The Tar Heels suffered their first loss of the season after falling to the Michigan Wolverines in the second round of the Battle 4 Atlantis. This game was literally a rollercoaster, as the Heels played tough and executed very well at times, and at other times it was like the team was just ready for the game to end so that they could have their Thanksgiving meal. Things should’ve been dead in the water when UNC went down 36-60 behind a monstrous run by Michigan, but they somehow fought back largely behind Cole Anthony to only fall by nine points.
At the very beginning of the game the Heels did a great job feeding Brooks and Bacot in the paint and were able to get some stops on the defensive end of the ball. Michigan’s leading scorer from yesterday, Isaiah Livers, was kept in check by Garrison Brooks and it felt like if he stayed on him that this game may just continue to go well. However, Xavier Simpson’s three-pointer to bring Michigan within six started a run that would give them the lead. UNC’s shooting efficiency dwindled dramatically after they started off shooting 50%+ from the field, which was both due to Michigan’s increased pressure and also some poor shot selection by the Heels.
In the second half things all but completely fell off of the cliff when Michigan went on a huge run to put them up 36-60. From there the game should’ve been over and done with, but Cole Anthony re-entered the game and helped Brooks go on a 21-7 run to bring the game back within 10. However, things stalled from there, as UNC was unable to close the gap on the Wolverines before the final horn sounded.
If you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic coming out of what was overall a pretty bad game for the Tar Heels, then their fight in the second half and the way they opened the first half were flashes of just how good this team could be. No, they aren’t able to knock down shots from the perimeter like they were able to last year, but they know how to find ways to get the job done in other ways that could be beneficial down the road. Cole Anthony’s willingness to take over games is also a reason to think that there shouldn’t be many games like this ahead in an ideal world.
However, it’s hard to ignore their offensive struggles as a legitimate problem. Shooting anywhere in the ballpark of 43% from the field and 15% from three on a regular basis is a recipe for disaster, and they need someone to step up and prove that they are able to knock down shots. It’s also a bit of a concern that their defense lapsed in a big way, as Eli Brooks played like a man possessed, finishing the game with 24 points and only missed five shots. Overall Michigan’s shooting numbers weren’t anything super human, but when the Heels shoot like they did tonight, it’ll sure make it hard to hang around with a team like they just faced.
Overall, this game was one that I think we all saw coming. It’s only the first loss of the season, so hopefully the team learns from this and is able to get a win tomorrow to close out their trip. For now, let’s all go spend time with our families, eat some good food, and give thanks for the fact that we didn’t lose to Stephen F. Austin.