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UNC vs. Tennessee: Three Things Learned

The Tar Heels folded in the second half in this ugly loss.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Purdue Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

After a sluggish start to the game, the North Carolina Tar Heels were fortunate to be down by seven at half.

When UNC exited for the second half, the team left their effort and intensity in the locker room.

All the positives gained from a hard-fought loss yesterday evaporated today by being flat-footed on defense and discombobulated on offense.

Below are three things learned from Carolina’s 17-point loss to Tennessee.

Defensive Effort

In the first half, both the Tar Heels and the Volunteers were struggling to find offensive rhythm. Carolina got it within three with just under two to go before halftime, but ended up down seven.

After the break, the wheels fell off for UNC.

The Vols hit nine of their first 10 shots of the second half, and by five minutes into the half, Tennessee was 15-17 from the floor.

The Tar Heels were beat off screens, did not fill the gaps off picks, and were unwilling or unable to close the gap on defenders.

At points in the second half, Carolina looked like a mediocre mid-major on defense.

UNC may have well left it all on the floor Saturday afternoon, but that is not an excuse for the total lack of defensive effort in this game.

Owned in the Paint

In watching the game, the Tar Heels were struggling in the paint at both ends of the court. Nothing epitomizes the futility of their efforts more than RJ Davis missing a layup all alone under the basket with 1:40 left in the game.

On offense, there were missed opportunities by not going strong to the basket. Underhanded layup attempts and fadeaway turnaround jumpers bring down those high percentage shots. And tonight it showed.

On the defensive end, THB editor Brandon Anderson laid out the critical stats:

UNC was underwater in each key metric, but none so much as the points in the paint.

Armando Bacot, Brady Manek, and Dawson Garcia were outmuscle and outworked on the inside. And that was when they were in the right position on the floor.

Time and again, Tennessee had clear paths to the bucket. That just comes down to defensive effort.

Fifth Game-Fifth Leading Scorer

In trying to find a silver lining to this game, there is an interesting fact for the Tar Heels.

In the fifth game of the season, UNC had its fifth different leading scorer.

Manek was doing his best to keep the Tar Heels close with 24 points, including going 6-10 from three.

If Carolina can find a way to put all the pieces together, it is clear they have the capacity to either have balanced scoring or the firepower to pick up where others left off.