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Tar Heels put worst foot forward vs. Cards

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Asked whether he had a particular area of concern with his team after Saturday’s embarrassing home loss to Louisville — the worst in his tenure as the North Carolina head coach — Roy Williams answered with one word: “Basketball.” 

Had Williams been asked the same question just a few days earlier, the answer probably would not have been so bleak, as Carolina, which dropped for No. 12 to 13th in The Associated Press Top 25, scored the first 12 points of the game and never trailed in a road win over rival NC State, then ranked 15th.

Carolina hardly looked like the same team in the two performances, but this this kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde unpredictability appears to be the overarching identity of this UNC squad as the halfway mark of the season approaches.

For his part, Williams attributed the reappearance of “Bad Carolina” to insufficient energy and attention to detail coming off the successful showing in Raleigh, suggesting his team “couldn’t stand prosperity.”

But the bigger problem continues to be that Carolina continues to struggle against physical teams with an outstanding interior presence. Led by 6-foot-10 center Steven Enoch, Louisville outrebounded the Heels 40-31, eerily reminiscent of Kentucky’s 43-33 edge on the boards in Carolina’s last loss. Carolina has also been outscored in the paint by just over four points per game against major conference teams and Gonzaga. 

“You’ve got to be able to win basketball games ugly,” an exasperated Williams explained. And while the win over Gonzaga demonstrated this team’s ceiling, the inability to win ugly continues to set the floor. 

That Carolina’s best lineups continue to be of the smaller variety also doesn’t help when the Heels aren’t shooting well against a bigger lineup, and Williams’ frustration further boiled over when discussing his team’s apparent inability to adjust when shots aren’t falling. 

“It’s just acting like a pansy and thinking, ‘Oh, my shot’s not going in,’” he fumed. “And if that’s the case, go find your mama and hug her.”

NO COBY, NO FAST BREAK

One other significant factor against Louisville should not be overlooked: Coby White sat out nearly the entire first half after drawing two quick fouls, and the Tar Heels obviously missed his ability to create against Louisville’s high-pressure defense. As poor as the Heels’ half-court offense was, their inefficiency in fast-break scenarios (just four fast-break points in eight opportunities) was perhaps even more significant in this game, and that’s the where the freshman guard has been able to contribute the most so far this season.

FOOTBALL STAFF COMPLETE

Mack Brown’s football staff is now complete, with Stacey Searels replacing the recently departed Brandon Jones as the new Tar Heel offensive line coach. Searels held the same position under Brown at Texas from 2011–2013 and was part of a national championship team at LSU in 2003 as offensive line coach. He was most recently the offensive line coach at Miami from 2016–2018.

Searels hit the ground running as a recruiter, as Carrollton, Georgia, offensive lineman Ty Murray flipped his commitment from Louisville to North Carolina after his official visit to Chapel Hill over the weekend. The 6-4, 300-pounder is a consensus three-star recruit and projects as a center.

The Heels also recently received a commitment from 2020 consensus four-star safety Cameron Roseman-Sinclair (Charlotte Myers Park High), who should help provide a solid starting foundation for the next recruiting cycle. 

STAT OF THE WEEK

39. That’s the number of made 3-point baskets Cam Johnson has through 16 games (on only 79 attempts, good for 49.4 percent), putting him on pace to become only the second UNC player ever to make more than 100 3-pointers in a season. Justin Jackson (2016–17) was the first to accomplish this feat.

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