That set the tempo for a game for which those at the Smith Center had little to cheer. They came to support a team that won its first two ACC games away from home, the latter at No. 15 N.C. State. They departed, some with several minutes remaining, having witnessed UNC’s biggest home loss of the Roy Williams era and its worst in Chapel Hill period since 2002.
“We kind of got what we deserved,” said Kenny Williams, who scored a team-high 12 points as one of only two Tar Heels to reach double figures.
By the time his postgame news conference rolled around, Roy Williams wasn’t as high-strung as he has been at other times when he’s disapproved of his team’s performance. That didn’t mean he wasn’t disappointed, however.
“We never really got into the game, and I would like to give you a brilliant answer as to why, but I can’t give you a brilliant answer,” Roy Williams said.
There were warning signs, however. The UNC coach said the team’s past two practices were mediocre. It didn’t take long for Roy Williams to realize that the mediocrity from practice carried over into the game against Louisville, which looked the opposite: poised, crisp and ready to execute a game plan.
“I could tell in the first three minutes,” Roy Williams said. “We had three turnovers, and Coby (White) had two fouls and two turnovers. I think he has a great chance to be a great player. I told them whatever they did to prepare for this game...never do it again. It’s my job to get them prepared to play.”
Beyond UNC being unprepared, its shooting woes on Saturday – the Tar Heels shot a season-low 34.5 percent from the field and made only 3 of 22 3-pointers – stood out. Every team has bad shooting days, but UNC looked incapable of playing through its shooting struggles. Beyond not putting the ball in the basket, there were the turnovers (14) and the inability to cope with Louisville’s size and length in the paint without fouling (The Cardinals took 24 second-half free throws).
“If you think you can only win when you shoot the ball, then you’re not very tough – and that really ticks me off,” Roy Williams said. “You’ve got to be able to win basketball games ugly. We’ve won hundreds of basketball games ugly instead of just acting like a pansy and thinking, ‘Oh, my shot’s not going in.’ If that’s the case go find your momma and hug her.”
In the past, as Roy Williams said, previous iterations of UNC have won ugly. Kenny Williams thinks this year’s team can, too. He and his teammates just have to prove it.
“It would help if we shot the ball better than we are shooting it now,” Kenny Williams said. “I just think it opens up more when we shoot the ball the way we are capable of. I think if it comes down to it, I think we can win ugly.”
On Saturday, UNC wasn’t ready to win ugly. Kenny Williams said experience is the best teacher, and he told the team’s younger players that a loss like this one is the end result of not being ready to play against an ACC opponent.
In the meantime, North Carolina is left dealing with the reality of its worst home loss in nearly 17 years.
Embarrassed, Cameron Johnson agreed, is the word apt to describe Saturday’s performance.
“The feeling that you have after games like this … you just don’t ever want that,” Johnson said. “You just can’t wait until the next one is the best way to put it.”
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