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It was supposed to be reunion of sorts with Carolina playing in Carmichael Arena for the first time since 1986, but it was anything but as they fell to Wofford 68-64. It was announced before the game that they'd be without Cole Anthony, Leaky Black, in addition to Sterling Manley who's officially out for the season. It was evident the team missed their floor leader as the offense was never in a consistent rhythm, and the defense struggled with communication once again. K.J. Smith started in the absence of Anthony, and did about as much as you could ask our of the former walk on. The surprise out of today's game was how much Armando Bacot struggled to control the interior. The big man totaled only 8 points on 2-14 shooting, he did grab 13 rebounds to offset his struggles shooting the ball. You would have thought with Anthony and Black sidelined, the focus would be put the ball in the painted area consistently but that wasn't the case. There were too many times Carolina simply settled for contested or even uncontested jump shots. There are reasons that guys like Christian Keeling, K.J. Smith or even Brandon Robinson are left open: It's because they don't respect their ability to shoot the basketball. This was the 10th game of the season, and they've failed to either shoot 50% from the field, or score 80 points in a game once this season. If those stats don't best sum up the struggles then I don't know what does.
You have to give Wofford credit for how they played, as they earned their biggest win of the season. This is the second consecutive win for the mid major program in Chapel Hill. They were led by Trevor Stumpe and his 19 points, along with Storm Murphy's 14 points. Wofford hit timely three pointers, and competed at a high level on the interior.
This is the first time since February in 2018 that the Tar Heels have lost 3 consecutive games. The saving grace in that season was that they had seniors in Joel Berry II & Theo Pinson that gave you confidence you could dig yourself out of that hole. This team doesn't have that luxury, with injuries in both the front and back courts, you wonder if they have enough to compete in the ACC. Takeaways from the loss to Wofford today:
1. Garrison Can't Carry the Load Alone: With the recent play of Armando Bacot this didn't figure to be a issue moving forward, until it resurfaced today. Brooks led the team in scoring with 17 points on 8-10 shooting. His front court running mate Bacot, mustered only 8 while missing 12 of 14 attempts. Brooks' has greatly improved his offense since he arrived on campus, but not to the point where he can carry all the scoring load on the inside. With Manley officially out for the season, Carolina needs Bacot to produce at a high level the rest of the way.
2. 8 Points left at the Foul Line: Like the inability to shoot the ball from the perimeter, this team has proven it lacks the ability to make its free throws at a high percentage. The Heels were only 60% from the charity stripe, and if they make all of their foul shots they win the game in theory. When you're having the problems scoring the basketball, like this team is you have to find other ways to produce points. Converting from the foul line is one of them, and so far this team can't be trusted to do so.
3. Lack of Forcing Turnovers: Defense isn't the trademark of this historic program, but they've always had the ability to force the opposition into making mistakes, which led to transition opportunities. Wofford only committed 5 turnovers today in Carmichael Arena. The points off those turnovers? 4. That's not going to cut it when you stack up the issues with this team currently. Roy Williams has tried trapping out of timeouts, running and jumping, even full court pressure at times to no avail. If Carolina wants to get back on the right track ironically it's going to start on the defensive end, and creating turnovers is a great way to start the turnaround.
Up Next: The Heels head west, as they'll take on Gonzaga Wednesday night. The Kennel is one of the more underrated environments in college basketball, so it'll be a challenge for a team that is holding on to life for their season. The rematch of the 2017 national title game will tip at 9 on ESPN2.
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