North Carolina’s men’s basketball team took a drubbing in Coral Gables Tuesday night, falling to the Miami Hurricanes 85-57.
There is no other way to put it, the Heels got taken to the woodshed and remarkably enough, that’s being nice. The game was never a contest. Miami got every shot they wanted, when they wanted, and the Heels could do nothing about it. The Hurricanes, who were picked by some voters to finish outside of the top-10 in the conference, sit alone in first place.
Out of the gates, the Hurricanes gained a 16-5 lead and never looked back – going into intermission with a 49-22 lead. According to ESPN, that was UNC’s biggest half-time deficit since 2010 against the National Champion Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Hurricanes went up by 33 in the second half, which mainly came from UNC’s inability to keep Miami out of the lane and not being able to defend the pick and roll/high ball screens. The Hurricanes put Sam Waardenburg as the screener, allowing the big-man to fade back to the three-point line undefended where he shot 5-6 from downtown – scoring a game high 21 points.
Miami is certainly a problem. That’s not the issue. The Hurricanes have arguably one of the best of back-courts in the country, with their ability to play a small-ball four lineup featuring Isiah Wong, Charlie Moore, and Kameron McGusty. The issue was the lack of effort and fight from the Heels.
When was the last time you saw the Heels get punched in the mouth early and not respond? This season we’ve witnessed a talented Tar Heel team get blown out on several occasions. Three of UNC’s five losses were not competitive, with a 24-point average margin of defeat.
UNC shot 6 of 30 from deep and committed 14 turnovers. Miami stacked the paint – limiting Armando Bacot’s touches in the first half, many resulting in steals. Every time Bacot received an entry post pass, Miami at the minimum had two defenders on him.
The body language spoke volumes. The energy wasn’t there. UNC couldn’t control lane penetration or limit turnovers. Where is the heart, tenacity, and grit from this Hubert Davis led UNC team? We can’t continue to make excuses.
The fact is, against top-tier tournament teams, UNC has folded under pressure. There is too much talent on this squad to not respond in adversity. UNC has arguably the best inside-out combo in the ACC with Bacot and Manek, but defensive woes hurt them in Coral Gables. In every loss, opposing coaches have made it a point of emphasis to attack the duo in pick and roll situations – forcing them to guard on the perimeter. Hubert Davis has stated previously that Leaky Black is the best defender in the ACC and if that is true, he has to be able to provide something offensively. Against the Volunteers Leaky had two points to three fouls, against Kentucky he had 2 points and in last night’s loss he had zero points in 12 minutes of action. You can have a impact on defense, but be a liability on the offensive end. Defense often leads to offensive production, but in this case a point can be made he’s a liability on the offensive end.
You can coach players to stand up and fight back, hustle on loose balls, defend the rim, talk on defense, have a sense of urgency, and more importantly, have heart. Those were all characteristics of Dean Smith led teams. Those were characteristics of Roy Williams’ National Championship teams. Those characteristics seem to be missing on this UNC team. Only time will tell if the Heels will start punching back, versus being the punching bag.