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What went wrong in UNC’s loss against Georgia Tech

The Tar Heel’s undefeated road streak has come to an end.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Georgia Tech Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Call it manifestation, call it intuition, or call it one big coincidence, but the Tar Heels traveled to Atlanta and did what some of us expected: they had an uncharacteristically bad game and lost to Georgia Tech. One could make the argument that this was a long time coming, because if we’re being honest, UNC has won some games when they very much looked like they were dead in the water. However, elite teams find ways to win anyway, and while this was a really frustrating loss, this team has done enough to show that they’re still one of the better teams in the country. Apparently they haven’t done enough to get an obvious foul call at the end of a game, but we don’t need to get into that.

Anyways, I decided that it’d be a good idea to discuss three things that went wrong last night in Atlanta. Let’s go ahead and dive in.

Shot selection was tragic

Normally a team that has taken some smart shots all season, the Tar Heels had some uncharacteristically bad decision-making against Georgia Tech. One could argue that if some decent looks went in then they wouldn’t have been bad decisions, but it felt like some of the players knew it wasn’t their night shooting from the perimeter for instance, but continued to do it anyway. Example: Cormac Ryan shot 10 times from the perimeter, but only knocked down three of them. Similarly, Harrison Ingram finished his night shooting 2-7 from deep, and went 3-14 overall. One could make the argument that the ball just wasn’t going in, but more than anything it just felt like a team that wasn’t in control of the game and settled for bad shots.

If there was a bright spot on the roster when it comes to shooting it was RJ Davis, who finished the night with 28 points. While we love to see him continuing his offensive dominance, shooting the ball 24 times is sub-optimal in a game where it was easier and easier for Georgia Tech to focus on him in crunch time. Funny enough, it was Davis who had the ball in the final seconds of the game and got fouled when going to the rim, only for the refs to not call it. This was an ugly shooting night for the Tar Heels, but one would hope things will smooth out this Saturday against Duke.

Elliot Cadeau fouling out

One could argue that one of the bigger reasons that Carolina completely unraveled offensively in the second half was Elliot Cadeau picking up his fifth foul with 5:49 left in the game. What was even more puzzling/frustrating is that Cadeau picked up all five in the second half alone — he didn’t have a single foul in the first 20 minutes.

There’s really not much to say here, but Hubert Davis needed Cadeau to be available down the stretch and it just didn’t happen. Some of the calls were tick-tack to say the least, but that seems to be how things have went for him this season. Perhaps this weekend the refs will lay off of him a little bit given how heated the game will be against Duke, but at this point who knows. All Cadeau can do is do his best to keep himself in the game, but the Yellow Jackets attacking him deliberately certainly didn’t help things either.

The defense was finally bad enough to lose

While UNC’s defense has been enough to keep them out of trouble since their loss to Kentucky, that was far from the truth against the Yellow Jackets. Seeing that Georgia Tech shot 41% from the field seems like a result that most teams would take, but Miles Kelly and Kyle Sturdivant lit the Heels up from the perimeter, and as a team they shot 45% from the perimeter. Is that the exact same percentage that Florida State shot Saturday? Yes, but the Seminoles also bailed the Heels out by fouling any chance they got. There was nothing to save the Tar Heels letting yet another team go off from deep.

Hubert Davis is likely going to spend a lot of time between now and Saturday trying to figure out if this is becoming a legitimate problem, or if certain players are just getting hot against good defense. The answer is probably both A and B, because as I mentioned earlier Cadeau was getting singled out in the second half since he is the least threatening defender in the starting lineup. Credit Georgia Tech for having a good game plan and for making some really good shots, but in the end the Heels just weren’t good enough on either side of the ball.

With that said, let Duke Hate Week begin.