Shooting around 33 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range is simply not going to get it done in ACC play.
For the second game in a row, North Carolina failed to get its offense in any sort of rhythm, finding itself in too large of a deficit to get out of as the Tar Heels suffered another big loss — 98-76 at the hands of Wake Forest.
Whether it was poor shot selection or bad decision-making that led to turnovers, the Tar Heels were not executing properly on offense to compete with Wake Forest’s high-powered offense, which included three players that scored at least 19 points.
“The problem was when we were taking an early shot or turning it over which led into their transition and us fouling them in transition and them shooting,” forward Brady Manek said. “Just comes down to making smart plays, executing plays.”
What is concerning for the Tar Heels is how eerily similar the start of this game looked to the last game against Miami. Junior forward Armando Bacot was unable to establish his presence in the paint early due to multiple Demon Deacons pressuring him whenever he touched the ball in the post.
Head coach Hubert Davis recognized that this change in defensive strategy from opposing teams has contributed to his team’s offensive woes.
“From a defensive standpoint, they’ve been more physical and geared toward making it more difficult for Armando to really dominate down low in the paint,” Davis said. “They’re making it very difficult for him to get the ball where he can finish around the basket.”
Wake Forest succeeded in doing just that tonight, holding Bacot to one made basket in the first half and 12 points on just 4-12 from the field for the entire game — uncharacteristic from the efficient big man.
With Bacot being the converging point of the Demon Deacons' defense, the Tar Heels were unable to dominate the paint. Therefore, the guards were forced to attempt to break down defenders one-on-one on the outside and take more difficult shots, leading to a snowball effect for UNC’s offense.
“Because we’re not able to break down defenders and get into the paint and get depth… now teams don’t have to help and recover, and now we don’t have those open shots” Davis said.
Another player who struggled on Saturday was sophomore guard Caleb Love, who shot an abysmal 3-15 from the field while committing four turnovers.
Love, who has been averaging close to 15 points per game and has incredible talent as a three-level scorer, is in the midst of his toughest two-game stretch of the season. He has not been able to knock down his shots, going 5-27 in the past two contests, and just 2-11 from beyond the arc.
“I think I’m forcing a little bit, trying to look for fouls,” Love said. “When I go down the lane, I’m looking for the contact, and I just got to finish.”
However, Love said he recognized what he needs to work on as he put a good load of the blame on himself after the game, looking to go into the next game with confidence.
“It’s a mentality thing with me, and I just got to get out of this slump that I'm in right now, and I'll definitely be better next game though,” Love said.
Shooting slumps come with the game — it’s just a matter of not turning them into a pattern. But Love, Bacot, and the rest of UNC basketball know that this team has too much offensive firepower and talent to continue shooting at these low clips.
Fortunately, the team has a three-game home stretch coming up to get back to lighting up the scoreboard.
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