Starting off with a few things that we already knew: Atlanta has long been a house of horrors for the Tar Heels, with a 10-10 record since 1998, and that trend continued to play out tonight as UNC went down 73-74 to Georgia Tech yet again in the Thrillerdome (whatever that means — it hurts my fingers to type it).
Another unsurprising tidbit is that ACC road games are difficult. I mean really tough. Raucous environments, irritating travel, unfamiliar gyms, interrupted routines, and (of course) refs who love to call fouls on the away team (and definitely NOT the home team on the last play where RJ Davis was assaulted by a Yellow Jacket defender). Plus, throw in the well-known fact that some guard you’ve never heard of always goes off and has a career night — cue Kyle Sturdivant’s banked-in three in the final minutes of the game.
So what can we take away from Carolina’s first ACC loss of the season?
The defense isn’t going anywhere
As of the writing of this post, the Heels’ D actually gained a spot in KenPom’s efficiency rankings up to number 3. (The offense did drop 5 spots from 15 to 20.) They are still getting in passing lanes, especially Trimble, and they are still tapping out rebounds, most notably Ingram.
The hustle is there and the Heels are getting on the floor for loose balls, with Cadeau being the prime example in the first half. But somehow, Georgia Tech figured out something in the second half and quickly racked up 5 fouls on the freshman guard, mainly with Nate George pushing off in the process.
Something’s up with Armando
In my notes during the game I wrote: ‘Bacot isn’t done quite yet’ as he looked like 2022 Mando with some impressive post moves and cleaning up the glass. Then, in the second half, he disappeared. Again.
He hadn’t been productive in the last two games coming into last night’s contest, but we attributed that to him letting the game come to him and doing the little things like setting screens and soaking up double teams to free his teammates. It did not feel like that was the case tonight.
It could be an injury, but the aggression just doesn’t seem to be there.
This team does not ever want to have a comfortable halftime lead
This UNC team goes through scoring droughts. That’s nothing new. But in this game, an 11-point lead was squandered to end the first half with a glaring 0 FG in the last 6:30 before halftime.
The bench that has seemed sturdy and dependable through most of the season has seemingly become super-suspect. It feels like Wojcik & Ryan should never be on the floor at the same time… but they are!? Withers has been an unfortunate non-factor the past three games — kudos to Jalen Washington and Seth Trimble for remaining reliable.
It was a brutal game, to be sure. Georgia Tech was at its best and Carolina played its worst. And it was still only a one-point road loss.
I will end with this: Jay Williams tried to say in his commentary that ‘trap games’ are not a thing. I disagree. There is no way after that slugfest in Tallahassee that the Tar Heels were not looking ahead to the showdown with Duke this Saturday. However, I do agree with something else Jay said, after RJ’s first floater went down: “That boy good, man.”