UNC lost for the first time in ACC play this season. Here's a few observations.
Joel Berry's Bad Night
In the midst of the Marcus Paige/Justin Jackson shooting slump, UNC consistently got big shots from Joel Berry and Brice Johnson being Brice Johnson to keep the offense afloat. Outside those two random players chipped in here and there to cover for the lack of production from the wing positions. Even beyond this recent five game team offensive funk, Berry had shown the ability to hit timely three pointers going back to the win over Kansas State.
Tonight the sophomore had his first really bad game in quite some time. The most recent down game for Berry had been versus Georgia Tech but even then he made two big second half plays to clinch that game. In this one, Berry was never able to get on track. Louisville's defense had something to do with that but even given open shots, Berry failed to sink them. Berry ended the game 1-10 from the floor and 1-5 from three. He also committed his first turnover in three games and registered just one assist.
In theory UNC has the depth to weather bad shooting nights from one or two players. Berry had been the guy with his finger in the dam until tonight when it finally broke.
UNC's Perimeter Shooting Held Hostage: Game 5
There was hope Marcus Paige had shaken off the shooting slump with three made 3-pointers on Saturday versus Boston College. That wasn't the case as Paige missed was just 1-6 from three and 3-13 overall to tally nine points. Five of those came on back-to-back possessions early in the second half to erase a Cardinal five point lead. As Louisville struggled to get offensive traction in the first half, UNC didn't take advantage with Paige missing five shots in the first half, four of them from three. With Joel Berry struggling to hit shots UNC had little to no hope of getting production from beyond the arc save a three from Nate Britt midway through the second half.
Justin Jackson also failed to hit a three but there was a glimmer of hope with his 16 points and 6-9 shooting. Jackson showed some aggression in getting to the basket and also had a 4-5 night at the free throw line. While Paige is still MIA and Berry had a bad night, Jackson playing well is at least a step in the right direction. The question now is consistency.
As for the overall shooting, it is what it is. This team proved over 17 games it could shoot the ball and was decent from three point range. It stands to reason they will rebound back to those level at some point. The problem is no one knows when. It also doesn't appear to be something that can be fixed. If it were a schematic or lineup issue, Roy Williams could adjust. It's not and when the interior options are limited forcing UNC to rely on perimeter shooting, the slump hurts even more. Again, the market should correct at some point let's just hope it sooner rather than later.
Unless you thought UNC was going 18-0 in ACC play or this is your first time watching college basketball, this result isn't surprising. Even before ACC play started, this game looked like a tough out for the Tar Heels. Winning would have been nice since it would have afforded UNC a three game lead and shot at running away with the regular season. As it stands, the Tar Heels will have a tougher fight on their hands but that's nothing knew for Roy Williams or being in the ACC.
The important thing is to not let one loss become two. UNC a second straight tough road game at Notre Dame on Saturday. ESPN's College Game Day will be there and the crowd undoubtedly amped for a 7:00 PM start. It won't be an easy game but a win there, especially if the shooting returns to form will make this loss just one of those games that happens over the course of the college basketball season.