Williams disgusted by UNC's 86-83 loss against Texas

acarter@newsobserver.comDecember 18, 2013 

  • Observations

    • After his first game of the season, UNC guard Leslie McDonald acknowledged he will face an adjustment period in his return. There were some spacing issues at times, and at times McDonald appeared out of synch with the rest of the team – especially offensively. He finished with 15 points, though, and the four 3-pointers he made are already the second-most on the team for the season.

    • UNC has often excelled in the post this season, but the Tar Heels didn’t match Texas’ physicality on the interior. Texas junior forward Jonathan Holmes, who is 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, routinely overpowered the Tar Heels and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Connor Lammart, the Longhorns’ 6-foot-9 sophomore forward, finished with 10 rebounds, too.

    • During the final minute on Wednesday night, the Smith Center erupted in a loud “Free P.J.” chant. Though McDonald returned, P.J. Hairston, the junior guard, continues to sit out amid NCAA eligibility concerns. He missed his 10th game of the season on Wednesday night, but the school his hopeful to have his situation resolved by Friday. It’s unclear whether Hairston will again play for UNC.

    See the box score from this game.

— At first Roy Williams considered a midnight practice. That’s how furious Williams, the North Carolina coach, was following his team’s 86-83 defeat against Texas here at the Smith Center on Wednesday night.

But then he thought about the idea of a midnight practice. He questioned whether that sort of thing is even allowed.

“I told them I better check the NCAA rules,” Williams said. “So we cannot practice at midnight tonight. We cannot practice until 5 a.m., and everybody’s (butt) will be in at 5 a.m. this morning. Everybody’s whole body will.”

That was Williams following a defeat that left him ill and angry and frustrated. At one point, he described as “a bunch of garbage” the notion that Leslie McDonald’s return might have thrown off the Tar Heels. At another point, he said if his guys can’t rebound – and they couldn’t on Wednesday – then maybe they should try soccer.

“Tell (UNC women’s soccer coach) Anson (Dorrance) I’m not trying to rag on his sport,” Williams said. “But God, almighty.”

Then there were the free throws. The Tar Heels (7-3) missed 11 of their first 13 in the second half. They finished 10-for-25 from the line in the second half, and 24-for-47 for the game. Williams didn’t like that, either.

“I’m tired of talking about free throws,” he said. “You’ve got to be tough enough to step it up and make the dadgum thing.”

UNC wasn’t on Wednesday night. The Tar Heels weren’t tough at the free throw line. They weren’t tough after missed shots. What transpired in the final seconds offered an accurate summation of the rest of the game.

The Tar Heels then trailed by one point, 84-83. Marcus Paige, UNC’s sophomore guard, had just made a 3-pointer to cut Texas’ lead to one, and the Smith Center was loud.

After two timeouts – one by UNC, one by Texas (10-1) – the Tar Heels fouled Demarcus Holland, the Longhorns’ sophomore guard, with seven seconds to play. Holland missed the first free throw. He released his second, and his shot hung up on the back of the rim. It bounced once, twice, and then began its descent.

Holland, who stands 6-foot-2, secured the rebound and scored and extended the lead back to three. Then, after two timeouts, Paige missed a long 3-point attempt from the right side, just in front of the UNC bench. Then it was over.

“Got a clean look,” he said. “It was a little further out than we would have liked it, but I got a clean look at the basket and it just rimmed out. That was designed. We ran that exactly how it was designed.”

UNC did little else that it set out to do. Texas outscored UNC in the paint (40-16), in points off of turnovers (15-4) and in points off of offensive rebounds (21-12). The Longhorns finished with just five more offensive rebounds than UNC, but the margin seemed wider – likely because it had been so wide during the first half.

The Tar Heels rebounded more effectively in the second half – the final seconds notwithstanding – but that’s when UNC went cold, as it often has this season, from the free throw line. McDonald, who finished with 15 points, was in no mood to celebrate his return after sitting out nine games out because he received impermissible benefits.

Williams’ disdain for his team’s performance flowed down to his team, and the Tar Heels felt raw enough of their own, anyway. Asked why the Tar Heels couldn’t rebound effectively, and why they couldn’t shoot free throws effectively, Kennedy Meeks, the freshman center, answered with the same thing: “I can’t even tell you,” he said.

“It’s just a bad feeling right now in our locker room,” said Meeks, who finished with nine points and six rebounds.

Meeks spoke of needing to regroup, and of needing to get ready for practice. Williams planned for it to come early.

The Tar Heels allowed 53 points in the first half – the most they’d surrendered in the first half since a game at Duke in 2010 – and they trailed by as many as 13 points. Still, UNC tied it twice in the final five minutes – once with about four minutes remaining, and once with about two minutes remaining.

On both occasions, Texas’ Javan Felix made shots to put the Longhorns back in front. His 3-pointer with about a minute gave Texas a five-point lead. The unpredictable Tar Heels – with three victories against top-11 teams, and now three losses against unranked teams – had a chance at the end.

But they faltered at the free throw line throughout the second half, and couldn’t secure a rebound when they most needed one. And so they lost, leaving Williams more disgusted than he has been after any game this season.

“I’m not very pleased,” he said. “Not very pleased with our intensity, our effort, with our concentration. I thought it was just ridiculous in the first half.”

Later, he repeated himself. Only this time he said, “I’m not happy, guys. I am not in the dadgum Christmas spirit.”

Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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