On January 12th the Tar Heels suffered their worst home loss under Roy Williams’ tenure as head coach. The 83-62 blowout was an embarrassment, but also a wake-up call. Since the defeat UNC has beaten their opponents by an average of 12 points per game – capped off by the 103-82 win over 10th ranked Virginia Tech.
The difference between the loss to Louisville and Monday night’s win against Virginia Tech is one thing…how the Tar Heels responded to adversity. A couple of weeks ago, Louisville jumped out on a 18-8 run in the first 4:30 and never looked back. The Hokies came out of the gate swinging in the same fashion – leading 22-13 with 12:27 remaining in the first half, then something happened at the 10:48 mark. I’m not sure if the reality of dealing with another gut-wrenching defeat set in, but in the final ten minutes of the 1st half the Tar Heels were a different team. Defense stepped up and shots were falling. It was some of the best collective minutes the Heels have put together all season.
“We’re going to have lows, but to come out here and play like this was big for us,” Kenny Williams said after the victory. “We’re just trying to take steps to improve. We know we can do it now. We know we can play with a higher energy and high attention to detail. We just have to make the conscious decision to do it. It took us getting hit in the mouth early to do it, but we responded and I think we can play like this the rest of the season.”
During the Heels’ impressive stretch, it was the freshmen combo of Coby White, Nassir Little and Leaky Black who were the catalyst – accounting for 18 straight points. It was an exciting sight for fans and the players themselves, who have each individually had their own growing pains. After the contest Nassir Little smiled while talking about the run.
“It was good. We’ve got some pictures on social media talking about us three. It felt good to kind of have that swag about us. There’s a stigma about North Carolina not playing freshmen. I think we were vibing with that and just rocking out how we play. It’s really fun knowing the young guys can hoop too.”
After the Louisville game everyone questioned the identity of this Tar Heel team. Are they legit? What’s their identity? But sometimes L’s like that are the necessary evil that challenge you to reach your full potential.
“We don’t want to forget it,” Coby White said. “We don’t want to forget the pain that we went through in the locker room and the embarrassment we had, especially at home. I feel like it fueled us. We learned from that loss and got back together as a team. We continued to get better, practice way harder than we did before and it’s starting to show in the games.”
- UNC Scoring Leader: Coby White 27
- UNC Rebound Leader: Coby White 7
- UNC Assist Leader: Coby White 6
- Points Per Possession: Carolina 1.18 (103 points on 87 possessions); Virginia Tech .96 (82 points on 85 possessions)
- Carolina’s 16 three-pointers equal the second most in UNC history and the second most by UNC in the Smith Center.
- Carolina made 1 of its first 12 from three, then made 14 of its next 19 and finished 16 of 34 for the game.
- The 21-point win was Carolina’s largest over a top-10 team in the AP poll since beating No. 10 Gonzaga, 98-77, in the Sweet 16 in 2009.
- Coby White is the first Tar Heel to lead the team in points (27), rebounds (7), assists (6) and steals (4) since Joseph Forte at Duke, 2/1/2001 (Forte had 24/16/6/3).
- Nassir Little scored a season-high 23 points and was a season-best 7 for 7 from the free throw line.