The No. 18 North Carolina men’s basketball team (3-2) lost to No. 17 Tennessee (3-1), 89-72, in the consolation game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off on Sunday.
UNC teams struggled to get its offenses going in the early minutes, as Tennessee got out to an early 6-1 lead. Two-straight baskets from junior big man Armando Bacot gave the Tar Heels their first made field goals of the game, and 3-pointer from graduate transfer forward Brady Manek brought UNC to within one-point, 9-8.
Another Bacot layup at the 13:06 mark put UNC ahead, 12-11. Post play dominated as the teams played tug-of-war with the lead. As UNC called timeout with 9:31 remaining in the first half, Bacot led the team in scoring with seven points, making all three of his attempted field goals. Turnovers continued to hamper the Tar Heels as Bacot and sophomore transfer big Dawson Garcia committed two-straight offensive fouls, and Tennessee capitalized to extend their lead to 23-16.
Tennessee continued to push the pace as UNC struggled to put the ball through the net. First-year forward Dontrez Styles and sophomore guard RJ Davis both missed point-blank range shots, but a deep step-back three from sophomore guard Caleb Love cut the Tennessee lead to four points, 26-22, with five minutes remaining.
The Volunteers responded with a 7-0 run, but Manek put UNC right back into the game with back-to-back threes. However, the Tar Heels just couldn’t turn it around as they struggled to defend in the paint, and they ended the half down, 39-32.
Bacot started the second half with a strong finish at the rim, but a 3-pointer from Tennessee’s Santiago Vescovi and two lay-ups from John Fulkerson put the Volunteers up ten points. That lead held through the under-12 media timeout, despite the best efforts of Bacot down low and Manek from outside.
Who stood out?
Manek impressed with 24 points on 6-of-10 shooting from three. The transfer from Oklahoma has proved to be a valuable threat from deep all season, but he was the only Tar Heel to be a threat from behind the arc this game.
Bacot had another efficient game with 16 points and 12 rebounds after being a non-factor against Purdue.
Tennessee’s backcourt of young guards Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler powered Tennessee to the blowout win.
Chandler broke down the UNC defense with nifty drives to the basket and great playmaking. The Tennessee point guard put up 14 points and 8 assists, which almost equaled UNC’s 9 assists as a team. Ziegler led the Volunteers in scoring with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
When was it decided?
Tennessee continued to pile onto its lead in the second half, and UNC never looked as if it was on the verge of making a comeback. By the time UNC called a timeout with 6:27 remaining in the game, the Volunteers had gotten out to a 74-57 lead.
Tennessee continued its onslaught of fast-paced, relentless scoring while UNC floundered, and the game ended with a score of 89-72.
Why does it matter?
After a solid performance in a loss to eventual tournament champion Purdue, the Tar Heels looked much more sloppy on Sunday. This game proved that UNC’s defensive woes will be especially apparent in games where shots just aren’t falling. Turnovers were the other big issue for the Tar Heels, who had 13 on the game compared to Tennessee’s 10.
Back-to-back losses aren’t what UNC was hoping for this weekend, although the team did play against two ranked opponents. The Tar Heels will look to have a bounce-back performance against UNC-Asheville in Chapel Hill, before facing off against No. 4 ranked Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 1.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will return to Chapel Hill, where they face UNC Asheville on Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.
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