North Carolina had hoped playing Texas and UCLA would prepare it for the ACC-Big Ten Challenge against No. 7 Michigan late Wednesday night.
No. 11 UNC had lost its first game to Texas on Thanksgiving Day, but beat then-No. 17 UCLA the following day. It had learned that taking care of the basketball and playing defense would be crucial to beating the top teams.
But the lessons it learned from those two games were not enough in its game against Michigan. The Wolverines took it to the Tar Heels, handing them their second loss of the season 84-67.
“Right now we stink,” UNC coach Roy Williams said.
Michigan freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis led the Wolverines with 24 points and 5 rebounds. He was 9-for-13 from the floor. UNC freshman guard Coby White led the Tar Heels with 12 points.
The Tar Heels shot 39 percent from the floor, while allowing the Wolverines to shoot 57 percent.
“We just didn’t come to play tonight,” said senior forward Luke Maye, who had 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Michigan (7-0) appears to be on a revenge tour.
Two weeks ago, Michigan beat Villanova 73-46 on the road, seven months after it lost to Nova in the national championship game.
And it was exactly this time last year, that the Tar Heels embarrassed the Wolverines 86-71. But they were having none of that late Wednesday night, at one point climbing to a 22-point lead in the second half.
UNC (6-2) entered Wednesday’s game with the nation’s third-most efficient offense, averaging 96.6 points per game. Michigan had the country’s most efficient defense, giving up 48.3 points per game.
And it was Michigan’s defense that prevaled.
The Tar Heels made nine of their first 12 shots, and jumped out to a 21-11 lead in the game’s first 7 1/2 minutes.
But Michigan responded with a 17-2 run, hitting eight consecutive shots to go ahead 28-23 with 8:40 left in the first half. The Tar Heels would eventually re-take the lead late in the first half, and looked to be taking control of the game.
But Michigan senior guard Charles Matthews hit a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left before halftime. The Tar Heels turned the ball over on their next possession, and the Wolverines raced down court to find Jordon Poole open for a 3-pointer in the right corner before the halftime buzzer.
Michigan took a 39-35 lead into the half.
“We came out swinging, punched them in the mouth first,” White said, “and against a good team, just one punch isn’t going to work.”
In the second half, UNC came out flat, and Michigan appeared inspired. The Wolverines increased their lead to 10 points three minutes into the second half, forcing coach Williams to call a rare timeout to settle his team down.
But Michigan never let up.
He sat his starters for extended periods of time in the second half. When asked why, coach Williams said, “It was because they stunk it up. Everyone stunk it up, and so did I.”
The Wolverines outscored the Tar Heels 45-32 in the second half.
UNC will try to rebound from its loss on Dec. 5 against UNC-Wilmington at home.