The North Carolina men's basketball team (12-6, 4-3 ACC) failed to show up on both ends of the floor yet again on the road, losing big to Wake Forest (16-4, 6-3 ACC), 98-76.
North Carolina struggled out of the gates shooting just 6-20 from the field, but the Tar Heels only found themselves down 18-15 before the under-12 timeout.
The Tar Heels' shooting woes only continued with poor shot selection and junior star big man Armando Bacot going just 1-6 in the first half for four points. However, graduate transfer forward Brady Manek helped carry the load, scoring 13 points in the first half to keep the Tar Heels in it.
On the defensive end, UNC had trouble stopping yet another stretch forward as Wake Forest’s Jake LaRavia had 18 of his 31 points in the first half. The Demon Deacons extended the lead to double digits with a quick 7-0 run late in the first half to put UNC down 46-36 going into halftime.
The two teams traded blows to start the second half, with Bacot finally getting going with six early points. The Tar Heels managed to cut the lead to eight with a pair of Bacot free throws, but the defense failed to make stops as Wake Forest secured another double-digit lead.
It went from bad to worse for UNC as Wake Forest’s Damari Monsanto hit three 3-pointers in a row to put North Carolina down 19 points with under 12 minutes to go — UNC's largest deficit of the night to that point.
North Carolina was unable to mount a comeback as another poor defensive showing allowed Wake Forest to shoot 53.3 percent from the field and make ten 3-pointers, leading to a 98-75 defeat for UNC and back-to-back blowout losses.
Who stood out?
Manek had a solid game offensively for North Carolina, leading the team with 22 points along with eight rebounds. He was the only Tar Heel effective offensively in the first half with 13 points, scoring the team’s first seven of the game.
Sophomore guard RJ Davis backed up Manek with 18 points on 6-12 from the field, as well as five rebounds and three assists.
Bacot added another double-double to name with 12 points and 12 rebounds, although on a poor 4-12 shooting night where he was swarmed by multiple Demon Deacons all night long.
When was it decided?
UNC overcame a rough start to take a 23-21 lead with 9:13 remaining in the first half. For the rest of the half, Wake Forest outscored North Carolina 25-13 to give themselves a ten point lead at halftime.
At the start of the second half when North Carolina started stringing together some good offensive possessions, the Demon Deacons made seven of their first eight shots out of the break to prevent the Tar Heels from clawing into their lead.
The game was put entirely out of reach for the Tar Heels with Monsanto’s three 3-pointers in a row, increasing Wake Forest’s lead to 19 points. With UNC shooting just 33.3 percent from the field, the Tar Heels were unable to muster enough offensive firepower to spark a run, leading to another blowout loss.
Why does it matter?
After an embarrassing loss to Miami, UNC needed a win against a formidable Wake Forest team to stay in the top of five of the ACC standings. Once again, UNC failed to show up on the road, especially in the first half, digging itself another tough hole that it ultimately was unable to get out of.
North Carolina is in need of a statement win in ACC play. After starting out 2-0 in the conference, UNC has gone just 2-3 since and has not beaten a team within the top half of the conference.
More concerning is the fact that teams are starting to limit Bacot’s dominance in the paint by throwing several defenders at him to contest his shots and force turnovers, all of which has contributed to rough first halves in the past two games. Furthermore, sophomore guard Caleb Love has hit a slump, shooting just 5-27 in his past two games.
Head coach Hubert Davis will look to get both Bacot and Love back on track with three games coming up in a five-day span.
When do they play next?
UNC is back in the Smith Center for a three-game home stretch, starting with Virginia Tech on Monday, Jan. 24 at 8 p.m.
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