Game Wrap-Up: Heels look shaky in ACC regular season finale

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UNC 53, Duke 69

Box Score

Benn: I wish I could go back and feel how I felt at around 9:06 pm EST Saturday night. Such machismo. No way North Carolina was going to roll over for the newly-returned Ryan Kelly and the Blue Devils. I was confident the Tar Heels would pull out a win. There’s the ever-present threat of a loss (or upset) but UNC was a 2-point favorite. TWO! POINTS! They were at home. What happened!?

Sam: Several ways you could describe it. From the Duke standpoint, Seth Curry happened. From the UNC standpoint, NOTHING happened. Nothing went in. Nothing went right. Even Roy “I do not call timeouts” Williams called a timeout. It was inexplicable in those first couple of minutes.

Benn: The game was effectually over when Curry hit that shot while falling down in the lane. What can you do when someone is making that kind of garbage? I can’t pick out one thing UNC was doing so wrong because the offense was so poor. In those first couple of minutes I don’t think the Heels were able to penetrate past the FT line. To make it worse I don’t think they tried. If they had the game may have started much differently. For once they were actually shooting well from the charity stripe (77 Percent) but only had 13 attempts. Get a couple more early and slow Duke’s pace, interrupt their/Curry’s flow, and, oh yeah, do better than falling down 14-0. Of course the first point on the board for UNC were FTs, so there’s that.

Sam: The Heels toyed with our emotions after going down early. When McAdoo hit a jumper and then got a dunk off a Duke turnover to make it 14-5, I sighed with relief. “OK, we’re going to be fine. It was just early game jitters.” Curry then proceeded to hit another jumper, and another. Like you said, when falling-down-backward-garbage you just throw up is going in, there isn’t much that can be done. But UNC’s response was to try and shoot its way back into it, without working hard for good shots. All the progress the Heels have made in the past three weeks seemed to get thrown out the window. The underclassmen looked like underclassmen again.

Benn: It was more embarrassing to see what our “veterans” were doing. Dexter Strickland had one of the worst senior nights ever for a four-year starter (4 pts, 0 rebs, 2 asts, 2 TOs). P.J. took over #YOLO duties, although he and Dex have been close all season. Frank Tanner looked liked he’d never started a game before (we kid, Frank). Even Mr. Consistent, Reggie Bullock, looked out of the game. If it hadn’t been for shear FG attempts by JMM and P.J. there wouldn’t have been a double-digit scorer. That analysis doesn’t make sense but you get where I’m headed. I mean 1-14 from deep. That’s like, statistically impossible. I guess we knew that hot shooting had to break at some point though. Why did it have to be this game?

Sam: It wasn’t just that the hot shooting died, shooting altogether was nonexistent. For those of you keeping score, one of 14 is shooting 7 percent from three. Shooting that low of a percentage is more than bad, it’s unlucky. If you play that game 10 more times, that probably doesn’t happen again, not once. It definitely doesn’t happen in the same game in which an opposing player hits his first 7 shots. Even with UNC’s best defender on him, Curry couldn’t miss, and that was the game. The Heels clamped down in the second half (Duke scored 27 after the break) and actually outscored Duke, but it was too late. Duke coasted into the W while UNC continued to hit anything but a bucket.

Benn: Want to know what was really maddening? Mason Plumlee looked like the second coming of whichever lord and savior you subscribe to. I’m afraid to look up the number of dunks he had but it feels like at least half of his 10 made  FGs were two-handed flushes. He looked like the All-American type player that I swore he was not. Did this game change my mind about Plumlee’s play? No. JMM was outworked and Duke guards were able to find Plumlee up top or alone way to easily and too often. We even threw Joel James and Demsmond Hubert in there to switch things up and nothing made him uncomfortable. I refuse to believe MP2 is a legitimate player but he sure looked like one against UNC. What DEFCON are we left at heading into the ACC tournament in Greensboro?

Sam: How does DEFCON work? Is 1 or 5 worse? (googles DEFCON) Ok, I’d say we’re right at 3. (Guess I didn’t need to research it now that I think about it.) I think the sample size of games prior to Duke was large enough to have reasonable confidence in the small lineup heading into the conference tourney. However, while I think the Duke result was an outlier, I do worry about the team’s confidence. If they play up to their level, we see things like the UVA game, so it’s not the talent or the scheme, I think it’s the mentality. So I’ll say DEFCON 3 because I think we’ll be fine and potentially playing Duke on Saturday, but there is that chance the wheels fall off.

Benn: I’m just confused as to how they could be so rattled against a rival they played so well against on the road? Like you said it kind of balanced out during the second half, but this was as bad as that stretch of games before the first Duke game where UNC couldn’t score before the first media timeout. Let’s hope they got that out of their system.

Did I take away anything positive? North Carolina did show it can play decent defense with the small lineup. Ryan Kelly essentially did nothing, not that we were that worried about him specifically, but stifling him was still good to see. Really just take away that horrendous start and the game was dead even.

Sam: I’m an entitled fan, so I expect them to do more than just play even, they need to make a run. You can play even and lose, but if you make a run, you can cut into a deficit or build a lead. I would liked to have seen at least one nice run, but more than anything, I just started hoping for a re-match.