Back when North Carolina lost to Indiana during the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, I told you that, for the Tar Heels, the loss was “much, much worse than simply a blowout.”
Tony Reali agreed with me, and on Wednesday night, No. 23 UNC made us look smart as they went into Austin and got drubbed by a struggling Texas team, 85-67.
The loss, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily all that troubling. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you go on the road, you’re liable to catch a loss. Ask Marquette about that. Or Clemson. Or Oregon. They all lost road games to teams they probably shouldn’t be losing to, but that’s the risk you take when you travel, especially at the time of year when these college kids are finally done with finals and simply looking forward to getting home and spending some time with their families for the holidays.
To reiterate: the issue isn’t that North Carolina lost at Texas, regardless of how much Texas was struggling.
The issue is how they went about losing.
UNC was never really in this game. Texas jumped out to an 11-2 lead and extended that lead to 39-20 with four minutes left in the half. The Longhorns killed North Carolina in transition and carved up their half court defense when they finally were able to get the Longhorns slowed down. And this wasn’t like UNC was overmatched; it was a result of lazy, lethargic defense. The perfect example came with about seven minutes left in the half. Jonathon Holmes had just hit a three to put Texas up 28-18, and on the next possession on an out-of-bounds play under the basket, the Heels simply forgot to cover him. Holmes hit another three, and then buried a third straight jumper on the next possession. All of a sudden, the lead was at 15.
Making matters worse was that while Texas was destroying UNC’s defense, the Heels looked ragged offensively. UNC prides themselves on playing as fast as anyone in the country, but their is a system they are running while they are running the floor. Against Texas, there was no organization for UNC. There was, however, plenty of over-dribbling and questionable shot selection. It’s hard to appear rushed when the goal of your offense is to play as fast as possible, but that’s precisely what the Heels looked like. Never have their point guard issues been so evident.
UNC did make a run in the second half, getting with four at one point, but Texas answered with a run of their own. With the exception of one five minute stretch in the second half, this wasn’t a contest.
And that’s why the loss is so concerning.
UNC not only got blown out, but they did so while giving up 85 points to Texas — a team that can’t score and lost by 13 to Chaminade — as the Longhorns exploited each and every one of UNC’s weaknesses.
That’s a problem.