After a historic home loss to Louisville on Jan. 12 in the ACC home opener, the No. 3 North Carolina basketball team learned something that has proven crucial to its season.
The Cardinals embarrassed the home squad by 21 points as the Tar Heels dropped their fourth game of the season with a tough slate of conference foes still ahead. Afterward, UNC was demoted down to No. 13.
“That game, Louisville was just so much more intense and had better intentions than we did,” head coach Roy Williams said after a win over Boston College on Tuesday, according to 247Sports. “I think it hit us right in the mouth, and perhaps it’s helped us some, too.”
Williams' team was hit in the mouth, and right then, the season was in jeopardy of flying off the rails. But instead of falling apart, the loss served as a wake-up call that has propelled the team on a fiery second-half run of historic proportions.
From that game on, the Tar Heels have played themselves into the conversation for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Setting aside the first Louisville game, North Carolina has played its best basketball of the year in ACC play. The team has won 15 conference games for the first time in program history this year, while compiling an unblemished 9-0 record on the road.
“Really proud of our team,” Williams said Tuesday after beating Boston College, according to 247sports. “First team, North Carolina anyway, to go 9-0 on the road in the ACC, and I think that’s a fantastic accomplishment.”
Part of that run can be attributed to the meteoric rise of first-year point guard Coby White, who has proven to be the most prolific and consistent scorer on the team. The 6-foot-5 Goldsboro native — who is UNC’s leading scorer in the conference at 17.9 points per game — has found his touch since the Pittsburgh game, scoring 20-plus points six times during a stretch that includes the game against the Panthers.
But the team itself has been putting together a really nice run, as well.