North Carolina had no answer for Duke's Seth Curry in the first half on Saturday. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — Well, this probably wasn’t what most expected. Not after North Carolina’s improvement in recent weeks. The Tar Heels’ 69-53 loss against Duke on Saturday night brought an abrupt end to UNC’s six-game winning streak.
Our coverage of the game includes ...
--A story from me about how it came to this – such a dominating performance by Duke and a miserable one by UNC.
--Columnist Luke DeCock on Seth Curry, who “toyed” with the Tar Heels, Roy Williams said.
--A story from Laura Keeley on Mason Plumlee’s success on the interior.
--A story from Cory Smith on Dexter Strickland’s spoiled senior night.
And with that, the look back:
Three things to take away from the Tar Heels’ loss:
1. This was a reality check for UNC.
The Tar Heels had done a lot of things well, and come a long ways during their six-game winning streak entering Saturday. But Duke gave UNC a reality check that the Heels’ aren’t likely to soon forget. UNC in recent weeks at times had made it look easy. The Heels won all six of those games by at least nine points, and they didn’t face much late-game pressure in any of them. But UNC was under a lot of pressure from the beginning on Saturday. Duke scored the first 14 points of the game, and UNC never recovered.
2. Roy Williams’ worst fear about going small was realized.
Williams said earlier this season that he didn’t want UNC to be a team that lived by the outside shot and died by it. Games like the one his team played on Saturday are the reason why Williams believed that. The Tar Heels’ outside shots weren’t falling. As a result, they never really had a chance. UNC didn’t make a 3-pointer until five minutes remained. That shot, from P.J. Hairston, cut Duke’s lead to 14 and gave UNC a glimmer of hope. It was short-lived. UNC made just one of its 14 3-point attempts.
3. This doesn’t erase the good that UNC has accomplished in recent weeks.
As bad as this loss was, and as much as it hurt, it was an aberration amid the Heels’ improvement in recent weeks. This loss fits in a lot better with some of UNC’s performances in November and December. Since Williams last month made the change to a four-guard starting lineup, the Tar Heels had steadily improved and successfully handled any adversity that came their way. Now UNC must respond again. Its performance on Saturday was its biggest setback, by far, since going small.
Duke shot so much better than UNC that the other three factors didn’t really matter.
After three minutes, it was never really close.
UNC PLAYER OF THE GAME
No one played all that well for UNC, but James Michael McAdoo, the sophomore forward, led the Tar Heels with 15 points. He also added two steals.
“It was an exceptionally tough game for us, to say the least. Let me get one thing out of the way. I was really proud of our students and those fans who stayed around at the end. I’m a little disappointed in those people that left. I thought we would have stayed around and listened to the seniors.” –UNC coach Roy Williams
“Every streak has to end. Ten years as coach Smith’s assistant, 25 years as a head coach – first time we’ve ever lost a game on senior day … I kept saying it’s going to end, let’s put it off one more year.” –Williams
“They hit us right in the mouth … I wasn’t concerned about the score, but I was really concerned about the look on their face.” –Williams
“I’ve never had a team that’s folded, and this team isn’t going to fold.” –Williams
“He was hot. I was just trying to contain him. I did a terrible job on him in the first half. He was making some tough shots. I wasn’t sliding my feet quickly enough. He’s a good player. I just played terrible defense in the first half.” –UNC guard Reggie Bullock on guarding Duke’s Seth Curry
“He apologized. We could have done better, but you can’t blame it on him. You can blame it on all of us as a team. We just didn’t compete as much as we should.” –UNC guard Dexter Strickland
“We’ve been playing well, very well, and today we didn’t play as well as we possibly could. Duke came out, hit some shots, and we couldn’t hit anything. They shot 70 percent in the first half. We shot 27. So that kind of summed up the first half of them making shots and we weren’t.” –UNC guard P.J. Hairston
UNC is the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament. The Tar Heels will play either Florida State or Clemson at 9:30 on Friday night in Greensboro.