It was an afternoon consisting of blood, sweat and tears for the UNC JV men’s basketball team as it lost a hard-fought game against Massanutten Military Academy on Monday, 88-74.
“Coach wants us to attack,” junior guard Robbie O’Han said. “That’s just our general mindset to always be attacking.”
North Carolina (1-3) knew it was going to have its hands full against Massanutten Military Academy (18-3) based on its reputation as an experienced group. The most recent standout of basketball alumni from the program is current Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason III. Even after Mason's departure, that reputation continues to precede them, as noted by UNC guard Pearce Landry after the game.
“Those guys are obviously very talented,” Landry said. “I think they had like five or six Division 1 prospects, but when it comes down to it, we just have to make shots, and we weren’t doing that at the end.”
That being said, the Tar Heels were able to hang with Massanutten for the majority of the evening. After their opponent jumped out to a quick 10-point lead at the start of the game, head coach Hubert Davis subbed in sophomore guard Jake Rutter, who provided a much-needed spark off the bench. He reached double digits in scoring before halftime and finished with 15 total points.
“In high school, I was always the sixth man off the bench,” Rutter said. “I like coming off the bench and bringing that energy. I think it helps the guys already on the court a lot.”
Outside of Landry, who had 15 points, and Rutter, UNC struggled for the most part with its outside shots. The remaining Tar Heels shot just 36.6 percent, while Landry and Rutter combined to shoot 52.4 percent.
In response to its early shooting struggles, many UNC players took on a physical mentality for the rest of the game. The majority of the Tar Heels were able to score by capitalizing on Massanutten’s constant defensive switching, driving to the basket and either finishing through contact or drawing the foul. By the end of the game, the teams had combined for 49 fouls.
In the second half, it was clear that this style of play was taking its toll on North Carolina. In two separate instances, UNC players had to be subbed out of the game because they were bleeding. The more significant of the two incidents was the result of first-year forward Nicholas Hamlett taking a hard fall after being fouled on his way to the basket. Landry commented on how he thought fatigue played a role in the loss.
“We logged a lot of minutes today,” Landry said. “I think a lot of us just got fatigued. For some reason, our team has an issue just finishing games.”
That fatigue became especially apparent with about nine minutes remaining in the second half. From that point on, the Tar Heels simply didn’t have enough gas left in the tank, and their bench went cold as Massanutten extended its lead. After the game, Rutter mentioned how UNC could turn this loss, along with its rough start to the season, into a learning experience.
“In the second half, we had a couple of good looks and could’ve made it interesting,” Rutter said. “I think overall we can take a lot of positives away from this. We’ll get back to work in practice.”
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