It was more of the same on Monday as the Heels followed up yet another inspiring victory with yet another head-scratching loss. This time, the Heels took down a top-15 Florida State squad after being down 17 at one point, only to lay a complete egg offensively against Syracuse last night.
Rebounding was largely not a concern (although the Heels were outhustled for some boards in the second half) as Carolina led that statistic, 52-33. It was the inability to hit outside shots and the careless/ill-advised passes leading to miscues that plagued the offense. The Heels finished the game with 20 total turnovers and shot 4-20 (20%) from the three-point line. The free throw shooting (14-22, 63.6%) could’ve been better, but if we’re really being honest, it could’ve been a lot worse.
Despite a little bit of foul trouble in this one, the player of the game for the Tar Heels is Armando Bacot. Bacot posted 18 points, 15 rebounds, one assist, and one block while shooting 7-10 from the floor and 4-5 from the free throw line. He was having his way on the backboards in the first half, lodging himself in the sweet spot of that zone and converting Carolina’s ugly shot attempts into points. His play was a big reason the Heels were able to jump out to a nine-point lead in the first half. At that point, with the pressure they were putting on Syracuse’s frontcourt, it felt like they were a couple made threes away from running away with it. Alas, the shooting never surfaced.
Instead, the Heels’ most prolific outside shooter, Kerwin Walton, went 0-7 from beyond the arc. Aside from that, Caleb Love knocked down a couple, Andrew Platek had an attempt oddly goaltended, and R.J. Davis made one that literally died on the back of the rim and fell in. I’ve accepted that this is not a great shooting team, but this kind of performance was hard to swallow given the success the big men had been having.
Garrison Brooks managed to finish in double figures with 11 points six rebounds, and four turnovers on 5-9 shooting. His mid-range touch was helping the Heels dice up that zone in the first half but they weren’t as successful at getting the ball into the middle as the game went on. Love sneakily finished with the second most rebounds on the team with eight, also notching ten points, three assists, three turnovers, and two steals. Love made some nice plays down the stretch to get the Heels back in it, but it was ultimately too little, too late.
This was a tough loss for the Heels to take as the tournament draws nearer. It’s hard to say exactly what this game means as it pertains to whether or not they receive a bid but one thing is for certain: the level of comfortability is nowhere close to where it was Saturday night. Carolina now has just one game left, a home tilt this coming Saturday with a Duke squad that’s been playing much better since the last matchup between these two.