It’s hard to think of a recent UNC loss more inexplicable than this. Coming off a win on the road against Tennessee, North Carolina came home to play what you would think was a easy home win against Wofford. That did not happen.
What did happened was the Tar Heels played their worst game of the season, losing 79-75 in Chapel Hill.
After a back and forth opening 15 minutes, Carolina went on a run near the end of the first half, leading by seven with less than four minutes to go in the half. It wasn’t a particularly pretty seven-point lead, but it wasn’t an unusual story: a high-major team messes around for a while before eventually starting to pull away from the mid-major. At least, that’s what looked like might be happening.
Wofford then proceeded to score the last eight points in the first half, go into the break with a one-point lead, and then go on another run to start the second half. The Terriers scored 23 points in the first 6:30 in the second half, and a shocked UNC found themselves down 14.
The Tar Heels did rally after that. They got within a point a couple different times, and took several potential game-tying shots. Either shots did not go in and the Tar Heels couldn’t get an offensive rebound, or Carolina made a mistake, ensuring that they never took the lead or tied the game. Wofford made their foul shots and UNC couldn’t come all the way back.
It’s not not obvious what happened in to Carolina in this game. It seems pretty readable in the box score. Not only did UNC shoot 36%, but they barely won the rebounding battle against Wofford. The Tar Heels also committed 14 turnovers.
Coming into the game, the word was that Fletcher Magee was the dangerous for Wofford, and he lived up to that. He shot just 10-23, but finished with 27 points. He went 4-12 from three, but they all seemed to come at most inopportune moments for the Tar Heels. Add up all of those factors, and it equates to a loss.
No one for UNC had a particularly good game. Luke Maye had his worst game of the season. (Yes, this was worse than Michigan State. At least that was against Michigan State.) He went 4-16 from the floor, and a lot of those points came in a short burst as UNC made their run to get back in the game. Maye missed a bunch of shots in the first half. He did somehow end up with a double-double, though.
Elsewhere on the team, Kenny Williams went just 3-7. Joel Berry led UNC with 23 points. However, late in the game he got blocked while driving once and was called for an offensive foul on another possession, both cutting short chances for UNC to claw further back into the game. Theo Pinson committed five turnovers.
One notable performance for Carolina was the season debut of Cameron Johnson. He went just 1-5 from the floor, but did finish with 10 points. Johnson was one of few Tar Heels to have a positive plus minus, with UNC outscoring Wofford by 13 in the 17 minutes he was on the floor.
Not only was the evidence of UNC getting out-muscled evident in the rebound margin, but it also appears in Terriers’ forward Cameron Jackson’s line. Jackson not only finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, but he also blocked six shots.
Not only is this a bad loss to take in general, but it also snaps UNC’s non-conference home winning streak. To find to the last one, you have to go back to 2014 when the Tar Heels lost to Iowa in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
If there’s any positive to take out of this is that UNC will almost certainly be ready for Ohio State now.