It’s not the losses for North Carolina. No one was expecting perfection out of this team and first-year head coach Hubert Davis. It’s the way that the Tar Heels have played during their losses that has been so perplexing.
That energy, effort and toughness that Davis said he’s tired of talking about will surely continue to be a point of emphasis after the Heels’ 85-57 loss in the Watsco Center on Tuesday night.
Miami (14-4, 6-1 ACC) ran out to a 49-22 halftime lead — the largest halftime deficit since they trailed at Duke 53-26 on March 6, 2010 in a game they’d lose by 32. Carolina (12-5, 4-2) has now lost two games by more than 28 points in the same season for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
The loss to Tennessee was supposed to be the example of a lack of fight that wouldn’t happen again. Then it was the loss to Kentucky in Las Vegas. Now, it’s Miami.
Here’s what we learned from Carolina’s defeat:
The problem with 3-point shooting
Carolina is sixth nationally and leads the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage at 39.8 percent and it has been even better in league play where it has shot 43.8 percent behind the arc.
The problem against the Canes was that they relied too much on shooting 3s. The Heels first five shots of the games were all from behind the arc. Brady Manek made the first one, then they missed five straight before Manek made a second.
Forward Armando Bacot, who was coming off consecutive 29-point performances against Virginia and Georgia Tech, didn’t make his first basket until 7:34 in the first half. Up until then, he’d only taken one shot from a touch in the post, his second attempt came after an offensive rebound.
Their over-reliance on shooting from deep skewed the way they have normally run their offense. Carolina entered the game shooting a little more than a third of all of its field goal attempts from 3-point range, according to Ken Pomeroy.
In the first half alone, that balance was way off. UNC attempted 17 3s out of 31 total shots, or 54 percent of their shot attempts were from deep. Judging by the outcome, that’s not a winning formula for the Heels.
Making more stars than Sean Combs
The Heels have had a knack in their losses of making an otherwise average player look like a star.
Tennesee freshman Zakai Zeigler scored a season-high 18 against the Heels. It was his only game in double figures though the Vols first 11 games and he’s only had three total this season.
Kentucky’s Sahvir Wheeler had 26 points against the Heels, most of them on layups despite standing just 5-foot-9. Wheeler scored a combined 30 points in his previous four games before UNC. He just recorded his second game of 20 or more on Saturday in the Wildcats’ win over Tennessee.
Notre Dame’s Nate Laszewski scored 20 points including six 3-pointers for his season-high against Carolina. Laszewski had seven 3s on the Heels last season. But he had only played a bit role in the Irish’s offense, at the time averaging 7.5 points per game.
On Tuesday it was Miami’s Sam Waardenburg’s turn. The 6-foot-10 senior from New Zealand scored a career-high 21 points and made a career-high five 3-pointers to pace the Canes. Waardenburg also entered the game averaging 7.1 points, but erupted early when UNC defenders, often helping on drives to the basket, left him open for 3s.
Bacot scored 15 points and had 12 rebounds to lead UNC in both categories. But he went down on the floor twice in the second half with injuries. The first time, he limped away favoring his right lower leg. But with five minutes left in the game, he came down on his left elbow after a collision. He sat out the remainder of play, with athletics trainer Doug Halverson working on bending it. Bacot did stay on the bench and did not head to the locker room early, but it’s unknown if he could have played if the game was closer.