For the second straight game, UNC went on the road in the ACC and lost badly to a tough opponent, with the game rarely even in doubt for much of the second half. This time, it was the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest beating the Heels 98-76. Jake Laravia, the Deacons’ stretch forward, scored a career-high 31 points to lead them as they had their way with the Carolina defense all night long. UNC will try and regroup from a tough road trip before they go home for a 4-game stretch starting Monday night against Wake Forest.
Brady Manek opened the scoring for the Heels, scoring UNC’s first 7 points to keep pace with Wake Forest at the other end. The rest of the squad, though, was ice cold, and it was only through offensive rebounds that they kept pace with LaRavia and Alondes Williams’ individual offensive excellence. Through 8 minutes, Wake Forest led, 18-15, with that pair doing all the damage for the Deacons. After that, the Heels briefly went ahead, 23-21, after hitting a few shots, but then a third player entered the scoring column for Wake: Davien Williamson, who went on a solo 7-0 run to put his team up 28-21 with 6 minutes remaining, and the Deacons didn’t look back from there, extending that run to 13-2 and leading by as many as 13. A Caleb Love 3 at the end of the half stemmed the tide for a little bit, and the halftime score was 46-36. With the Heels shooting 30% from the floor and just 2/7 from beyond the arc, 10 points felt like a pretty fortunate deficit. Williamson, LaRavia, and Williams had 42 of Wake’s 46, while Manek led the way for UNC with 13.
The second half started out with an offensive flurry on both sides. UNC and Wake Forest each scored on 5 straight possessions, the Heels creating extra looks with offensive rebounds and the Deacs just not missing. UNC switched briefly to zone as Williamson in particular was getting by his man every time he had the ball, and it was all the Heels could do to hold serve for four minutes as they went into the under-16 down 50-59, Wake Forest only having missed one shot. The next four minutes were more of the same, with both offenses cooling down a little bit, but then Damari Monsanto hit three straight three-pointers to send his team into the under-12 with a 19-point lead, and the game was more or less over from there. R.J. Davis had a mini-run of his own to cut the deficit to 13 at one point, but that short-lived moment was as close as UNC would get, as Wake Forest continued to slice apart UNC’s various defensive looks and get easy attempts at the rim to slowly keep extending the lead. Manek, who had been UNC’s only consistent source of offense, fouled out guarding LaRavia with 5 and a half minutes to go, and the rest of the team continued to just not find anything on offense: Caleb Love airballed a wide-open catch-and-shoot 3, a look he hits over half the time, and 2 possessions later, Armando Bacot missed a point-blank layup after a soft foul. It was just that kind of night for UNC’s offense, while their defense was either getting blown by or committing a foul nearly every possession down the stretch.
Manek led UNC with 22 points on 8/17 shooting, and Davis put on a mini-show after the game was out of reach to finish with 18 on 6/12. Bacot, though he struggled from the floor, managed to get to his 9th straight double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. On the other side, after LaRavia’s 31, Williams scored an efficient 23 and Williamson added 19 on just 9 field goal attempts. Monsanto finished with 13, all scored in the span of about 3 minutes.
It’s the first time UNC’s lost two straight games by 20+ since the 2010 8-20 season. This team’s already shown itself to be better than that with some impressive wins, but continues to be unable to find any sort of consistency 18 games in. They’ll have an opportunity to try to re-take a couple steps forward with a home stretch against a couple of teams that aren’t as high in the ACC standings as their last two opponents, starting with their delayed date with the Virginia Tech Hokies on Monday night.