It is really hard to find the bright spots in a game that was played so poorly. UNC was simply out-played last night in every single way possible, and the result was the first loss to Virginia Tech as a ranked team since Seth Greenburg was the coach back in 2007. It always hurts to see UNC lose this way, because truth be told they are a better team than Virginia Tech. Road games are just difficult to conquer, and even more difficult when the team doesn’t show up to play.
The two players that did show up to play for UNC were Joel Berry II and Luke Maye. The two players combined for 46 of the team’s 69 points, and they both had the most rebounds on the team. Yes, that’s right, Berry had 7 rebounds to add to Maye’s 9. Together the duo also shot 19-35 from the field while the rest of the team only made 8-28. This is something that you can get away with in non-conference play on occasion, but in the ACC this is how you earn a stunning loss on the road.
What makes naming a player of the game hard is that Berry and Maye contributed just as much to the loss as anybody. Berry looked defeated on defense and also managed to turnover the ball five times. Maye did perhaps the least to hurt the team overall, but still got out-worked when he was on defense. The stat that sticks out the most in this loss on the defensive end of the ball is that Virginia Tech outscored UNC 11-4 in fast break points. Effort was the name of the game tonight, and Virginia Tech just had a lot more of it.
In the case of Berry, one has to start to wonder if the lack of help he’s getting off the bench is beginning to wear on him. Jalek Felton has not been able to play defense nearly as effectively as Roy Williams would like him to in order to be able to stay out on the court. He also has failed to get much going on the offensive side of the ball in ACC play, and at times gets a bit careless with the ball. It’s becoming more and more clear that the absence of Seventh Woods is hurting this year’s team a lot. It will be wise for them not to rush Woods back into the lineup, but it has definitely been a little hard to watch Berry play so many minutes and we’re not even out of the month of January.
My final thought is this: if you feel like the sky is falling after this game, you were watching the wrong game. This team didn’t show up to play, and while it is extremely frustrating, it is also very fixable. A loss to a lackluster ACC team on the road right before NC State comes into town is the perfect recipe for Roy Williams making it an extremely rough week of practice. Hopefully more players than Berry and Maye show up to the Dean Smith Center Saturday.