WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Despite a late push, the North Carolina men’s basketball team (15-9, 7-6 ACC) suffered its third straight loss in a 92-85 defeat to Wake Forest (16-9, 8-6 ACC) in Winston-Salem.
Both teams came out looking to push the tempo, and the Demon Deacons took an early 10-7 lead heading into the first media timeout.
After head coach Hubert Davis made some substitutions – inserting first-years Seth Trimble and Jalen Washington – Wake Forest continued to work the ball inside. Its offense was paced by guard Tyree Appleby, who used an array of creative finishes in the paint to help his team go on a 9-0 run to build a 19-9 advantage with 11:52 remaining in the half.
Appleby continued to dominate offensively with his playmaking and tallied five assists by the midway point of the half. The Tar Heels’ struggles persisted, as the team went nearly four minutes without a bucket. The Demon Deacons relentlessly attacked the rim and dominated inside by scoring 22 points in the paint before Davis was forced to call a timeout with his team trailing by 17 at the 7:30 mark.
The Tar Heels began to get the ball into the low block and three quick baskets by senior center Armando Bacot forced the Demon Deacons to call a timeout. However, Wake Forest began to light it up from deep, as a series of 3-pointers helped the team pull ahead to help the lead balloon to 22 at halftime.
After combining to make just one shot in the first half, junior guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis were shut down immediately out of the break. Bacot quickly picked up his fourth foul, and several turnovers led to easy fast break points to help the Demon Deacons go up 55-32 at the first timeout of the half. Graduate transfer forward Pete Nance hit some jumpers to bring the lead within 20, but Wake Forest still held a wide advantage.
Bacot eventually returned to the floor with just over nine minutes remaining and the Tar Heels eventually cut the lead to 10 with just under four to play. However, he fouled out shortly after and the Demon Deacons' tucked the game away at the charity stripe in a 92-85 win.
Who stood out?
Bacot helped the Tar Heels during their offensive dry spell in the first half and ended the night with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Love came to life late and finished with 24 points.
Appleby was the engine of the Demon Deacons' offense, finishing the game with 35 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. Although he shot just 6-20 from the field, the gravity he drew near the rim allowed him to get to the line with ease and open up other parts of the offense.
Damari Monsanto was also a primary contributor, as he stretched the defense with three triples en route to scoring 16 points.
When was it decided?
After some back-and-forth play in the opening minutes, the Demon Deacons’ early 14-0 run gave them a comfortable lead they wouldn’t relinquish. When the Tar Heels entered the break trailing by 22 points, it marked the team’s largest deficit of the season.
North Carolina made an attempt to close the gap late in the second, but the hole was too big to climb out of as Wake Forest held on to clinch the win.
Why does it matter?
Despite entering the season as the consensus favorite to win the national championship, the Tar Heels now face an uphill battle to simply qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
With just seven games remaining in the regular season, including five matchups against opponents competing for their own tournament bid, North Carolina will likely need a few quality wins to improve its resume.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will return to Chapel Hill to face the ACC-leading Clemson Tigers on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.
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