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Play hard. Play smart. Play together. These are the basics of Carolina Basketball, we've grown accustom to since the days of Dean Smith. Tonight Carolina didn't display any of these in a ugly road loss at Wake Forest. Carolina has owned the Demon Deacons for a long time, but tonight proved to be a different story. Carolina has now lost to: Wofford, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh ( twice ), Clemson and now the aforementioned Demon Deacons. The 74-57 loss, is the first time they've lost to their Big 4 foe since January of 2014. That loss was in a stretch of three ACC losses to start conference, which was the first 0-3 start in program history. Garrison Brooks was questionable to play, but showed his toughness and gutted it out. It wasnt a effective game for the junior from Alabama, as he failed to make a field goal, as the physical play from Wake Forest, made it for along night for Brooks. Christian Keeling had another nice game, as his game has rounded into form. The grad transfer had a UNC best 15 points, on 7-13 shooting. There were times in the game where the best offense was Keeling taking mid range jumpshots, something we never thought we'd see given the start to the season for him.
Like most team this season, this game meant more to Wake Forest, who will take a win over North Carolina anyway possible. With Danny Manning needing as many wins as possible to keep his job, this was a good place to start. Brandon Childress at times was the best player on the court, on his way to 14 points, and 10 helpers.
For the first time since Roy Williams returned to Chapel Hill, it appeared that Wake had more talented than the Tar Heels. The 17 point defeat is a good indicator that this team is completely spent, and is biding it's time until the final horn of the season blows. 3 things from a dissapointing loss in Winston Salem:
1. Lack of Effort: There was a chance the effort level could be a issue, as the team had to find a way to respond after the Duke game. What we learned tonight is what we already knew: this group isn't tough enough to respond to adversity. They were clearly just going through the motions, and never once displayed a sense of urgency necessary to win a road conference game. As frustrating as this season has been, nothing is more frustrating that watching a team quit, when the going gets tough.
2. Perimeter Shooting: This has been a issue since the season started, and it showed up in a big way tonight. Carolina was a abysmal 1-15 or 6.7% from behind the three point line. Cole Anthony was 0-6, as his shooting continues to struggle. At this point it's not a surprise to see this team struggle to shoot the long ball, it just makes us miss Cam Johnson and Coby White even more. Good news is that next year, Roy Williams has brought in 4 McDonald's All-Americans, and all can step out and shoot it from bonus land.
3. Stagnant Offense: Like the perimeter shooting, this has been a weakness all year long. The bigger issue is that most times, it's been self inflicted. Carolina isn't known for it's half-court offense, but they have displayed the ability to be efficient in the half-court under Roy Williams. For that t happen, players have to move without the ball, set screens with a purpose, cut hard to the basket, etc. Ever since Cole Anthony went off against Notre Dame in the opener, players have resolved to stand around and wait for him to make a play. Well this is the result. Cole Anthony might be a exceptionally gifted basketball player, but he's not good enough to carry this team to wins in the ACC. In fact, no player is.
Up Next: Carolina will return home on Saturday, as they'll host Virginia. When the schedule was announced many figured this game would determine a lot in regards to the ACC regular season. Instead UVA is playing for the right to defend their national title, while UNC is trying to dig its way out of the bottom of the ACC. ESPN will broadcast the game, with a tip time scheduled for 8 pm.