It seems unfathomable that a team who was expected to lose according to Vegas and KenPom won by six points despite getting beat on the boards by a whopping 19 rebounds. Somehow head coach of the Demon Deacons, Jeff Bzdelik, thought Wake was actually rebounding well despite getting beat on the boards by 18 at halftime. How did they do it? Let's check out the four factors of basketball to find out.
Effective Field Goal %
Wake Forest dominated a category which is the most important indicator of success. Wake Forest shot a total of 26-54 from the field, including 2-12 from beyond the arc for an eFG% of 50%. Meanwhile, North Carolina shot just 29-75, including 2-15 from beyond the arc for an eFG% of 40%. So despite shooting 21 more times than Wake Forest, the Tar Heels managed just 3 more made field goals.
This was a reason for caution headed into last night's contest. North Carolina is very aggressive on the defensive end and forces a lot of turnovers, but that can make them susceptible to the back door cut. Wash, rinse, repeat. North Carolina turns opponents over more than 1 out of every 5 possessions, but were only able to turn the Deacs over on 17% of possessions last night. On the reverse, Wake Forest typically struggles to force turnovers, but were able to turn the Tar Heels over on 23% of possessions last night and that led to 19 points off turnovers. Another critically important factor and another win for the Deacs. Now about rebounding...
Offensive and Defensive Rebounding %
If you watched the game, then I certainly don't need to tell you the stats for you to know that North Carolina dominated the glass all night. Wake Forest managed to grab just 21.6% of offensive rebounding opportunities, which is well below their season average of 33.7%. North Carolina grabbed a whopping 48% of offensive rebounding opportunities which is a staggering number and about 10% more than their season average of 38.4%. These numbers clearly reflect absolute dominance by North Carolina, but remember that this is only the third most important factor, and far less important than effective field goal percentage.
Free Throw Rate
Wake Forest dominated this category more than North Carolina dominated the rebounding category. On the year, North Carolina has been fantastic at getting to the line as they typically shoot one free throw for every two field goal attempts, which is top 36 nationally. Last night, however, the Tar Heels managed just 11 free throw attempts, which translated to a free throw rate of just 14.7%. Wake Forest, specifically Codi Miller-McIntyre, was relentless in attacking the basket and got to the line 33 times for a free throw rate of 61.1%, which would be the nation's third best free throw rate if they did that every game. Yes, Wake Forest shot a woeful 57.6% from the foul line, but even that translates to 1.15 points per possession, which was above our overall 0.99 points per possession last night.
So it wasn't pretty, and they didn't win every aspect of the game, but Wake Forest was good where it mattered most. Ultimately, rebounding is overrated if you can't put the ball in the basket. That may sound fundamental and obvious, but it's also the exact reason Wake Forest beat North Carolina last night.