The 2013-14 season seems to have taken on a consistent pattern for No. 19 North Carolina: get up for, and beat, some of the nation’s best teams while suffering losses that make us wonder who they are and what they’re capable of.
The latest piece of evidence to support this was their 73-67 loss at Wake Forest on Sunday night, with the Demon Deacons winning despite the fact that North Carolina rebounded 48% of its missed shots. UNC converted those extra opportunities into just 17 points, and for the game they shot 39% from the field. From an execution standpoint once again it was a matter of Marcus Paige’s struggles affecting the entire offense, with the Tar Heels being so reliant on his ability to score on the perimeter.
Wake Forest was able to take that away, keeping Paige under wraps and contesting nearly all of his looks from the field (eight points on 3-for-12 FG, six assists). When that was combined with Wake Forest outworking North Carolina on both ends for a significant portion of the second half as they built up an 11-point lead, the hole was ultimately too deep for the Heels to climb out of.
Jeff Bzdelik’s team certainly deserves credit for this, and regardless of North Carolina’s issues this is a big win for a program that has struggled mightily during the Bzdelik era. Travis McKie led four players in double figures with 16 points, and if reserves such as Arnaud Adala Moto (11 points, nine rebounds) and Coron Williams (eight points) can build on their performances that would be big for a team that has some talented players but lacks depth.
To North Carolina’s credit they were able to fight their back into the game, pulling to within a point of Wake Forest with just over one minute remaining. But the problem is that it took a double-digit deficit for Roy Williams’ team to show the effort required to win. It’s been said before and it needs to be said again: this team isn’t good enough to get away with giving the minimum amount of effort and failing to execute offensively.
With Sunday’s defeat falling in line with North Carolina’s season to date, it’s time to accept what the remainder of the season will be for the Tar Heels: a wild ride that includes both big wins and head-scratching losses. The question is whether or not North Carolina can avoid racking up too many of those defeats.