Despite playing its best basketball of the season, 13th-ranked North Carolina is still trying to find a way to put the ball in the basket more consistently. Now, the Tar Heels will have to try to do it without one of their best outside shooters.
Reserve wing Reggie Bullock, who is averaging 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 14.5 minutes this season, is out for the season because of a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, the school announced. He will undergo arthroscopic surgery in the near future. The Tar Heels (22-6, 12-2 ACC), who are now down to eight healthy scholarship players in their rotation, will have a five-game winning streak on the line when they play at Florida State on Wednesday night.
“I am just heart-broken for Reggie,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in a prepared statement. “He had surgery on the same knee last year and that has bothered him at various times throughout the season. There’s no doubt that is why he has struggled somewhat with his shot over the last few weeks, but at the same time he’s played really well defensively, helped us on the boards and often gave us a nice spark off the bench."
Bullock missed the UNC Asheville game earlier this season after tweaking the knee, and then missed several days of practice because of pain in that knee after he helped beat Clemson on Jan. 18.
The freshman played only seven minutes against Maryland on Sunday, hurting the knee in the first half, Williams said after the game. Coaches tried to play him for a stretch in the second half, but took him back out when his knee did not respond well. He had an MRI on Monday.
The 6-feet-7 athlete has displayed bursts of the outside shot that helped make him a McDonald’s High School All-American, going 6-for-9 at Boston College, and 6-for-10 vs. Clemson. But the shooter, perhaps in part because of his knee, has struggled to connect over his last seven games, going 6-for-37 during that timespan, and making only 2 of his 20 3-point attempts.
"He’s had a great attitude all year,'' Williams said in the statement. "Plus, he’s gone through so much with the loss of his grandmother in January, whom he was so very close to. Every person on this team will support Reggie and help him get ready for next year.”
Without Bullock, the Tar Heels will likely need to get more minutes out of Justin Watts, a 6-4 junior who had been backing up the post because UNC is so thin on big men; sophomore Leslie McDonald, who usually backs up the shooting guard position; and starting small forward Harrison Barnes.
Carolina, which had been relatively healthy this season, nonetheless has a shortage of scholarship players because of the sudden transfers last summer of big men David and Travis Wear, the release of wing Will Graves just before the season for breaking team rules, and then the surprising transfer of point guard Larry Drew II last month.
UNC has won 15 of its last 17 games; but has shot better than 40 percent in only one of its last five games.