Yeah it was ugly.
I am going to take this in two parts.
First, was the general effort. Roy Williams said in the postgame press conference the team may have relaxed a bit too much following the recent four game stretch which was rightly called the toughest portion of the schedule. And it showed. Early in the game the ACC Network announcing crew said a junior/senior laden team would maybe take this game too lightly whereas a young team, like these Heels would be hungry. I raised an eyebrow at that because I would think the opposite would be true. An experienced team stays focused. A younger team, like UNC, has a tendency to drop their guard a little in a game of this nature. There is a propensity to maybe drop your level of play to match that of your opponent. Plus, I also think with a younger squad there it is possible for the ups and downs to be more pronounced. Games like this happen, even against bad teams. The team let off the gas a little and in some respects may have settled down somewhat from the turmoil of the past few weeks. The task for Roy is to get their attention back and playing better basketball from an execution standpoint but also on offense in general which leads to my second point.
These Tar Heels are simply not consistent offensively. I know there was the NCSU-BC-FSU-Duke 1st half stretch where the Heels look as though they had a clue offensively. But prior to that stretch the offense was down and now it looks like it is trending down again. Will it trend back up? I hope so and since UNC is shooting 33% from three on the season and tonight it was 18% I imagine the ship will right itself at some point. We know Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock and Harrison Barnes are capable of hitting three pointers. They were not falling tonight and they are never going to be Wayne Ellington, Danny Freaking Green and Ty Lawson from the perimeter. However they can be better than they showed in this one and over the past few halves of basketball. The aspect of the offense that bothered me tonight was related to how little patience they showed in running the offense. Zone defense seem to bother UNC, less so with Kendall Marshall on the floor but even versus Wake Forest, I thought the Heels settled for too much perimeter passing and not enough probing the zone for openings. The result was 27 three point attempts which is entirely too many for a team ranked 322nd nationally with 20% of points via the three point shot. Does UNC need to hit outside shooting to keep opposing defenses honest? Yes but the offense cannot get jumpshot happy. The bread and butter is in the interior scoring and Harrison Barnes scoring in the lane and at the rack. Of course they did do that and the Heels missed too many shots at point blank range. Whether that is focus or the inability to score in traffic is anyone's guess. I think it is probably a little of both.
Concerning individual efforts, the more Barnes looks for his shot inside the three point line the better off UNC will be. I have no issues with Barnes shooting outside shots but he has reached a point where he showing some real explosiveness athletically and should use that more. In fact, Barnes' recent explosions for huge dunks makes me think those rumors about an undisclosed injury to Barnes earlier in the season may have been true. Both Tyler Zeller and John Henson had solid outings though seeing them convert more shots at the rack would make me feel better. Despite the lack of three point shooting McDonald had a nice game and one I can hardly remember anything about yet the box score says he dropped 13. Marshall had eight points versus two turnovers. If UNC can hit shots, Marshall's assist totals would be through the roof. Also of note on Marshal is he only played 28 minutes.
In the end, I am not sure how much I would dwell on this game or even this stretch of games. It is a bit of a roller coaster which means this team could make a deep NCAA run or lose in the second round depending on if the offense shows up. I do think Roy can address the focus and effort issues by reminding them there is still work to do and while it is okay to relax a bit, sleepwalking through an ACC game is really not okay. As for the shooting/offense? It is what it is. That aspect more than anything else gives credence to the notion this team is still a year away from truly being an elite team nationally. Still, they are close and even with the "bleh" nature of this game, it sure beats what happened last year. What's important now is for the team to get into the right frame of mind for visiting Boston College on Saturday.