As fans, you hope for a good game. As players and coaches you hope to win. But if you don’t win, you’d like to get better as a team. The Tar Heels got better during the 2020 Maui Invitational.
Carolina led 15-10 with 10:51 remaining in the 1st. It would turn out to be their largest lead of the game. The Tar Heels started turning the ball over and the Longhorns started hitting threes. Texas ran off 14 straight points and the Carolina trailed by as many as 16 in the first half, before heading to the break down 40-28.
UNC looked much better in the 2nd – opening the half out-scoring the Longhorns 12-2. Texas clung to a small lead most of the period, before Caleb Love tied the game with a free throw with 3:54 to play. The Heels took their first lead of the second half at 65-63 on a Garrison Brooks baseline jumper with 2:35 left, but that was UNC’s last field goal of the game. Leaky Black tied the game by making two free throws with 25 seconds remaining before Texas senior guard Matt Coleman III hit a step-back jumper with .01 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Longhorns.
Three games in three days against quality opponents will help any team. It’s even more valuable to a UNC squad that features two freshmen running their offense.
Ahead of their opening game, Coach Roy Williams said this team needed preseason contests more than any other he’s coached in recent memory. They needed the real-game experience. That was taken away due to Covid-19, but this stretch helped bridge the experience gap.
“I think playing three games you get a lot of different looks,” Coach Williams said after the loss. “So I think in every game you play, you add an opportunity to get better or ignore the simple things and not get better. I happen to think that our team will not ignore the simple things and they will try to do a better job and get better as we go along.”
“I think we showed a lot of toughness, especially in the second game,” Tar Heel senior Garrison Brooks said. “Winning a close game and losing one like this when we’re down and come back shows the toughness that we have. It proves we can fight and come back. We’re still one of the best teams in the country when we do what we’re supposed to do, not turn the ball over and play hard.”
Turnovers have plagued the Heels. They were able to overcome it against Stanford Tuesday night, not today. But Carolina did get better with taking care of the ball as the game progressed. It’s that experience they’ll look to carry with them as the season progresses.
- Brooks led UNC in scoring for the first time in four games this season with a season-high 18 points.
- Armando Bacot had his first double-double this season and the 12th of his career with 10 points and a season-high 12 boards.
- Carolina had only six assists on 24 baskets. The six assists are the fewest since the Tar Heels had six at Virginia on 12/8/19.
- Carolina was 1 for 9 from three-point range. No starter made a three. Kerwin Walton made the only three for the Tar Heels.
- UNC out-rebounded the Longhorns, 50-32. UNC had 20 offensive rebounds that led to the 25 second-chance points.
- Carolina is 4-3 in Maui championship games.