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Heel Tough Blog: Kentucky Recap

UK Athletics

In one of the worst performances in recent memory, Carolina got routed 98-69 today in Las Vegas to fall to 8-3 on the season. The Tar Heels entered the game winners of 5 straight, and it appeared that they had turned the corner, defensively. After today it is safe to say that they will need to hit the reset button. Carolina wasn’t scheduled to play Kentucky, but COVID forced the two blue bloods to meet today. The Tar Heels didn’t appear for the Wildcats, but the same can’t ve said for Kentucky, as they were ready for everything Carolina had for them, which wasn’t much. Carolina shot just 39% from the field, and only 8% from behind the arc, as the once hot shooting Tar Heels, look like the perimeter shooting team we’ve seen the last couple of seasons. Meanwhile, Kentucky shot 54% from the field, 53% from behind the arc, as Carolina showed little resistance from the beginning. Entering the game, it was going to be important for the Tar Heels to compete on the glass, and that didn’t happen. Kentucky bullied Carolina to the tune of 44-26, including 17 offensive rebounds, which were converted into 15 second-chance points. The Wildcats also entered the game, leading the country in making two-point field goals, and they lived up to their billing, scoring 54 points in the painted area.

It was a 40-29 game at the half, and despite trailing by double digits, Carolina was still very much in the game, or so we thought. Before you knew it the game was blown up, and Carolina had their largest deficit in over a decade. Armando Bacot led the way for Carolina, with 22 points and 10 rebounds, to earn his seventh double-double on the season. R.J. Davis added 10 points to be the only other Tar Heel in double figures scoring. As for the opposition, Kentucky had four players reach double figures, led by Sahvir Wheeler’s game best 26 points, on a blistering 12-15 shooting.

Hubert Davis said after the loss to Tenessee that he wouldn’t have to coach effort for the remainder of the time he was the head coach. Well, he was wrong. For already the second time in just 11 games, Carolina wasn’t competitive, and simply looked disinterested in playing today’s game on national television, against an opponent that you were looking at as a measuring stick. As fun as the winning streak, it appears we are back to where we were before it started, and that is not a good thing ass ACC play is just over a week away:

  1. Rebounding: Carolina may not have had much time to prepare for Kentucky, but they were aware of the rebounding prowess that Kentucky possessed. It didn’t look that way, as Kentucky grabbed 11 offensive rebounds before Carolina grabbed their first. Oscar Tshiebwe entered the game, averaging 14.4 rebounds per game, and brought down 12 rebounds, even with sitting the last 12 minutes of the first half. Carolina showed little resistance or toughness, as Kentucky beat them up 44-26. Armando Bacot led the team with 10 rebounds, Dawson Garcia was second on the team with just 5.

  2. Defense: Throw all the progress this team had made defensively out the window after today, as the issues that showed up in Uncasville resurfaced today. Carolina had no answer for the dribble drive offense John Calipari has perfected over his stellar coaching career, as communication was non-existent, and it led to one defensive breakdown after another. Add in a lack of adjustments from Hubert Davis, and his staff and Carolina didn’t have much to offer on that end of the floor tonight.

  3. Perimeter Shooting: After a hot start to the season shooting the ball from the perimeter, Carolina had slowed the last couple of games, shooting under 35% in back-to-back games. Tonight it bottomed out to just 1-13 from behind the arc, and Carolina looked like the perimeter shooting team we’ve seen the last couple of seasons. The issue with perimeter oriented offenses is that they usually live or die by the three, Carolina died tonight, as they had no offense once it became obvious they weren’t making perimeter shots.

  4. Effort: Laying an egg once or twice in a season is understandable and is going to happen. Having it happen twice in the first two months of the season shouldn’t, but that is where we are. Outside of Armando Bacot, Carolina had no energy tonight and didn’t compete with Kentucky. Roy Williams said when he retired it felt like he wasn’t reaching his time, 11 games into the Hubert Davis, you could argue that Davis is having the same issue.

Up Next: It’s another quick turnaround for UNC, as they will return home to host App State on Tuesday night, at 7 PM on ACC Network.

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