Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 98-76 road loss to Wake Forest on Saturday evening.
- Right out of the gate, let’s put these back-to-back losses to Miami and Wake Forest in historical perspective. Carolina lost by 28 to Miami and 22 to Wake Forest, a combined margin of defeat of 50 points. The last time UNC lost back-to-back games by a combined 50 points was almost exactly 20 years ago (Sunday, Jan. 23 marks precisely two decades). On January 19 and 23, 2002, Carolina lost to UConn, 86-54 (32 points), and NC State, 77-59 (18 points), for a total combined deficit of 50 points.
- Let’s take it one step more: the last time UNC lost by more than 50 combined points in back-to-back games was earlier that same miserable 2001-02 season. On January 5 and 9, 2002, Carolina lost to Wake Forest, 84-62 (22 points), and Maryland, 112-79 (33 points), for a total deficit of 55 combined points. Yikes.
- Carolina had a great opportunity to pick up their first Quad 1 victory of the season tonight and just didn’t have it. Since winning their first two ACC road games, the Heels have come out rather flat in each of the next three. Thankfully, each of the next three games are at home where the Heels are undefeated this season.
- This was the first game in a stretch of four games in eight days (also six games in 15 days). The result was an undesirable start to that run, but hopefully the Smith Center will cure the ailments.
- The perplexing thing is that after the embarrassment at Miami earlier in the week, it stood to reason that UNC would come out guns blazing tonight. To put it succinctly: they didn’t.
- You’ve likely heard, but Carolina has announced that Anthony Harris is officially out for the remainder of the season. The official verbiage is that he is “unavailable to play for the remainder of the 2021-22 season”.
- With Harris out, Puff Johnson (in his third game back from injury) was the first sub off the bench tonight. Johnson played almost 13-and-a-half minutes, scored his first points of the year, and got on the floor after a loose ball.
- While Harris is unfortunately out, it was good to see assistant coach Sean May back on the bench.
- Tonight was a battle of former Oklahoma Sooners, both of whom performed rather well. Wake’s Alondes Williams (the ACC’s leading scorer and assist man) dropped in 23 points to go along with three assists, just one turnover, six rebounds, three blocks and a steal. Brady Manek was just one off of that scoring pace, leading the Heels with 22 points, while adding eight rebounds and three steals.
- After suffering an injury in the waning minutes against Miami, Armando Bacot was able to start and played 25:18. That number would likely have been higher were it not for first half foul trouble limiting Bacot to just 12:15. The fewer minutes might work out favorably for the junior center though, since Coach Davis will need to rely on him in the truncated schedule over the next week.
- The positive individual news for Bacot is that he notched his ninth straight double-double, and 14th overall. Combined with his 18 double-doubles from previous seasons, Bacot now has 32 in his career which falls just one shy of tying Pete Brennan for 11th in career doubles. Additionally, the nine straight ties John Henson for fourth-longest double-double streak in Carolina history.
- Live ball turnovers might be the main culprit leading to the 20-plus point differentials in the past two games. The Heels have surrendered an eye-popping 51 points off turnovers in that span.
- Three times this season Carolina has finished with single-digit assists – Tennessee, Kentucky, and now Wake Forest. I won’t bother telling you the outcomes of those games.
- Carolina has more turnovers than assists in seven games: all six losses and the Elon game.
- Tonight’s 33.3% assist percentage (nine assists on 27 baskets) was the lowest of the season. These last three bullet points all add up to one telling truth: when Carolina doesn’t share the ball well, they don’t succeed.
- The Heels grabbed 23 offensive rebounds, easily the most this season (previous high was 15 against Elon). While that number is impressive, they also allowed Wake Forest to nab 35 defensive rebounds, the most of that variety for an opponent this season. Bottom line: these numbers simply mean that UNC missed a whole bunch of shots.
- To define “a whole bunch of shots” more precisely, Carolina attempted 81 shots (a season high, eclipsing the previous high of 69) and missed a whopping 54 of them (also a season high, eclipsing the previous high of 43).
- Wrap your brain around this reality: UNC has missed a combined 97 shots in the last two games.
- One of the potential pitfalls of transitioning to a perimeter-based offense is that three-point shots aren’t as consistently reliable game-to-game as are layups. That means on off-shooting nights, you have to be more perfect in other areas. In the past two games that I keep referencing, Carolina has shot a combined 12-58 from deep. That’s a combined three-point shooting percentage of 20.7% in those two games for a team that’s been around hovering around 40% all season. You have to expect that that low percentage will regress to the mean and the Heels will get back to making shots from outside.
- I’m not sure why this was the case but it appeared that the referees missed multiple first-half traveling violations on Wake Forest.
- Trigger warning, Walker Kessler sighting ahead: Watching yet another opponent feast in the paint while Walker Kessler blocks everything in sight for Auburn is a tough pill to swallow.
- Carolina doesn’t have much of a turnaround before they have to defend home court against a desperate Virginia Tech squad that’s 2-5 in the ACC. It’s time for the Heels to turn the corner, win these three games at home, and find their way back to the upper echelon of the conference standings.
Hubert Davis postgame press conference
Players postgame press conference
Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina basketball game. Next up is a home game against Virginia Tech on Monday, January 24. Tip is at 8:00pm ET on ACC Network.
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