BROOKLYN, N.Y. — When the lights were the brightest, the rims felt the smallest.
After two years of dwelling in the basement of national 3-point proficiency — ranking 313th in 2020 and 268th in 2021 — the Tar Heels took a step forward this season by nailing over 36 percent of their triples.
With its NCAA Tournament resume rapidly improving following two of its biggest wins of the season, another dominant display against Virginia Tech could have stamped North Carolina’s ticket to a "threematch" with Duke in the ACC Championship and solidified a more favorable seed in the Big Dance.
Instead, it all came crashing down.
On Friday night in Brooklyn, the Tar Heels were chilled on the perimeter — shooting just 3-26 from deep in a lopsided 72-59 loss to the Hokies.
“Particularly in the first half, I felt like we got good looks from three, we just missed them,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “Then in the second half, I felt a lot of our threes were forced. They were switching a lot and their physicality bothered us.”
Just six days removed from being the perimeter heroes in UNC’s signature win over Duke, Caleb Love and RJ Davis were stymied by Virginia Tech’s gritty defense and, ultimately, were two of the main culprits of the forced shot selection their head coach described.
As a litany of long step-back jumpers and contested floaters bounced off the rim — or sometimes, missed everything entirely — the sophomore guards combined to shoot just 5-27 from the floor when it was all said and done.
“We had an edge to us all night defensively, we had had a good pop,” Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said. “I thought our defense really carried us.”