
“It was not the officials that gave them more opportunities to shoot more free throws than us,” Williams said. “It was because they were more aggressive and we didn’t do a very good job sliding our feet. If you play defense with intention then you don’t commit very many fouls.”