PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas – Two things that don’t mix well for the Tar Heels: Michigan and November 28.
Exactly one year after an 84-67 loss, the No. 6 North Carolina men’s basketball team again fell to the Wolverines, 73-64, on Thursday in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.
With a first half marked by five missed three-pointers out of six attempts and the Tar Heels struggling to score outside of first-year guard Cole Anthony’s 12 points, Roy Williams' squad went into the second half facing a 37-31 deficit and looking for improvement.
Instead, at the 11:21 mark of the second half, the Tar Heels found themselves trailing the Wolverines by 24.
“It was an ugly first part of the second half for us, missing so many shots,” Williams said. “I haven’t had many teams go eight minutes with only scoring one field goal. We’ve gotta get better. I’ve gotta do a much better job coaching this team. I haven’t done a very good job coaching them."
Senior guard Brandon Robinson, who posted nine points in his second appearance for the Tar Heels this season, said his team’s defense came up short Thursday. UNC allowed the Wolverines to sink 11 three-pointers on the day, while the Tar Heels only made two.
“We just gotta be better at team defense," he said. "It’s not just the people on the ball who are guarding the screens, it’s everybody on the court. We didn’t do a good job with that."
The Wolverines went on an impressive 19-0 scoring run early in the second half, giving them their massive lead. Williams said he questioned his team’s “toughness” as the Tar Heels continued to miss shot after shot.
“Shooters aren’t very good, it’s makers that are really good for you,” Williams said. “It was frustrating. I’ve never stood there in 32 years and eight billion games thinking about calling a timeout with 12 minutes left in the freakin’ game. That’s so silly to me.”
Still, the Tar Heels put together a comeback attempt. Anthony said even though he knew his team wasn’t going to be able to make up the deficit in one possession, he put his confidence in focusing on plays one at a time.
“Let’s go every play at a time. Let’s take it one play at a time,” Anthony said. “Just keep everyone’s head in the right place, and making sure that everyone knows we can bring this back.”
And with nine unanswered points, five courtesy of Anthony, the Tar Heels were able to narrow the gap. But it wasn’t enough — the closest UNC got was an eight-point deficit with three minutes left before Michigan put the game away.
Despite the loss, Williams said he was proud of his team's fight.
“I hope that none of my teams will ever quit,” Williams said. “I didn’t think we quit. We still had a couple of chances but didn’t get it done, but it’s good for their souls to know that they can dig a little deeper.”
For Anthony, Thursday marked his first loss as a Tar Heel – but the first-year guard remains focused on the future.
“Sure, everyone’s down a little right now, but we got another game tomorrow at 11:30, so we gotta lock in," he said. "We’re not losing tomorrow,."
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