Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our opportunity to review last week’s game, second-guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.
The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.
A very bad second half against Auburn on Friday night ended the 2018-19 Tar Heel season. Perhaps it was the flu that seemed to take out the team’s legs, or maybe it was just a spectacular 20 minute shooting performance from the Tigers. There are no excuses this time of year. No asterisk. Just a loss.
Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .
It is time for some brutal honesty: this has been one of the most difficult defeats to come to terms with that I can recall. Over the course of the last two months or so, the Heels climbed the rankings and built a tremendous level of confidence in their fan base. Just two weeks ago, this looked like the best team in the country and an unstoppable force in tournament games.
In the second half on Friday night, the Heels looked vulnerable and disorganized. The box score is painful to look at even now. Nassir Little went 2-7 with a couple of his signature dunks being blocked. This comes just as he had begun to break out as a true star. Coby White was 0-7 from three. Luke Maye could only manage 13 points on 6-14 shooting including a mere 7 rebounds against the typically poor rebounding Tigers. Cameron Johnson was held to 4-11 shooting. The team combined to go 7-28 from three and committed 14 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Auburn put up a historic 17-37 from beyond the arc and scored 56 points in the second half. Eight players made a three. A two point half time lead stretched to ten after only a minute and a half.
Just when Carolina was showing signs of life by cutting the lead to six with 1:41 remaining, they went on a three and a half minute scoring drought. The lead was ten with seven minutes remaining when another two minutes without a basket snuffed out the hope. That was one scoreless stretch too many for the season. Auburn scored 14 points in the final 4 minutes to ice the win.
I wrote last week that the first team to 90 points would win. Unfortunately, it was the wrong team. Despite the poor shooting numbers from Carolina’s stars and the numerous second half scoreless stretches, it was not a horrific offensive outing. This is only the second game all year that Carolina lost when putting up 74 points or more. In fact, only three teams scored more points in the sweet sixteen than Carolina. Purdue and Tennessee both had 82 at the end of regulation. Auburn had 97.
Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.
It is going to take some time to gain perspective on the loss, the season, and the team. In the coming weeks, I will attempt to put into words why this group was so much fun to watch and why they will be missed so much. It will also be necessary to come to terms with the disappointment that can only be found in the NCAA Tournament. It is an event like no other and with just a few bad minutes of play, the whole season comes to a conclusion.
There is a also a tremendous amount of uncertainty moving forward. Like getting over this loss, the composition of the team will take a while to figure out. This, however, is not the time to fret about next year. Its not even quite yet the time to appreciate the year that just concluded. Shock and sadness fill the Tar Heel basketball world as a new week dawns without Carolina advancing.
Frustrating. Disappointing. Depressing.
The only silver lining is that Duke lost this weekend, too. That helps, a little.