In the 20+ years Carmichael Arena was their permanent home, UNC lost just 20 games in the building. Unfortunately, the one off return added to that total, and in an embarrassing fashion as well.
The Tar Heels marked the return to their old stomping grounds with a 68-64 loss to Wofford on Sunday.
The bad news about this game started from before things even tipped off when it was announced that Cole Anthony and Leaky Black were both out with injuries. In their places, Christian Keeling rejoined the starting lineup, while K.J. Smith was given his first start as a Tar Heel, in the building where his father started in the previous regular season game held there.
The first half still wasn’t the finest basketball you’ll see, but it seemed like an improvement from UNC’s previous two outings. After going back and forth with the Terriers for the first 15 minutes, the Tar Heels scored eight of the final 12 points of the the opening half to take a four-point lead into halftime. You figured between halftime adjustments and the talent gap, that the lead would eventually grow into a somewhat acceptable final margin.
Instead the opposite happened, Wofford came out firing from three, knocking down five threes in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Meanwhile, yet another extended scoring drought was going on at the other end of the floor. The Tar Heels went over five minutes without scoring, and suddenly that halftime edge had turned into a 13-point deficit.
UNC did mount a rally, scoring the next seven points to get back within striking distance, however they would never get back within a single possession. Every time they got close, there was either a costly turnover and/or someone would get lost on defense leading to an open Wofford three. Considering that Wofford made 14 threes, any mistake made would seemingly come back to hurt the Tar Heels. A 12-20 free throw performance also didn’t help, especially considering that UNC spent a lot of the second half in the bonus.
If there’s any positives to take away, it’s the performance of a couple players. Garrison Brooks scored a team high 17 points, on 8-10 shooting, while also grabbing 13 rebounds. Brandon Robinson had an inefficient shooting night, going 4-12. However in the second half, he scored 11 of his 16 points, including nine of UNC’s last 19 points. His shot selection on the game’s final possession wasn’t smart, but he nearly single-handedly kept them alive in the final minutes before that. The third and final was K.J. Smith, who at least showed that he can give UNC some solid minutes off the bench whenever Anthony comes back. He dished out four assists to two turnovers in his 26 minutes. His +6 plus/minus was second on the team, behind Robinson, and one of just three Tar Heels to finish with a positive number.
Trevor Stumpe and Storm Murphy were Carolina’s chief tormentors, combined for half of Wofford’s points and nine of their 14 threes.
This game was supposed to be a bit of a respite for UNC before the schedule started to get tougher again. Instead, it was a loss. I think we would all appreciate it if the Heels didn’t play Wofford again for a good long while.