Lackluster defensive effort
The Tar Heels allowed the Seminoles to score 51 points in the first 20 minutes of the game. This was the most points UNC has allowed in one half since last season’s ACC tournament semifinal loss against Duke.
FSU shot a scorching 54.5 percent from the field in the opening half of action and hit 9 of 20 3-point attempts. The Seminoles were led by senior guard Braian Angola, who had 14 of his team-high 20 points by halftime. UNC found itself in an 11-point hole at the break.
North Carolina came out with a different energy in the second half, holding Florida State to 2-9 shooting from the 3-point line. FSU had just 10 made baskets after halftime, compared to 18 made field goals in the first half.
However, every time the Tar Heels cut into the deficit, the Seminoles had an answer. Florida State began taking the ball to the rack, and either got an easy two points or a trip to the free throw line on many occasions.
Unreliable interior scoring
Although UNC won the points in the paint battle, 34-28, the team came up short too many times with good looks near the rim. With the Tar Heels only returning one big man from last season’s NCAA title-winning squad, growing pains were inevitable this early in the year.
North Carolina’s four rotation bigs are junior Luke Maye and the first-year trio of Garrison Brooks, Sterling Manley and Brandon Huffman. Against the Seminoles, they combined for just 20 points and shot 8 of 20 from the floor. The group missed layups and put-backs at the basket multiple times in the contest.
The absence of a reliable back-to-basket scorer for the Tar Heels has resulted in more 3-pointers and jumpers this season — leading to a fair share of misses. UNC will need its first-years to grow up quicker than expected if it hopes to contend for an ACC crown this season.
Someone outside of Berry has to step up late
Berry had 21 of his 28 points in the second half — outscoring the rest of the UNC roster, 21-19. The preseason All-ACC First Team selection also scored 10 of the Tar Heels’ final 13 points as they rallied back late.
No other North Carolina player had more than five points in the second half of action. Maye and senior forward Theo Pinson had five apiece. Junior guard Kenny Williams — who had 16 first-half points — scored just two points on 1-8 shooting in the final 20 minutes of play.
None of his teammates finding a rhythm late in the game could be a reason that Berry made the decision that he did on UNC’s final shot attempt. With about seven seconds remaining in the contest and the Tar Heels down by one, Berry drove to the basket. Three Seminole defenders collapsed on him in the paint, leaving graduate transfer Cam Johnson wide open for a corner three.
Instead of kicking it to Johnson, Berry threw up a floater that rolled off the back of the rim and into the hands of an FSU player — ending the game. There is no excuse for Berry not finding his open teammate on that play. However, if other Tar Heels would have stepped up in the second half, perhaps he would have been more likely to pass the ball.