UNC Isn't a Good Team Right Now And Showed Why Down the Stretch in Loss to Wofford
CHAPEL HILL — This isn’t about effort, lucky rolls or an otherworldly shooting performance by an opponent.
Right now, North Carolina isn’t a good basketball team, and it showed why again on Sunday afternoon as the Tar Heels’ late comeback was undone by silly turnovers and poor shot selection as Wofford held on for a 68-64 victory in the first regular-season game at Carmichael Arena since 1986.
Take away Cole Anthony and Leaky Black, who both sat out with injuries, from an already-struggling team, and Carolina (6-4) simply wasn’t good enough to top the Terriers (7-4), dropping their third straight game.
“I think we played hard,” guard Andrew Platek said. “I think we played, not well, but we had effort … our effort was there. We were gassed at the end of the game; we just didn’t play at the level I know we can play at.
“We didn’t do it and we can’t think about what would have happened if (Anthony) was here or Leaky was here. North Carolina played and North Carolina lost, so that’s what we’ve got to focus on.”
With Anthony and Black out, the Tar Heels used a patchwork backcourt that managed to successfully run the offense, with assists on nine of 12 first-half field goals.
Then, as has happened in three straight games, the wheels came off for Carolina as its offense fell apart and its defense wasn’t much better, allowing Wofford to run off a 16-0 run.
Most disappointing for the Tar Heels, the Terriers fueled the decisive run with four straight 3-pointers, all coming on easy looks — something very clearly outlined on the scouting report.
“We can’t let a team that relies on making threes have those good looks in the game,” Platek said.
On the opposite end, Carolina couldn’t take advantage of the good looks it did get, hitting 6 of 19 from beyond the arc.
It’s clear that among all of the Tar Heels’ issues right now, confidence might be the biggest.
That’s the only explanation for Justin Pierce, a career 68-percent free throw shooter who averaged 11.1 points at William & Mary, airballing a free throw on Sunday and finishing scoreless for the second straight game.
Just like when a guy is in the zone offensively, it’s clear when he doesn’t believe his shot is going in, and that’s something affecting much of the Carolina.
“When a guy doesn’t think he’s going to make a shot, there’s no point in shooting it,” forward Garrison Brooks said.
Williams is challenging his team in practice, but he said there’s no secret to the Tar Heels fixing their confidence.
“You can try to give them confidence, but you know how you get confidence? Make a dadgum shot,” he said.
Carolina’s shooting woes have gotten to the point that even the gimmes aren’t certain.
Armando Bacot, who’s been Carolina’s most efficient offensive player this season, was 2 of 14 from the field and missed three shots at the rim and had another blocked in a matter of five seconds.
And despite everything that went wrong on both ends of the floor, Carolina was there in the final minutes with a chance to finish the comeback and win a game it probably didn’t deserve to.
And every time the Tar Heels had a chance to get over the hump, they undid their progress with an ill-timed turnover, bad shot or a combination of the two. Four times in the past two games, Carolina has fouled a 3-point shooter.
“We got three turnovers in a row and fouled a guy shooting a 3-point shot, that was the biggest part of it,” Williams said of the failed comeback attempt.
Right now, Carolina is playing like a team that knows it’s not very good and doing the things that not very good teams do to keep themselves from breaking through.
The only positive that Williams could draw from his team’s early struggles is that what’s happening right now doesn’t have to be the story for the rest of the season.
“We’re going to benefit in the long run from it, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant to go through right now, for sure,” he said.