Obviously that was less than ideal.
UNC failed to seize opportunities early in the game to take control of the game then played really poorly in the second half on the way to a 74-66 loss to Butler in the first game of the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.
There are a variety of stats that could be thrown around to explain this game but the most daunting one is the rebounding numbers. UNC lost the rebounding battle in a major way giving up 57 boards versus just 40 for the Tar Heels. The story on the offensive glass was even more disturbing. Butler, which didn't shoot well save for spots in the second half, corralled 29 of their own misses recording an offensive rebounding rate of 52.7%. UNC, which entered the game grabbing 46.6% of its own misses, had just 13 offensive rebounds and a 33.3% offensive rebounding rate. UNC's rebounding was supposed to be a source of strength which makes those numbers very surprising to say the least. Butler's own 28.8% offensive rebounding rate coming into this game really increases the shock value of what was seen today.
The game didn't unfold as a total disaster for UNC and defensively the Tar Heels forced the Bulldogs into some fairly nasty offensive numbers. Butler committed 19 turnovers, shot 30% from the floor and was 9-28 from three for 32.1%. In the first half Butler was 4-14 from three and shot 33% from the floor. UNC had a prime opportunity to take control of the game early and position itself to endure the second half run from Butler which eventually game. Instead the Tar Heels committed nine first half turnovers, went 1-7 from three and shot 43% from the floor. The Bulldog edge on the offensive boards afforded Butler more shots to mitigate the poor shooting and the Tar Heel lead was just three at the break.
In the second half, the wheels came off for UNC in spectacular fashion. Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong for UNC. The Heels were ice cold shooting the ball missing everything from layups to three pointers. The free throw shooting which was 8-10 in the first half went off the rails and returned to 2013-14 form. UNC missed 12 free throws in the second half, four by Marcus Paige. With UNC trailing 45-41 six minutes into the half Butler's Alex Barlow committed a flagrant foul on Paige. The Tar Heel junior made just one free throw and Isaiah Hicks missed layup turned a potential four possession into a single point. From that juncture Butler went on a 14-5 run to extend the lead to 12.
As is generally the case in these games, UNC rallied thanks to 11 points by Paige over the final 3:35 of the game to draw the Heels as close as 69-66. UNC had the ball down 70-66 but proceeded to mishandle a possession in a manner befitting of the Tar Heels' effort for the entire game. UNC failed to get a shot off, burned 15 seconds of clock and turned the ball over. Butler closed out the game with four straight free throws to set the final margin. Paige's 18 points led the Heels but he needed 17 shots to make it happen while also missing four free throws. Brice Johnson and Isaiah Hicks were the only other Tar Heels to reach double figures with 11 and 10 points respectively.
Needless to say no one played well in this game. The interior duo of Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson failed to produce against Butler's frontline. Meeks took just four shots and had seven points. Meeks did manage 10 rebounds and recorded a career high five blocks but was a non-factor on the offensive end. Isaiah Hicks played well in spots scoring his 10 points on 4-7 shooting and grabbing five rebounds in 17 minutes. For the most part the freshmen were non-factors, especially Theo Pinson who struggled with his decison making. J.P. Tokoto also had a forgettable outing scoring seven and dishing out four assists.
The good news for UNC is the Tar Heels will get an immediate chance to put this loss behind them and record a win over a good team. The Tar Heels face the loser of the UCLA-Oklahoma game at 7:00 PM on Thursday.