North Carolina endured a humbling 76-61 defeat at Virginia on Monday night. Here’s the story.
And some thoughts:
1. You can’t blame this one on effort.
The Tar Heels have lacked effort and want-to at points this season, and it has cost them. It cost them in the loss at UAB. It cost them in games against Holy Cross and Belmont and even in their first ACC game, at Wake Forest. A lack of effort had little to do with UNC’s loss at Virginia, though. Sure, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams cited a couple of moments when the Cavaliers out-hustled and outfought his team. Mostly, though, UNC was simply beaten by a better team. Virginia controlled the game in all aspects, and it dealt the Tar Heels a troubling defeat – one that highlighted UNC’s numerous deficiencies.
2. The Tar Heels are having difficulty scoring against good defensive teams.
Williams has coached plenty of explosive teams at UNC – teams that were so good offensively it rarely mattered how good an opposing defense was. Those UNC teams seemed to score at will regardless of the opponent. They made it look easy, probably because it often was. These Tar Heels, though, have struggled mightily against quality defenses. In its four ACC losses, UNC hasn’t shot better than 41.3 percent from the field. That was UNC’s percentage last night at Virginia, which ranks third in the ACC (and 13th nationally) in field goal percentage defense. The Tar Heels’ shooting woes against good defenses doesn’t bode well, because there are a lot of good defenses in the ACC. UNC will face one of them on Sunday against Clemson, which is holding teams to 36.2 percent shooting from the field. That leads the ACC and ranks third nationally. Florida State, Virginia, Miami, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest are all holding teams to less than 41 percent from the field. So is UNC, by the way. With how poorly the Tar Heels have been shooting, though, their defense hasn’t mattered all that much.
3. UNC continues to search for answers.
It’s clear that Williams and his players are searching for solutions. They haven’t been able to find any. Williams for the second consecutive game changed the starting lineup, reinserting Joel James, the sophomore forward. He played only 12 minutes on Monday night and didn’t score. Meanwhile Jackson Simmons, who started against Boston College, played just three minutes against Virginia. Leslie McDonald started again, but again struggled with his shot and only played seven minutes in the second half. The one positive from the Virginia game was that Kennedy Meeks, the freshman forward, played well. He finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes. The Tar Heels have to be productive in the post – they simply don’t have enough shooters to rely on perimeter scoring – and so Meeks’ play is a positive sign. The question is whether he can provide that consistently. If so, perhaps he’s part of UNC’s solution.
Virginia shot better from the field and did a far better job of getting to the free throw line. Statistically, those were the main differences between the Cavaliers and Tar Heels.
“We’re definitely frustrated, disappointed. You can name it – go down the list. But nobody’s going to help us but ourselves. We’re the only people that can get us out of this situation. We got ourselves into this situation, so it’s just going to come down to are we able to make those changes. And it’s definitely going to fall upon me and Marcus to be great leaders.”
-UNC forward James Michael McAdoo
UNC hosts Clemson on Sunday. The Tar Heels have never lost to the Tigers in Chapel Hill.