For the first time since the 2013-14 season, UNC has been defeated by Wake Forest 57-74. It is yet another streak in a healthy list of streaks that have been broken this season. Time is indeed a very flat circle.
Right out of the gate we saw a completely different Tar Heel team than we saw Saturday night against Duke. They struggled both offensively and defensively mightily, and only made 31% of their field goals to Wake Forest’s 55.6% in the first half. Wake’s senior guard Adrien White did most of the damage to the Heels, as he finished the half with 12 points and 6 assists. Brandon Childress was noticeably quiet from a scoring perspective, but he flexed his point guard muscle by logging 7 assists with only one turnover.
On the UNC side of the ball, Leaky Black rapidly picked up three fouls and had to go to the bench early. Garrison Brooks got hit in the face yet again and had to go to the bench. Cole Anthony struggled mightily with his shooting efficiency, as he made 3 of his 11 field goal attempts. That’s perhaps all we need to know about the first half.
In the second half UNC was able to clamp down a bit on defense, but the offense still struggled until Christian Keeling stepped up. He did a great job nailing his mid-range jumpers, got to the rim, and even hit one of his three-point attempts. He finished the game with 15 points, and 11 of those points were scored in the second half alone. Coming off of the Duke game, it was easy to wonder whether or not he’d truly found a way to be productive on offense or if he was having another One Hit Wonder kind of night, but tonight he proved that he has something to contribute to this team that hopefully will be sustainable moving forward.
Keeling aside, things didn’t get a whole lot better for anybody else on the floor. The Heels were able to go on a run late in the fourth quarter to bring things within 10, but the fouls added up and the Deacs were able to knock down some free throws to gain some distance. Throw in Chaundee Brown’s three-point dagger, and this one was over.
One of the worst things about this particular loss is things legitimately do not get any easier from here — UNC will finish out the regular season against Virginia, Notre Dame, Louisville, NC State, Syracuse, Wake Forest again, and Duke. This game was a golden opportunity for UNC to pick up a win against a team that has struggled as they have, and said opportunity flew out the window. Can they beat the other teams listed, or possibly beat Wake Forest in round two? In theory, yes, but it’s equally as likely that we witness the same things that we’ve witnessed over the last 2 months.
For what it’s worth, this team is somehow still putting up a fight, but it’s the lack of fight for 40 minutes straight that is burying this season. There’s likely a few reasons as to why this is happening that won’t satisfy every Carolina fan out there, but one theme has been consistent all year long: this team is hurt. They are hurt badly. I personally have never witnessed a Carolina basketball team so physically, mentally, and emotionally beaten up in my life, and it’s really tough to witness. We’re at the stage of the season where there just aren’t any answers to be seen to save this season, because it has become very apparent that everything that can go wrong will go wrong and that is just how the 2019-20 season is destined to go.
Regardless, the season isn’t over, and now the Heels must regroup and get ready to play Virginia Saturday night in the Dean Dome. I hope the shot clock is working properly, because it’s going to get a workout in this one.