I had this thought during the game but Inside Carolina's Dijana Kunovac expressed it perfectly.
for UNC, this is kinda like Belmont (free throws) and UAB (rebounding) had a baby and called it the Texas game.
— Dijana Kunovac (@dijana_kunovac) December 19, 2013
The game came down to really two areas. UNC got destroyed on the boards in the first half which placed them in a hole that wasn't really deep but would require some effort to climb out from. Then in the second half, when UNC had Texas missing shots and rebounded the ball much better, the offense was suspect. Shots from the floor wouldn't fall and the free throw shooting was awful. The Tar Heels went back on defense after multiple empty or one point trips because of missed free throws. James Michael McAdoo, whose free throw shooting was solid against Kentucky was 5-15 in this game. For the game UNC ended up 24-47 from the line which wasn't quite as bad as the Belmont game but bad enough when you consider the Heels lost by three.
While it easy to point to the numbers and extrapolate a certain number of makes then add that to UNC's point total, the best example of how the free throw shooting killed UNC came in the first eight minutes of the second half. After Texas had scored 53 first half points, UNC held the Longhorns to eight points from the beginning of the half until the second media timeout. During that span UNC scored 11 points and went 1-8 from the line. It wasn't helping that shots simply wouldn't fall but those eight attempts represent four possessions that yielded one point. For that half UNC went 10-25 from the line.
The rebounding was another frightening story statistically speaking and it didn't help Joel James went down seconds into the game with a knee injury. UNC went into the half having been outrebounded 29-15, giving up almost 60% of the Texas offensive rebounds and getting outscored on second chance points 12-2. That, more or less, dug the first half hole. For the most part the defense was good to the extent Texas shot poorly but not good in terms of stopping dribble penetration or finishing off the defensive possession by getting a rebound.And yet with all these issues, UNC still climbed back into the game, tied it twice but never took the lead.
Then trailing by one with 7.2 seconds left, UNC couldn't grab the one rebound it needed most. After Texas guard Demarcus Holland missed a second free throw a blown box out assignment permitted Holland to get into the lane and grab his own rebound. Holland immediately scored making it a three point game while wasting precious seconds in the process. That moment was a microcosm of the night. UNC did get one last chance but a Marcus Paige three rimmed out at the buzzer and the roller coaster continues.
As for positives Marcus Paige once again did everything he could to carry this team. Paige ended the game with 23 points on 5-9 shooting from three. He was also a perfect 8-8 from the line so if you really want to see something ugly take that away from the team total. The return of Leslie McDonald from his NCAA imposed nine game suspension was better than advertised. McDonald hit four threes and scored 15 points. He did suffer from the same ailment as the rest of the team going 3-8 at the line despite shooting 79% from the stripe a year ago. Nate Britt had seven assists versus three turnovers but had his struggles shooting the ball. Likewise Brice Johnson had a poor shooting night and was bothered a bit by the Longhorn size.
Unlike the Belmont and UAB games where it was a bit inexplicable to lose, Texas offered a tough match-up for UNC. The Longhorn rebounding was difficult for the Tar Heels to overcome and UNC had all sorts of issues stopping dribble penetration. Roy Williams did use the 3-2 zone to prevent some of that but it wasn't perfect since Texas got a crucial three on a late possession to put the Longhorns up five.
As much as there was hope UNC had moved past the "up and down" nature of this season, that still isn't the case. And if you were wondering how pissed off Roy Williams is about this loss, the team has practice at 5 AM on Thursday morning.
It would have been midnight but the NCAA has a rule against that.