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After getting blown out by Louisville, UNC hoping to bounce back against Notre Dame

North Carolina coach Roy Williams following loss to Louisville: ‘I’m at a little bit of a loss. I didn’t think we were prepared to play’

Williams addresses the media following a 21 point loss to Louisville on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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Williams addresses the media following a 21 point loss to Louisville on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Back in the day, when Roy Williams was a younger coach, the practice following a big loss would not have been pleasant.

North Carolina was dominated on Saturday, losing to Louisville 83-62 at home. It was the biggest home loss since Williams became head coach at UNC in 2003.

He said his goal in his younger days after a bad game was to make as many players “throw up” as much as possible. But these days, Williams said, he takes a more measured approach.

Following Saturday’s loss, the Tar Heels had a short practice on Sunday, and a “lengthy” film session. He hopes things will be different when UNC (12-4, 2-1 ACC) takes on Notre Dame (11-5, 1-2) on Tuesday.

“We gotta bounce back against Notre Dame,” Williams said Monday. “We know we’re going to face a zone defense, so we’ve got to shoot the ball better than we have been.”

The Tar Heels have not had many great shooting performances this season. They have made half of their shots only once in their last 11 games. So they’ll likely have to rely on their defense to win tough games.

The Tar Heels shot 13.6 percent from behind the 3-point line, and 34.5 percent from the floor overall against Louisville. It was a game that they had needed to win ugly. But the Tar Heels turned it over 14 times, and their defense did not provide much help.

Louisville finished 52 percent shooting.

Defense has been a problem for UNC for much of the season. But the Tar Heels had been showing improvement prior to the Louisville game. They had won four consecutive games, including two ACC road wins against Pittsburgh and then-No. 15 N.C. State.

UNC had held each of the last four opponents to under 43 percent shooting. And in three of the four games, opponents scored 62 points, 60 points and 57 points. The Wolfpack scored 82 points, but it was a high possession game.

“I think our defense is still not where I want it to be,” Williams said. But he added that Louisville had also played well, and he did not want to take anything away from how the Cardinals played.

“(Chris Mack’s) club just beat the crap out of us,” Williams said. “Bottom line.”

The loss to Louisville did not seem to affect the Tar Heels much in the rankings.

UNC fell only one spot — from No. 12 to No. 13 — in the latest AP Top 25 poll, and only two spots — from No. 8 to No. 10 — in the NCAA’s new NET rankings.

UNC is now 4-4 in “Quadrant 1” games, 2-0 in “Quadrant 2” games, 2-0 in “Quadrant 3” games and 4-0 in “Quadrant 4” games. Last year, the NCAA implemented the quadrant system, which puts more of an emphasis on away games, to help with its NCAA tournament selection process.

UNC’s home game against Notre Dame, which is ranked No. 79 in the NET rankings, would be considered a “Quadrant 3” game for now.

But it won’t make the game any less difficult.

The Fighting Irish turn it over on 13.8 percent of their possessions. Only two teams turn it over less. And opponents get to the free throw line only 19 times per game, which is the best in the country, according to kenpom.com

The Tar Heels learned a valuable lesson in their loss to the Cardinals. It was a lesson that Williams and the team’s seniors had warned the younger players about.

“One game you don’t come to play, and they’re on you like that,” UNC senior Kenny Williams said Saturday, snapping his finger, as if to demonstrate the quickness to which Louisville jumped out on them.

And Notre Dame is not excluded.

Quadrant system

Quadrant 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75

Quadrant 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135

Quadrant 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240

Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353

Notre Dame at UNC

Where: Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill

When: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 9 p.m.

TV: ESPN

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Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.


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