The No. 14 North Carolina men's basketball team (3-1) fell in dramatic fashion to No. 17 Texas (4-0) in the championship game of the Camping World Maui Invitational on Wednesday, 69-67. After a poor first half, the Tar Heels erased a 12-point deficit just after halftime, only to be done in by a jumper from Texas' Matt Coleman III with 0.1 seconds to play.
UNC got off to a solid start. Senior forward Garrison Brooks and first-year guard RJ Davis got the scoring started, followed by an athletic tip-in from sophomore center Armando Bacot. At the under-16 minute timeout, the Tar Heels led 7-5.
But the turnover bug, which has persisted for North Carolina so far this season, soon resurfaced. UNC coughed it up eight times in the first eleven minutes of play, helping the Longhorns to a 22-15 lead at the 9:03 mark. To that point, Texas had knocked down four 3-pointers to UNC's zero.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels seemed stagnant on offense, having sank just eight of their first 21 shots. At the break, North Carolina trailed 40-28 and shot 39.3 percent from the field in the first half.
UNC allowed Texas to sink seven of its 15 attempts from deep in the first 20 minutes, compared to just one of four for Roy Williams' team. And while the Tar Heels were winning the rebounding battle, 25-16, the differential in second-chance attempts wasn't erasing their other offensive woes. (Missing eight of 13 free throw attempts in the first period wasn't helping, either.)
North Carolina quickly got to work in the second half, starting out on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to two with 16:00 to play. The Tar Heels' six buckets — all in the paint — came from Brooks, Bacot, Davis and first-year forward Day'Ron Sharpe, forcing a Longhorns timeout and all but erasing a dismal first half. Neither team did enough to separate themselves for most of the period; it wasn't until the 2:35 mark that a Brooks turnaround gave North Carolina its first lead of the second half.
But after dry spell and a Texas bucket to tie the game, the Tar Heels were again in need of a bucket with less than a minute to play. Instead, a deflected inbounds pass led to a fast break and an easy dunk for the Longhorns. Junior guard Leaky Black was fouled on the ensuing possession, sinking a pair to knot the game up at 67.
But the Tar Heels' first half, and their earlier misses at the free throw line, would come back to haunt them. Coleman III, Texas' leading scorer on the day, nailed a step-back jumper with 0.1 seconds left to take the lead and ultimately the game, it became clear that North Carolina's missteps proved costly.
Who stood out?
Brooks had his best offensive game of the season thus far, posting a team-high 18 points on 7-12 shooting to go along with seven boards. Davis added 11 points and Bacot recorded 10; together, the three were the only UNC players to reach double-digits.
When was it decided?
Coleman III sealed the game at the buzzer with his last second shot.
Why does it matter?
North Carolina displayed a fair amount of fight early in the second half, clawing back from a 12-point deficit and doing enough to force a last-second finish. Still, the team hopes that its offensive woes — 14 turnovers, to go along with 41.4 percent from the field and 1-9 shooting from 3-point range — are a one-off, rather than the start of a trend.
When do they play next?
In their biggest test of the season thus far, the Tar Heels will face Luka Garza and third-ranked Iowa on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
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