Flipping through the North Carolina Tar Heels media guide, the all-time “largest halftime deficit” was not found. It was available for the NCAA and ACC Tournaments, but not for a regular season game. Outside sources say that the 27-point halftime deficit against Miami tied the program record.
The biggest lead by Miami was 33 points, and, boy, it felt like it was even worse. So what happens next?
The bad losses this season occurred on the road, and UNC travels to Winston-Salem for Saturday night’s game. Can Carolina regroup in time against a Wake Forest squad that would love nothing more than to take down their Big Four rival?
Here are three things to watch when the Tar Heels take on the Demon Deacons.
What Happens When the Threes Do Not Fall?
Before the Miami game, UNC was the top three-point shooting team in the ACC. After going just 6-30 from beyond the arc versus the second to worst three-point defense in the conference, Carolina now ranks second the league in three-point shooting percentage.
To put this in perspective, UNC took 65 total field goals against the Hurricanes. This means nearly half of their shots were taken from three. During ACC play, the Tar Heels have only taken more threes once: 31 attempts in the loss versus Notre Dame.
Carolina seemed to be forcing the issue in these losses, and it may get worse on Saturday. Wake Forest ranks fifth in the ACC in three-point defense. This compliments their third-ranked field goal percentage defense. What offensive adjustments must UNC make when the threes are not falling?
The easy answer is to go inside.
However, the Deacs are solid in the paint, ranking just above the middle of the pack in the ACC in rebounding at both ends of the court. Wake goes with three forwards, ranging from 6’8” to 7’0”.
The Tar Heels will need the outside shot, but must be careful to not force it, especially if Wake’s front court is giving UNC fits.
Who Stops Alondes Williams?
Alondes Williams has scored in double figures in every single game this season. The ACC’s leading scorer is not relying on quantity alone. Williams’s 54.5 field goal percentage is fourth-best in the conference.
Carolina’s go-to defender, Leaky Black, has the range to cover the 6’5” Williams. However, Black’s minutes have steadily been reduced in recent games. Black had 30 minutes in the loss against Notre Dame, 24 minutes versus Virginia, 20 minutes against Georgia Tech, and just 12 minutes versus Miami. In short, Black may not have the assignment all night.
RJ Davis and Caleb Love may have the assignment. Can they maintain the defensive intensity needed to guard Williams while running the offense? Can Kerwin Walton step up to the task? Does Hubert Davis trust Dontrez Styles enough for some minutes on this assignment?
Williams will play at least 30 minutes, so we will see how defense by committee will shake out.
Davis said there is no leadership on the floor. Without it, the terrible effort level seen in certain games this season reared its ugly head. Someone needs to step up.
Is one of the worst conference losses in nearly 20 years enough for an on-court leader to emerge? It must happen, or this season will remain a rollercoaster.
The Tar Heels have been average on the road this season, and tomorrow’s game has all the ingredients for another tough loss for UNC.
The time is now for a leader.