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UNC suffers a blowout 69-98 loss thanks to Kentucky’s suffocating defense

Alright, my vote is to burn the black jerseys.

CBS Sports Classic - Kentucky v North Carolina Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Perhaps it was the sudden change of opponents that threw the Tar Heels off of the tracks against Kentucky. Maybe it was the fact that so many athletes across every league are catching COVID, and it presented a major distraction. Or maybe, just maybe, Kentucky was the much better/tougher team in the CBS Sports Classic, and the Heels still have a lot to learn if they want an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Choose your poison, but what we know is that this afternoon’s loss was one of the hardest to watch in recent memory (unfortunately that’s saying a lot), and how one even begins to fix things is beyond me.

Right out of the gate UNC was extremely bothered by Kentucky’s defensive presence. The most bothered was R.J. Davis thanks to Sahvir Wheeler, who was in Davis’ face every chance he could get. Wheeler had three steals in the first half alone, and managed to finish the half with 14 of his 26 points thanks to his ability to get to the rim. One would think that Armando Bacot would be able to help slow down Wheeler, but he had his hands full with Oscar Tshiebwe, who dominated the glass whenever he was in the game. Despite sitting out for most of the first half, he finished the game with 12 rebounds along with 16 points.

The only Tar Heel that didn’t seem bothered by Kentucky’s defense was Bacot, who finished the game with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists. He did everything that he could to put the team on his back, but his effort just wasn’t enough. The harsh truth is that Bacot needs help in the paint, and right now Dawson Garcia and Brady Manek are refusing to give it to him. We saw the trade-off for obtaining both players really shine in this contest, as both players got abused on the defensive side of the ball. It wasn’t until Manek wised up and took a charge from Tshiebwe that we saw something positive from either guy in that regard, but the game was over way before that even happened.

When discussing UNC’s overall defensive effort, it was about as disappointing as it could possibly be. Kentucky went into this contest as one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the country, and finished the game making eight of their 15 tries. In the paint things weren’t much better — the Heels got shredded whenever the Wildcats drove to the rim, and even if they missed there was always someone waiting to clean up the rebound. Kentucky pulled down a troubling 17 offensive rebounds, and outrebounded the Heels 44-26 overall.

Truly there’s not much else to say about this game. Kentucky was the tougher team in every aspect of the game, and the Heels now have to fly back to Chapel Hill with an 8-3 record. Next up on the schedule is Appalachian State Tuesday at the Dean Smith Center, which is the last non-conference game before they resume ACC play against Virginia Tech.