Taking on the defending champs in virtually their backyard was always going to be a big ask for the Tar Heels, and there just wasn’t enough firepower to get past UConn on Tuesday night in the 87-76 loss for Carolina.
UNC led for just 3:23 in the game, although they managed to keep it fairly close. They had a chance to pull to within one bucket in the second half before things sort of fell apart and the Huskies pushed the lead back out to double figures.
RJ Davis, once again, led the Tar Heels with 26 points including four three-pointers. Harrison Ingram wasn’t far behind with 20 points and five assists. Armando Bacot was the only other Tar Heel in double figures with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Carolina actually shot 52% from the field in the first half, but still found themselves down five points at halftime. Painfully, the Heels left too many points at the free throw line, shooting just 59% and missing nine of their 22 attempts. It wasn’t exactly the difference in the game, but it was very, very close.
UConn’s three-point shooting was a problem that the Heels didn’t have an answer for. No one player absolutely killed them, as we’ve seen multiple times this season, but four players finished with double figures. The Huskies scored 14 points off UNC’s seven turnovers and out-rebounded UNC 43-33 even with their big man being limited in minutes due to foul trouble. Winning all those small battles matters a lot in a fairly close game, and it was enough for them to pull away with the win.
There were definitely some promising aspects of this game for UNC. UConn is clearly one of the best teams in the country and the Tar Heels had opportunities to make things interesting even in the late minutes of the second half. If they manage to do just two or three things better then maybe the result is different. Credit goes to UConn for making those things harder to do, but they didn’t do anything to have nine points left at the free throw line. Those are the kind of miscues that Hubert Davis will have to make sure his team clears up moving forward.
The Tar Heels will have some time to think about this one and how they can do better over an extended break before they take on Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic in Atlanta on December 16th.