North Carolina endured an ugly 63-59 loss against UAB on Sunday night. Here’s the story.
And some thoughts:
1. This was ugly, yes – but not all that unexpected given the Tar Heels’ reality.
Lose to Belmont. Beat then-No. 3 Louisville. Lose at UAB. This is how it’s going to be for the Tar Heels for the foreseeable future, it seems. Inconsistency, it appears, is their reality. You can thank P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald for part of that. With those two, Roy Williams would have a lot more flexibility in his lineups. James Michael McAdoo wouldn’t be playing out of position so much. And Marcus Paige wouldn’t be carrying the perimeter-scoring burden by his lonesome. But without Hairston and McDonald, this is a flawed, limited team. Sometimes, Paige will be great – like he was against Louisville. Sometimes, one of UNC’s young interior players will play at an extremely high level. And sometimes none of that will happen.
2. McAdoo is struggling to say the least.
That’s pretty master of the obvious, I know, but it’s also probably the kindest way to describe what McAdoo is going through. Which, it should be noted, isn’t entirely his fault. McAdoo was at his best at UNC toward the end of his freshman season when he was able to play regularly next to Tyler Zeller. McAdoo isn’t a small forward, yet he estimated that he played there for more than half of the game on Sunday. McAdoo hasn’t scored in double figures now in three consecutive games. He looks out of place on the perimeter, and it seems as though he doesn’t have confidence in his shot. He missed three layups against UAB. No, McAdoo might never live up to the All-American expectations that followed him into the start of last season. But he can still be a very good, All-ACC caliber player. UNC has to find a way to play to his strengths, and he has to find a way out of this funk.
3. It’s alarming that effort appeared to be an issue.
Williams bemoaned his team’s lack of energy and effort on Sunday night. Said Williams: “They seemed to get every loose ball. So many second-shot opportunities.” It goes without saying that the Tar Heels aren’t going to out-talent teams like they have in their best seasons under Williams. Sometimes, it was enough for UNC simply to show up. These Tar Heels have to do far more than that. UAB is a very good rebounding team, and Williams expected that rebounding would be a challenge. He couldn’t have expected the Tar Heels to surrender to lose out on so many missed shots that were up for grabs. Another hustle play or two and, who knows – maybe the Tar Heels escape UAB with a victory. Instead, though, they’re left to wonder.
--The Tar Heels again used a 3-2 zone defense on Sunday, and UNC faced a good bit of zone on offense, too. UAB’s version of it succeeded. The Tar Heels were just 1-for-12 on 3-point attempts – Paige didn’t make any of his six attempts – UNC struggled to effectively penetrate, too.
When Paige isn’t making his outside shots, the rest of the offense suffers, too. And no one else outside of Paige has shown an ability to become a reliable scorer on the perimeter. “He’s basically the only outside threat we have right now,” Williams said of Paige. “That’s a limitation that we hate, but it’s what it is.”
--UNC sophomore forward Brice Johnson, who finished with eight points, failed to score in double figures for the first time this season. Johnson also played a season-low 16 minutes. He was in foul trouble during the first half, when he picked up two fouls, but played 14 minutes during the second half.
--The Tar Heels trailed by three points with 36 seconds to play, and UNC called a timeout to set up a play. UAB, though, had plenty of fouls to give. And so the Blazers used them. Those fouls meant that UNC had to reset its offense from out-of-bounds plays – no easy task in late-game situations in which defensive intensity is magnified. Paige missed two 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds – the second of which was blocked with about eight seconds to play.
--Quick hits: UNC made just four of its 11 free throw attempts, and the Tar Heels were 2-for-8 from the line in the first half. … UAB shot just 30.6 percent (19-for-62) but the Blazers rebounded 21 of their misses … UNC, meanwhile, had 11 offensive rebounds, but outscored UAB in second-chance points, 13-12. … The Blazers went 22-for-28 from the free throw line, and their 22 made free throws were twice as many as the Tar Heels attempted.
“Jerod Haase is one of the nicest young men I’ve ever known in my life. And (one of) the best competitors I’ve ever known in my life. He got his team to compete a whole a heck of a lot harder today than I got my team to compete.”
-UNC coach Roy Williams
“They just went after the ball harder than we did. We talked about it before the game. Talked about it all week, talked about it at halftime. And then the first five, six possessions, they got second-chance opportunities. Honestly, they kind of manhandled us on the boards, and that was the difference in the game.”
-UNC guard Marcus Paige
“Props to them. They played fantastic. But I think the biggest thing was forcing a lot of shots, and then not being able to finish around the them. I wouldn’t necessarily attribute that to their defense, but they did a great job. Not just on me, but on the whole team – keeping us out of synch.”
-UNC forward James Michael McAdoo
“Tonight they just – they just wanted it more. They were just more active than us on the defensive end. We weren’t terrible, but there was a lot of things we could have done better.”
-UNC forward J.P. Tokoto
UNC goes on the road on Wednesday and plays No. 1 Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.