Struggles continue for Tar Heel basketball
Roy Williams didn’t need to see the score to comprehend the mingled looks of frustration and stress on his players’ faces.
For the second straight game, the North Carolina coach saw his team lead after the first half, keep close through most of the second and then completely unravel in the game’s waning minutes.
UNC (10-5, 0-2 ACC) fell to Miami 68-59, losing its first two conference games for just the fourth time in school history.
It’s become clear there’s a problem. In the locker room, on the court, with the coaching— there’s a problem somewhere. Williams knows it. He just doesn’t know how to fix it.
“If I knew what it was, I would’ve changed it,” Williams said. “That’s a smart-aleck response, but it’s a true response.
“Our kids have been doing some nice things in practice. We just haven’t taken them from the practice court to the game court.”
In the first half Thursday, it seemed as though the Tar Heels had corrected the woes that ailed them in Sunday’s loss at Virginia.
After giving up eight 3-pointers to Virginia, they showed more perimeter pressure in the first half, holding the Hurricanes to 33 percent shooting from behind the arc, while notching five steals.
And after struggling to develop an inside offensive presence in Charlottesville, Va., UNC flashed an improved ability to pass the ball in the post.
That, in turn, created open looks for Reggie Bullock, who sank three of his five first-half 3-point attempts and seemed to pick up where he left off after his 22-point performance against the Cavaliers.
But after going into halftime leading 32-30, the same cracks in the armor reappeared.
The Tar Heels’ field goal percentage took a nosedive from the first half to the second, plummeting from 48 to 33 percent. Bullock’s seemingly hot touch suddenly cooled, as he went one for nine from the field. Sophomore James Michael McAdoo shot one for seven in the second half.
“I had some great looks. It just didn’t fall for me,” Bullock said. “My teammates got me open. I give credit to them. … It just didn’t fall for me tonight.”
A UNC defense that was tight on the perimeter loosened and provided open look after open look, including back-to-back 3-pointers in a decisive 13-3 Miami run.
The Tar Heels saw their lead evaporate, their shots swatted away, and for the second straight game, Williams saw his team struggling to cope with its shortcomings.
“It’s extremely stressful,” freshman Marcus Paige said. “You play the game to win, and when you have a lot of opportunities like we did and then to just see it kind of slip away gradually really hurts.
“It was really an emotional locker room afterward. We really wanted this one.”
Contact the desk editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.