North Carolina enjoyed few offensive highlights during its 68-59 loss against Miami on Thursday night. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina coach Roy Williams said again on Thursday night that he won’t panic. After the Tar Heels’ 68-59 loss against Miami, though, there’s a lot of reason for concern.
Here's the story of the game. And the look back …
Three things to take away from UNC’s defeat:
1. Another game, another late collapse.
For the second consecutive game, UNC cut an opponent’s lead to one point late in the final minutes. And for the second consecutive game, the Tar Heels then proceeded to fall apart. It happened that way at Virginia on Sunday night. And then again against Miami on Thursday night. P.J. Hairston made a 3-pointer with five minutes to play to cut Miami’s lead to 56-55. Then the Hurricanes scored eight consecutive points. Six of those came on two wide-open 3-pointers from basically the same exact spot on the floor. Meanwhile, UNC’s offense faltered. The Heels committed a turnover and then missed four consecutive shots – some of them open 3s. Roy Williams was at a loss to explain why his team has suffered similar late collapses in consecutive games.
2. The Tar Heels’ deficiencies don’t seem to be improving.
Williams said it before the season and he has said it several times since the season started: For UNC to achieve its potential, the Tar Heels have to play with intelligence and have to be at their best nearly all the time. But the Heels don’t appear to be close to playing how Williams wants them to play. In two conference games, they have generated few transition opportunities. In the half court, the Heels have labored to work the ball inside, where they haven’t exactly excelled. And on the perimeter, the Heels have run hot and cold (and very cold in the second half today). Defensively, UNC seems to be lost at times, like when it allowed those open 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions late in the second half against Miami. The Tar Heels’ flaws have been well-documented, and they don’t seem to be improving.
3. Is it time to shake up the starting lineup?
Four-fifths of the Tar Heels’ starting lineup has remained constant this season. Yet after an 0-2 start in ACC play, it’s fair to ask whether Williams should make changes to his starting five. Desmond Hubert has started the majority of UNC’s games in the No. 5 spot, and Dexter Strickland has started all season at shooting guard. Combined, they scored one point on Thursday night. Strickland had perhaps the most forgettable game of his collegiate career. He had no points, rebounds, assists or steals, and his lone missed field goal attempt represented the only number in his stat line. Should Williams mix things up? The answer would be easier if it was obvious that one of the reserves should be starting. But P.J. Hairston has remained a streaky, inconsistent shooter, and Brice Johnson is still a long ways away defensively.
UNC PLAYER OF THE GAME
Marcus Paige lost track of the time late in the first half, and that mistake cost UNC a scoring chance before intermission. Still, Paige had one of his more complete games, and finished with 10 points, five assists and five rebounds.
--Miami forward Kenny Kadji presents one of the most difficult match-ups in the ACC because of his size and skill set. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Kadji has the body of a post player, but he’s perhaps more comfortable on the perimeter. Either way, the Tar Heels struggled to defend him on Thursday. A mix of UNC players guarded Kadji, including James Michael McAdoo, and no one had any sustained success in limited him. Kadji finished with 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
--Dexter Strickland, UNC’s senior guard, has been instrumental to the Tar Heels’ success when they’ve played well. Strickland, though, had one of the most forgettable games of his collegiate career on Thursday night. In 26 minutes, he contributed no points, rebounds, assists or steals. His entire statistical line in the box score consisted of zeros, outside of the one field goal attempt that he missed. “He wanted to do better,” UNC coach Roy Williams said of Strickland. “We all did.”
--The Heels outscored Miami in the paint (26-22), held a 14-11 advantage in second-chance points and also attempted seven more field goals than the Hurricnaes. The difference in the game? The Hurricanes made nine 3-pointers and nine free throws – which is one more than the Tar Heels attempted. Miami didn’t shoot particularly well from the perimeter – it made just nine of its 26 3-point attempts – but the 3s that Trey McKinney Jones and Durand Scott made on consecutive possessions late in the second half gave Miami permanent control.
--UNC has started 0-2 in ACC play for the fourth time in school history. The Tar Heels last started 0-3 in the ACC in 1997.
--For the first time under coach Roy Williams, the Tar Heels have failed to break 60 points in consecutive ACC game.
“Our kids have been doing some nice things in practice. We just haven’t taken it from the practice court to the game court. When you’re a basketball player at North Carolina, people expect a lot of things of you. I’ve got some really good kids that are hurting right now, and they’re also feeling a little bit of stress. There’s no question about that. But we just couldn’t get the ball to go in the basket. And then we had two defensive lapses.” –Roy Williams
“Everybody’s upset. Everybody’s stressed, you know, just trying to find out how we’re going to win games. But some way, somehow, real real soon, we’ll turn it around and get back on the right track. But right now, everybody should be mad. Because this is our team. We work hard every day in practice and just for us to keep coming out with outcomes of losses – I think everybody should be mad by it.” –Reggie Bullock
“Right now, we’re just hurt. We had a really good practice. We had a good game plan. We kept some of their guys in check, and then they hit some big shots. And like I said earlier, the lead just kind of slipped away and we lost. We’re hurt but we’re also aware that we still have time to get this thing turned around. So we just have to come together quickly as a group and make things happen on the court.” –Marcus Paige
“You’ve got to give them some credit. It’s not just about North Carolina. You guys have heard me say that before.”
“They made some plays down the stretch.” –Williams
“Oh, I’m stressed. Hell, there’s no question about that. But I’m not a guy to panic. I’m not a guy to give up or anything like that. I’m going to come in tomorrow and I’m going to coach the crap out of them. I’m going to grade the tape tonight. This is one of those no sleep nights, but my God I never sleep much, anyway. But Charles Barkley said you can sleep when you die.” –Williams
No time for UNC to dwell after this one. The Tar Heels go on the road to play Florida State on Saturday. After an awful non-conference performance, the Seminoles are 2-0 in the ACC. The last time UNC traveled to Tallahassee, the Heels suffered a 90-57 loss – the worst of Williams’ head coaching tenure at UNC.