After a dominating win over Louisville on Saturday, the Tar Heels returned to play deflated and stale. The UNC men’s basketball team (14-8, 8-5 ACC) fell to Marquette (11-12, 6-10 Big East) 83-70 on Wednesday night at the Dean Smith Center in saddening fashion.
The Tar Heels were slow to generate offense to start with a couple drives to the glass only resulting in only two points. Just under six minutes in, the score sat at 11-4, with D.J. Carton and Dawson Garcia grabbing the lead for Marquette, while UNC was trailing with two fouls and two turnovers. The Tar Heels soon found themselves down by double digits, 14-4, with shooting troubles — going 3-15 on shots at the under-12 media time out — and missing key offensive rebounds.
A slam dunk by senior forward Garrison Brooks right before the 12-minute mark seemed to bring some life into the team. Two jumpers from first-year big man Walker Kessler brought UNC within one. But Marquette quickly responded with two wide open 3-point jumpers for a seven point cushion, 20-13. After a few drives that failed to generate points, a dunk for the Golden Eagles' Theo John brought Marquette’s lead back to 10.
The struggles continued the remainder of the period with horrendous shooting from UNC and Marquette sinking uncontested 3-pointers, bringing the deficit to 18 — the team's largest deficit of the season. With UNC shooting just under 37 percent from the field and zero percent from the three, the Tar Heels went to the locker room down 45-29.
The second half was much of the same.
Without shooters who can sink 3-pointers quickly and efficiently, UNC was unable to claw back as Marquette still leaned on Garcia and guard Greg Elliot for points in the paint. With two slam dunks from Brooks and a 3-pointer from a senior guard Andrew Platek, UNC was able to cut the deficit to ten with just over 13 minutes left. Interior buckets from first-year guard RJ Davis and first-year big Day’Ron Sharpe enlivened UNC in the closing ten minutes, but Marquette's Jamal Cain and Symir Torrence each sank 3-pointers to keep UNC’s takeover attempts at bay.
Drive after drive, the Golden Eagles outworked and outplayed UNC. With 19 turnovers and a 5-18 performance from the 3-point line, a UNC win was not in the cards.
The frustrations continued until the final buzzer as UNC fell to the Golden Eagles, 83-70.
Who stood out?
In the opening 20 minutes, Marquette’s Garcia and Elliot generated the offense UNC couldn’t with each player grabbing 16 and 13 points in the first half, respectively. They continued laying it on the Tar Heels, with Garcia finishing with 24 points and 11 rebounds and Elliot with 15 points and three rebounds. Carton also snatched 17 points of his own to seal the Golden Eagles' win.
Brooks led UNC offensively. Despite UNC’s bad defense and even worse offense, Brooks had a solid outing for the Tar Heels with 18 points and five rebounds.
When was it decided?
There were hopes at halftime that Williams’ team could make the comeback.
But UNC’s lack of energy and pace despite being down all half, didn't make for success. Marquette continued shooting nearly 38 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 52 percent from the field as compared to UNC’s 27.8 percent from deep and 41.7 percent from the field, banking shots off the rim and missing some crucial free throws late.
Hopes soon fell away for the comeback victory, and it stayed that way.
Why does it matter?
With Roy Williams’ 900th career win on the line, Marquette snatched the moment in dominating fashion. It was a tough look for the Tar Heels, who just came off a dominating 45-point win over Louisville in their previous game. This loss no doubt puts large question marks over UNC’s NCAA Tournament chances.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will take on the No. 11 Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, Feb. 27 at 4 p.m. in Chapel Hill.
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