The key stat in tonights N.C. State at UNC basketball game could be no more complicated than the foul count.
In four of the Wolfpacks five losses thus far, at least one or two starters got into heavy foul trouble early.
The exception was an 88-72 loss to Syracuse.
In the other four losses, heres the breakdown on the foul front:
- In an 86-79 loss to Vanderbilt, C.J. Williams fouled out and Richard Howell had four.
- In an 86-75 loss to Indiana, Scott Wood fouled out and C.J. Leslie had four.
- In a 76-72 loss to Stanford, Wood and Lorenzo Brown fouled out. Howell and sixth-man DeShawn Painter each had four.
- In an 82-71 loss to Georgia Tech, Leslie fouled while Howell and Wood each had four.
State coach Mark Gottfried uses a seven-man rotation that hinges on a delicate playing time balance. When one player isnt producing, the entire operation tends to malfunction. Fouls and injuries obviously do inordinate harm to a limited rotation.
We had a long stretch where we werent getting into foul trouble, Gottfried said earlier this week. Rich has had some silly fouls, but hes had some unlucky fouls, too. We just cant afford a lot of foul trouble.
With their depth, the Tar Heels feast on fouls.
That situation could change with the loss of Dexter Strickland (knee injury), but through 19 games, UNC has been charged with a modest 264 personals while drawing 416. The payoff is predictably huge - UNC has gone to the foul line 498 times while its opponents have gone 220 times.
The Wolfpack has been hit for 339 fouls while drawing 355 - a virtual even swap. At the line, the Pack has outscored opponents 416-377 but thats primarily the result of Wood going 48-48 and Williams 31-36.
State is shooting 75 percent and thats with Leslie at 61 percent (47-77).
One reason for the seemingly inflated betting line - UNC favored by 13 points - is that bookmakers look very carefully at foul patterns. Entering tonights game, UNC has had only one player to foul out of a game - playmaker Kendall Marshall against Florida State.