Roy Williams will have to wait until Saturday before earning that elusive 900th career victory as a head coach, after UNC got upset and out played by Marquette in a 83-70 home loss tonight. This is the first time Carolina has lost in the Smith Center this season, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Golden Eagles entered tonight’s game with a pedestrian 10-12 record, including just 6-10 in the Big East. After UNC’s 45 point win over Louisville on Saturday, their NET ranking jumped 20 spots, but this loss erases all the work this team has done to strengthen their NCAA Tournament resume. With 3 ACC games left to close out the regular season, the Tar Heels will most likely need to win 2 of the 3, to feel safe come Selection Sunday.
When this game was added last week, it was done so with the intention of keeping this team in rhythm, adding a win to their resume, and just allowing this team to play at home. Losing wasn’t supposed to be part of the equation. When you allow your opponent to shoot 52% from the field, connect on 9 three pointers, all while putting 4 players in double figures scoring, it’s easy to see why Marquette won. With that in mind, as frustrating as this is for Carolina, you have to give credit to the visitors, who were well prepared, and countered every Tar Heel run in the second half.
Carolina’s offense wasn't at its best to say the least, as they shot just 42% from the floor, and an even worse 28% from behind the arc. Their backcourt was 1-14 in the first half, and simply never recovered, in a game that turned into a nightmare rather early:
Poor Backcourt Play: Even as good as UNC’s frontcourt is, when their perimeter players struggle, this team struggles as we saw tonight. Kerwin Walton, who was named the ACC Freshman of the Week, looked unsure of himself on the offensive end, and completely lost defensively. Caleb Love, hasn’t been the same player scoring the basketball since his outburst at Duke over 3 weeks ago. Tonight he scored just 1 point, while handing out 7 assists, and committing 3 turnovers. R.J. Davis was probably their best player tonight, as he scored 11 points, but he also turned it over 4 times, and was responsible for plenty of defensive lapses. This would’ve been a great time for Andrew Platek to step up, but the senior scored 5 points on just 1-4 shooting. It won’t get any easier, as Florida State comes to town on Saturday.
3 Point Defense: After allowing just one made triple against Louisville, Marquette poured in 9 made three pointers, on 24 attempts. The Golden Eagles did a great job, driving the lane and kicking out to open shooters spotted up behind the arc.
Turnovers: Marquette was dead last in the Big East in percentage of turnovers forced, and yet Carolina committed 19 of them tonight, which were turned into 19 Golden Eagle points. In the second half, the Tar Heels turned up the pressure themselves, and ended up forcing 18 turnovers for the game, and converted them into 21 points, but it wasn’t enough to negate all the other negatives for the team tonight.
Garrison Brooks: Have to show the senior some love, who turned back the clock to last season, and alone kept Carolina in the game if you will. He scored 18 points on 8-10, and grabbed 5 rebounds. While his individual great game was spoiled with a loss, it’s apparent this team is going to need more from him as they try to play their way into March Madness.
Up Next: UNC has a chance to redeem themselves on Saturday when they’ll welcome Florida State. The rematch with the Seminoles with tip at 4 on ESPN.