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Sunday June 26th

More to UNC’s 3-point defense than statistics

<p>UNC basketball player Marcus Paige (5) moves past Virginia’s Malcom Brogdon (15) during the ACC tournament in Washington, DC.</p>
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UNC basketball player Marcus Paige (5) moves past Virginia’s Malcom Brogdon (15) during the ACC tournament in Washington, DC.

At least that’s what Marcus Paige’s most recent reading material indicates.

As the senior guard sat in the Student Union on Tuesday, he started Googling information about 3-point field goal defense — which the Tar Heels rank 232nd in the country in, allowing opponents to shoot 35.4 percent from behind the arc.

Paige’s perusing led him to an article by basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy, whose 2012 piece titled “‘3-point defense’ should not be defined by opponents’ 3P%” questioned the entire premise of 3-point field goal defense.

“Three-point field goal defense is not something that’s always the control of the defense,” said Paige, as he summarized the article.

“I don’t know if you guys are into statistics and stuff like that. It’s definitely a concern of ours, and the only way to really impact that is to limit the number of attempts they get.”

Accomplishing this task will be a top priority for the Tar Heels against the Hoosiers.

Indiana is one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country. The Hoosiers shoot 41.6 percent from behind the arc and make 9.8 3-pointers per game.

And among the 16 teams left in the NCAA Tournament, only three shoot 3-pointers more often than Indiana, according to kenpom.com.

“We can’t just say, ‘They’re going to be able to hit shots, so let’s not guard them,’” said sophomore wing Justin Jackson. “But we still have to focus in on that. That’s what they want to do, so we’ve got to make everything as hard as possible against them.”

Defending opposing players beyond the perimeter isn’t something UNC has always struggled with.

In fact, North Carolina ranked 13th in the country in 3-point field goal defense a season ago, allowing teams to make 30 percent of their 3-pointers.

“That’s weird, because our defense is better this year than it was last year,” said Jackson when he was told the Tar Heels rank lower in 3-point field goal defense this season.

In many ways, Jackson is right about his team’s defense being improved.

After finishing 51st nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency during the 2014-15 campaign, UNC ranks 11th this year. The Tar Heels have also held 27 straight opponents to under 45 percent shooting from the field.

The stats, however, imply North Carolina has struggled defending 3-point shooters.

“I think we had personnel — J.P. (Tokoto) was great last year and our perimeter defense was really good last year,” Paige said. “But this year our entire defense is overall better.

“It’s hard to explain why our 3-point defense can be 200 spots different from one year to another.”

But perhaps, as Pomeroy’s article suggests, that stat might not matter come Friday.

@patjames24

sports@dailytarheel.com



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