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Defensive struggles on the road continue for UNC in its blowout loss to Wake Forest

UNC sophomore guard Caleb Love (2) plays defense during a home game at the Dean Smith Center against Furman on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

In a game where UNC struggled from the field, the team still had a puncher's chance early in the second half.

With 13:25 left in the game, the Tar Heels trailed 61-52 after a Brady Manek free throw. The team shot poorly to that point, but maintained an advantage on the glass and hung around long enough to make the game respectable.

That comfortable distance proved to be short-lived, as the Demon Deacons went on an explosive 10-0 run to put the game out of reach, coasting to a 98-76 win.

It was Wake Forest’s Damari Monsanto who made three three-pointers in that stretch to give the Demon Deacons their biggest lead at the time. From there, UNC could not secure any momentum. The team finished with a respectable 76 points, but could not string together many stops on the defensive end.

“We clearly are not understanding how to respond (to runs) yet,” sophomore guard Caleb Love said. “When the bleeding starts, we just gotta stop the bleeding early.”

With the loss, the team is now 3-6 away from Chapel Hill, compared to a perfect 9-0 on Roy Williams Court.

“I don’t know if it’s got something to do with the crowd,” Manek said. “If it’s got to do with everyone’s against us, which I feel like should motivate us into wanting to be the best we can.”

Though UNC’s shooting efficiency was less than ideal — a subpar 27-81 translating to 33 percent — the team did not do itself any favors on the defensive end, as Wake Forest secured plenty of easy looks.

Comparatively, the Deacons shot 32-59 from the field, including 10 made three-pointers. Part of the runs the team has allowed this season, according to head coach Hubert Davis, is due to North Carolina’s inability to match the firepower of the opposing players. 

“I think the difficulty, at times, is you’re playing against better players,” Davis said. “This year, it’s been hard for us to change … because the gap in terms of talent has been so big that it’s hard to do that.”

The Wake Forest trio of Jake LaRavia, Alondes Williams and Daivien Williamson made life difficult for the Tar Heels all night long. LaRavia finished with a game-high 31 points, including 12 makes from his 15 free throw attempts. He carried the load offensively both inside with his hook shots and outside with his jump shooting.

Williams and Williamson followed suit, scoring 23 and 19 points, respectively. With those players getting in an unbreakable rhythm, UNC was eventually forced to pick its poison defensively.

“We didn’t have anybody that could guard LaRavia,” Davis said. “He controlled the entire game, he punched us in the mouth. Alondes and Daivien, they could get in the paint at any time that they wanted to.”

UNC did have a few of its reserves come in and make effort plays defensively at times. First-year guard D’Marco Dunn forced a jump ball, sophomore guard Puff Johnson dove on the floor to secure a loose ball and call a timeout and junior wing Justin McKoy contributed his share of stops as well.

“We needed guys to step up,” Davis said. “We need it for the remainder of the year.”

The Tar Heels will return to Chapel Hill to play their second game of a quick six-game span when they take on Virginia Tech on Monday.

As the hosting team, the matchup should serve as an opportunity for the team to regain some traction.

“We gotta put this game behind us, but we gotta learn from it as well,” Love said. “These games we have ahead of us aren’t cupcake games, so we just gotta have a short memory and move on to the next." 


@dthsports |

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