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The Daily Tar Heel

For UNC basketball, a day full of surprises in 68-64 upset loss to Wofford


UNC junior forward Garrison Brooks (15) dribbles down court in Carmichael Arena on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019 against Wofford. This is the first regular-season game the Tar Heels have played in Carmichael since 1986. 

No. 17 North Carolina's upset loss to Wofford Sunday — the Tar Heels' third straight after falling to Ohio State and Virginia — wasn't short on surprises. Far from it.

First, there was the venue. Due to a scheduling quirk, the Tar Heels played a regular season game in Carmichael Arena for the first time in 33 years: a definite surprise when the move was announced in July.

Then there was the announcement — an hour and a half prior to tipoff — that both first-year guard Cole Anthony (knee injury, out indefinitely) and sophomore guard Leaky Black (sprained foot, game-to-game) would sit against the Terriers. Oh, and the fact that junior forward Sterling Manley underwent knee surgery and is out for the season.

Perhaps those absences, particularly Anthony's, made the 68-64 loss a little less shocking. But the way it all went down — K.J. Smith running point, an airballed free throw from Justin Pierce and... Roy Williams calling a timeout? — was baffling to say the least.

"Guys, I ain't got much left," the head coach said to end his opening statement to the media. "You guys ask questions, and I'll see what I got."

An exasperated Williams signaled for time after Wofford ripped off 16 unanswered points in the second half, including four three-pointers, to take a 55-42 lead. And while a comeback was indeed mounted, with senior Brandon Robinson and junior Garrison Brooks combining for 17 down the stretch, it proved too little, too late for the undermanned Tar Heels.

"Every game we have a different blow," Robinson said. "We just can't get our whole team together."

All told, seven different players have missed time with injury this season, none more consequential than Anthony on Sunday. In his absence, Robinson played the role of UNC's primary outside creator, but shot just 4-12 from the field for 16 points. 

As a whole, the Tar Heels shot 36.5 percent from the field: the least surprising thing about the loss, if you're going off of the team's nine prior games this season. Williams rattled off all his years of coaching experience — at Kansas, as a high school JV coach — and said that this iteration of UNC could be the worst shooting team, percentage-wise, of his career.

"You can try to get them confidence," he said. "But you know how you get confidence? Make a daggum shot."

Despite the change in venue and a raucous crowd, the Tar Heels couldn't find their rhythm. The Terriers had no such issues, though, knocking down 14 three-pointers to UNC's six. To the Hall of Fame head coach, the solution was simple:

"Basically, you've gotta be tough enough to make shots," Williams said. "If you make them in practice, you've gotta be able to make them in games."

"We're all really good basketball players," guard Andrew Platek said. "We're all good scorers. We all know how to put the ball in the hoop. We've done it our whole lives. We just have to do it at this level consistently."

But with a lack of clear offensive options and an uncertain timetable for Anthony's return, this could be the new normal for UNC. Ten games into the 2019-20 season, the Tar Heels are two games above .500 and staring down dates with Gonzaga, UCLA and Yale before the new year.

The fact that a near-.500 record entering ACC play is even a possibility? Now that's surprising.


@DTHSports |

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