“I thought we really did a good job of making them play out of their stuff and really pressuring them,” Tar Heel forward Luke Maye said. “And they missed a lot of shots, which was big for us.”
The Wolverine’s tendency to have longer possessions can be a strength — and head coach John Beilein was sure to point out that his slow style of play did not mean his team was slow on their feet. But on Wednesday night, the Wolverines were outmatched in even the foot-speed department.
“I don't think we were ready for the quickness and the speed and the precision that they run with,” Beilein said after the game. “And we weren't locked in defensively. We just weren't locked in.”
Both teams started the game hot, as they combined for 49 points before the 10-minute mark of the first half. But the Tar Heels forced the game at a clip that minimized Michigan’s methodical shot selection philosophy.
“Our offense could have been our defense today,” Beilein said. “If we could have just been a little more patient and at times been a little more precise with what we do, we could've hung in there, scored points and then obviously transition defense is a lot easier after you score a bucket. All of the sudden we just went a little crazy.”
The pace seemed to take its toll, as a game that was tied with 8:07 left in the first half turned into a 14 point UNC lead by the break. Williams didn’t credit his defense with directly having that much to do with the Wolverine’s cold streak, however. After making their eighth straight field goal to start the game, Michigan made just seven of their next 21 attempts.
“They missed more of them because they missed than they did because of our defense,” Williams said.
The second half got out frenetically again, with the Tar Heels quickly building their lead into the 20s. Michigan scored only two points in the first 7:10 of the period.
But the Tar Heels would get a taste of what happened when the game was slowed down. Joel Berry tucked in a layup after a UNC steal, putting the Tar Heels up by 26 with 14:42 to go.
“And then we stayed on the bench seven of the next eight minutes it seemed like,” Williams said. “Because (Coach Beilein) called a timeout and then had the 16-minute timeout and then we had the 12-minute timeout. So after that, it was really ugly.”
Michigan clawed away at the lead. After UNC led by as much as 29, the Wolverines almost equaled the Tar Heels in second-half scoring, 35-34.
But the hurry-up that the Tar Heels were able to press on the Wolverines — both offensively and defensively — was ultimately too much to overcome.
“(Kenny) Williams came out just really stroking the ball,” Beilein said. “We did too. We all the sudden went out of that and got a little uncharacteristic of ourself and we got what we deserved.”