Things started well enough for the Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium in their first matchup against Duke this season. Carolina looked the part of a veteran squad not letting the tricky environment get to them. Things didn’t stay that smooth, though, and several stretches of the game were downright brutal basketball, as UNC dropped the game 63-57.
The biggest sin in the first half was that poor shot selection on the offensive end led to a mountain of transition points for the Blue Devils. UNC spotted their biggest rival 16 points in transition in the first 20 minutes while failing to score even a single point in transition themselves. It’s just insult to injury when their own bad decision-making directly led to those points.
Despite that, the Tar Heels found themselves down just one point at the half. RJ Davis had to sit out for an extended period with foul trouble, and the team definitely suffered in his absence. His teammates managed to stop the bleeding enough to keep the score from getting out of hand, but Carolina never had a lead after the 9:14 mark in the second half when they were up by just one point.
Carolina’s bread and butter this season has been getting to the free throw line. They are tops in the ACC in free throw attempts. In this game, though, UNC shot just three free throws all game. When you depend on production from the free throw line to supplement your less-than-stellar shooting capabilities, and you’re not getting the calls, you have a night like tonight.
Armando Bacot led the Heels with 14 points and 10 rebounds, but he scored just two points in the second half. That wasn’t entirely his fault, as his teammates failed to find him in several trips down the floor. Bacot can only do so much when he’s not getting the ball down low, and it’s up to the other players on the team to play through the big man.
Leaky Black had the first double-double of his career with three of the team’s seven made three-pointers. He shot 50% from the field and had 10 rebounds. Caleb Love and RJ Davis finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively, with Davis’ shot still not really falling from beyond the arc. Pete Nance really struggled with his shot, going 1-10 from the floor. It was a pretty brutal game for him, and Hubert Davis gave Puff Johnson more burn in the second half that probably wasn’t a coincidence.
It’s not like Duke shot the lights out by any means. They shot just 39% from the field and made just four three-pointers. They did enjoy a huge advantage at the free throw line, making 11 of their 15 attempts. The 20-2 difference in fast break points was a big factor in the Blue Devils’ win, and the eight blocks from Dereck Lively didn’t help matters either.
All in all, the same struggles that have plagued UNC all season showed up again tonight. Their three-point shooting is not good, their shot selection has been very poor and it leads to transition points on the other end more often than not. When they fail to get Bacot the ball, the offense suffers immensely. All of these are things we were well aware of before they ever stepped foot in Cameron. They are all things they’ll have to fix if they want any chance of making the NCAA Tournament with the tough schedule ahead.
UNC will attempt to shake off their two-game losing streak when they travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest on Tuesday.