I never thought that I could watch my beloved tar heels lose a game they should have won and and feel OK about it, but that’s exactly how I felt after our 94-88 loss to Virginia Tech. Maybe it’s because like most sports fans, I have the attention span of a jellyfish, constantly in search of instant gratification. It was very encouraging to reduce a 20-point lead to 3 in three and a half minutes, seeing that they can recover from such a huge deficit so quickly.
Having said that, there were a lot of things that I didn’t like about this game. UNC didn’t do a lot of the little things that ultimately could have won the game for them.
Reasons UNC Lost:
- Free Throw Shooting. I am calling you out, Brendan Wright. You were 1 for 8 shooting from the charity stripe against the Hokies. That’s 12.5% shooting! Twelve point frickin’ five percent!!! Do you realize that if you made only half of your free throws, the Ty Lawson three point play with 16 seconds left would have tied the game and possibly sent it into overtime? And 5-for-8 could have won it! Not even Shaq could shoot free throws that badly, you must have been taught by an invertebrate. The rest of the team shot OK, but if Brendan Wrong should stop all the drills he’s doing and practice free throws. This has to stop.
- Bad Backcourt Play. I have said recently that Quentin Thomas should get more playing time at PG, but did not play well in his 7 minutes on Saturday; the bright spot is that he didn’t turn the ball over. Unfortunately, the rest of the backcourt was schooled by Virginia Tech’s fast, experienced guards. The Hokies’ top four guards (Dowdell, Jordan, Munson and Vasallo) accounted for 67 of their 94 points, while UNC’s top four guards (Lawson, Ellington, Ginyard, Miller) had 39 points and played really bad defense. And speaking of which…
- Defense.Until our big run, this may have been our worst display of defense yet. Our backcourt seemed flat-footed as the guards whizzed by them, and the entire team let the Hokie guards drive into the lane like it was an airport runway.
- Coaching. As much as I love Roy, you have to put at least some of the blame on him. I was watching the last bit of the game as we were making the big comeback and I began to wonder why the coach didn’t switch to this gameplan sooner. As the the tem was floundering in the first half and early in the second half, Roy made no coaching adjustments from his previous games. It was very frustrating to watch. Conversely, Seth Greenberg and his staff always seemed to be adapting perfectly to most situations.
- Virginia Tech. I must give credit where credit is due. Virginia Tech proved to everyone that they are a very good team. The guardplay was extraordinary, perhaps the best in the ACC. The gameplan was executed to perfection, crediting both the coaching staff as well as the players. Cassel Coliseum is a surprisingly hard place to play. I did not expect this result at all, Maybe that’s exactly why it happened. I wouldn’t want to have to play this team in March.
How UNC Got Back in The Game:
- The Trifecta. Before the big run, UNC was shooting 4-17 from long range. During the run they shot 4-7. Maybe We took better shots, maybe the VT defense sat back, but hitting threes at the right moment helped to put a big dent in the lead.
- Time Management. This is a marriage of a good coaching and excellent execution. Neither Roy nor the coaches panicked, and they played for exact situation they were in, playing press, forcing turnovers, playing aggressively to get opportunities on both of the ball. Although Roy deserves credit for the comeback, there seems to be a bigger catalyst of the comeback
- UNC Winged It. To some extent, the Tar Heel seemed to stop worrying about their gameplan and just play loose. This was perhaps the one thing that Steh Greenberg’s Hokie staff didn’t expect; it certainly caught the the Va. Tech players off guard. What was scary about the comeback is that the players seemed to flip a switch in their minds and played at a level where they seemingly could not be stopped. This is awesome because it means we can flip that switch and beat anybody. What frustrates me is that it took this kind of situation to make the players flip that mental switch. However, I would now be very, very scared if I were Clemson. There’s one more person I need to thank, though.
- A.D. Vasallo. None of this would have been possible if Vasallo hadn’t chucked up two quick shots with less than four minutes left instead of running time off the clock.
Overall, this was a very fun game to watch…for the last five minutes. Other than that it was a total nightmare. Here’s hoping that Brendan Wright hits his free throws, the backcourt starts playing well, and UNC flips the ON switch against the Tigers on Wednesday.