Dec. 20: 79-75 Loss to Wofford
The matchup with Wofford was one of the biggest upsets in college basketball all season and a wake-up call for head coach Roy William’s team. The Terriers, who had never beaten a top-25 team in 23 matchups all-time, snapped a 23-game home win streak for the Tar Heels in the Smith Center.
Wofford hit a layup in the last minute of the first half to take a one point lead headed into halftime — and they never let go of it the rest of the game.
In the second half, UNC marched all the way back from as much as a 14-point deficit, but the Terriers completed the upset with crucial free throws.
After being embarrassed, the Tar Heels were at a crossroads. North Carolina allowed Wofford to shoot 50 percent from the field, including 40 percent from three, and the team looked like it could be suffering from a national championship hangover.
Dec. 23: 86-72 Win over Ohio State
The significance of North Carolina's win over Ohio State grew as the season went on, but in the moment, it was no more than a rebound win after the team's second loss of the season to Wofford.
The team built up a 14-point lead by halftime that ended up making the difference after an evenly scored second half. It was Jalek Felton, who contributed 12 points in an efficient 12 minutes to kept the Buckeyes at bay.
Seniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson put up 19 points apiece and North Carolina entered the week-long Christmas break without such a sour taste in its mouth as it would have without it. Graduate transfer Cameron Johnson added 14 points in his first win in a Tar Heel uniform.
Today, the win over the now-13th ranked Buckeyes has grown into one of the Tar Heels’ best wins all season.
Jan. 6: 61-49 loss to Virginia
In a top-25 matchup, North Carolina had a chance to prove itself against another one of the best teams in the conference and country. Instead, it was given a “good ole butt kicking,” as Roy Williams put it.
Games in Charlottesville, Va., are never high scoring, but when the Tar Heels came to town, they were held to just 29.6 percent from the floor and lost their second conference game. Berry led the way for his team with 17 points and eight rebounds in the loss; his team just couldn't overcome the defensive force it faced.
Jan. 9: 96-66 win over Boston College
After losing to Virginia, North Carolina debuted its small ball starting lineup for the first time when Williams swapped Garrison Brooks for Cameron Johnson. Despite the exchange of a post for a perimeter player, the team started a trend of collecting an unexpected high number of rebounds — a trend that would last throughout the rest of the season.
Against Boston College, the Tar Heels notched 31 rebounds. The lineup seemed to work as the team cruised to an easy win over the Eagles.
The team showed that even after a loss to Virginia, it was a force to be reckoned with. Maye put up 32 points and 18 rebounds in the win, and since then, the lineup with Johnson stuck.
Jan. 27: 95-91 loss to N.C. State in overtime
Whether his players consider N.C. State a rival or not, Roy Williams wants to beat the team from Raleigh every year — and badly.
The Tar Heels' horrid perimeter defense wouldn't make that so, though. The Wolfpack entered the game second to last in the ACC in three-point shooting, but that didn’t matter. Allerik Freeman shot a perfect 7-for-7 from beyond the arc for 29 points, while Torin Dorin and Markell Johnson added 20 points each, including a combined six 3-pointers.
In another bad team defensive performance, Maye and Pinson were the bright spots. Maye scored 31 points and brought down 12 rebounds, while his senior teammate added 22 points and 15 rebounds.
These two performances would foreshadow a showdown rematch later in the season.
Jan. 30: 82-78 loss to Clemson
Following the N.C. State loss, the Tar Heels continued to slide. Earlier that season, North Carolina upheld its 59-0 home streak against the Tigers, but that couldn’t save them from its first three-game losing streak since 2014 that awaited at Littlejohn Coliseum.
Joel Berry II (27) and Johnson (32) would put up big numbers on offense, but the Tar Heels still found themselves down 14 into the second half. They’d have to play catchup the rest of the way.
But it wasn’t happening. The 15 made 3-pointers — just one example of a consistently high output of threes North Carolina has given up this season — caused the team to drop its fifth conference game of the season with eight more conference games to go.
Feb. 8: 82-78 win over Duke
The next week after losing to Clemson, the Tar Heels got back on track.
In the Tobacco Road rivalry game, UNC clamped down on the Blue Devils for its first home wins in back-to-back years against Duke since the 1997 and 1998 season, during Dean Smith’s final season and Bill Guthridge’s first year at the helm.
Johnson and Kenny Williams nearly singlehandedly kept the rest of their team in it until halftime — keeping up with first-years Marvin Bagley III and Gary Trent Jr., who dropped nine points each.
During a 16-2 run, it was Johnson and Williams who led the way again and spawned a lead that the Tar Heels would not give up.
Williams ended the night with a career high 20 points — tying Hubert Davis’ 1992 record of six 3-pointers made against the Blue Devils. Johnson, who put up 18 points, had a career-high 13 rebounds.
Feb. 10: 96-89 win over N.C. State
After dropping the first game against the Wolfpack, Maye would not be denied the second time around. In the first half, he put up a pedestrian six points, but the rest of the way he would be the most important player on the court in PNC Arena.
To start the second half, the Tar Heels found themselves down two to a team that wanted to stretch its lead out, but Maye was there to match N.C. State's intensity point-for-point and rebound-for-rebound to make sure that didn’t happen.
His 27 second-half points contributed to a career-high 33 points and in the second half, he outrebounded the entire N.C. State team for 17 total rebounds.
March 3: 74-64 loss to Duke
North Carolina closed out the regular season with a loss to its rival.
In the first half, North Carolina built up a 10-point lead heading into the final 20 minutes of play. That turned out to mean nothing for who would clinch the victory.
Bagley, who had a measly three points in the first half, exploded for 18 second-half points and 15 rebounds to make sure the Blue Devils wouldn’t be swept by the Tar Heels for the first time since 2009.
With the loss, North Carolina dropped to the No. 6 seed in the ACC Tournament.
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