Carolina fans were probably feeling pretty good, even after yesterday’s loss, with how well the Tar Heels played in their game against Purdue. Unfortunately, as good as they looked yesterday was about how bad they looked in an ugly loss to Tennessee in the consolation game of the Hall of Fame Tip-off. The Volunteers came out and punched the Heels in the mouth and they never found a way to recover.
Tennessee is one of the best defenses in the country, according to KenPom, and that was on display as they disrupted all of UNC’s rhythm offensively. The team that flowed so well against the Boilermakers looked lost against Tennessee. Yesterday’s star, Dawson Garcia, was held to just four points while Kerwin Walton uncharacteristically went scoreless.
The Heels did get good production out of Brady Manek, who had 21 points on five three-pointers. Caleb Love and RJ Davis were both in double figures with 12 and 14 points, respectively, but it was nothing like what they showed in the loss to Purdue. Armando Bacot, who was saddled with foul trouble for almost all of yesterday’s game, had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the losing effort. Carolina shot just 40% from the field and got owned in the paint again, being bested 54-22 in the category. That was a problem against Purdue and it certainly did not resolve itself overnight.
Despite the fact that UNC shot 22 free throws to Tennessee’s eight, it wasn’t enough to overcome the fact that the Volunteers took 15 more shots than UNC. They out-rebounded the Heels as well, and just seemed to be out-hustling Carolina throughout most of the game. If fatigue was a factor it should have been an issue for both teams, but only one looked all out of sorts.
Coming away from this tournament with a loss to a very good Purdue team and a win over Tennessee would have felt pretty promising heading into the week of Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the loss and the way it was lost are going to leave a pretty nasty taste in everyone’s mouth with UNC Asheville coming to town on Tuesday before the break.
Of course this team is still figuring themselves out and Tennessee has a very pesky team that has the ability to take away offensive opportunities. The frustrating thing is that Tennessee is not full of world beaters offensively, and UNC’s lack of defense made them look pretty darn good. That’s a really bad recipe for success, and we see how that played out today.
You can tolerate the loss to Purdue a little better because all of the effort was there and they just came up a little shy against a team that could definitely contend for a title. Today it didn’t seem like the same intensity was there against a team much more in line with the talent level of UNC. It was extremely sloppy, and Carolina managed just one minute and fourteen seconds of a lead in the entire game.
UNC will try to lick their wounds and regroup for the game against UNC Asheville on Tuesday at the Dean Dome.