January 9, 2014

Miami 63, UNC 57: Postgame thoughts

Tar Heels suffer demoralizing loss, leaving them 0-2 in ACC and wondering how to fix it.

North Carolina endured a 63-57 loss against Miami on Wednesday night at the Smith Center. It was so ugly it had coach Roy Williams saying afterward that he’d reached his lowest point mentally.

And some postgame thoughts:


1. This was a mentally draining defeat.

Williams can be a bit emotional at times, and so he was again on Wednesday night. He was maybe as emotional as I’ve seen during my time covering UNC basketball (the start of the 2011-12 season through now). Williams said two things that stood out more than anything else.

First he said this: “When you go to school here and you coach here as an assistant and you come back and coach here, it’s a feeling of ownership and it’s a feeling of pride. And right now we’re not doing a very good job with this basketball team.” And then he said this: “I do feel mentally probably worse than I’ve ever felt as a head coach right now. That also shows what a blessed life I’ve had. But I’ve got good kids. I’ve got to do a better job with them.”

Clearly, this loss bothered Williams immensely. Some of his players acknowledged afterward, too, that they were shaken. Mentally, where does UNC go from here?

2. Marcus Paige is officially in a slump.

Paige for the first time this season failed to score in double figures on Sunday during UNC’s loss at Wake Forest, where he scored eight points. He scored eight points again Wednesday against Miami.

In his past two games, Paige is just 5-for-27 from the field, and 3-for-19 from behind the 3-point line. Paige is too good of a player for this to last – he has proven that – but it’s fair to wonder at this point if the minutes are starting to catch up. In 10 of UNC’s games, he has played at least 36 minutes. He hasn’t played fewer than 30 minutes in any game.

When Paige is off – and he has been, without question, in the past two games – UNC has no other go-to player. He says he’s not tired, and he says it’s just a matter of a couple of off nights. After the Miami game Paige said he didn’t know what has gone wrong with his shot the past two games. “I’ve got to do better,” he said.

3. This doesn’t bode well for Saturday at Syracuse.

The Tar Heels are 0-2 in the ACC for the second consecutive season, and it’s not like it gets any easier. UNC plays at No. 2 Syracuse on Saturday. Syracuse’s zone defense is the most well-known of its kind in college basketball. UNC on Wednesday, meanwhile, struggled mightily against Miami’s zone. The key against any zone, and especially the one that Syracuse uses, is making outside shots. If the Tar Heels don’t shoot well from the perimeter on Saturday, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll have much of a chance. UNC on Wednesday didn’t shoot well from the outside – 5-for-21 on 3-pointers – and that was one of the main reasons why the Tar Heels lost.

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UNC beat writer Andrew Carter


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