Per usual, Roy Williams summed it up best.
“If I’m going to die,” the Hall of Fame UNC coach said, “I hope it’s not during a game like that.”
By ‘game like that,’ Williams was referring to Carolina’s worst home loss in his tenure, a 83-62 shellacking at the hands of Louisville.
The Cardinals (11-5, 2-1 ACC) dominated the No. 12 Tar Heels (12-4, 2-1) in every facet of the game.
By the time the final horn sounded in UNC’s first 20-point home loss since a 93-68 beating against Duke in 2002, the Heels had registered 15 turnovers (compared to 13 assists), 21 fouls and a 34.5 shooting percentage from the field, including a 3-22 effort from deep.
There were very little silver linings to dig up in the demolition.
Senior Kenny Williams led the team with a puny 12 points. Preseason ACC Player of the Year senior Luke Maye went 3-14 from the field, including 1-6 from deep in his worst shooting game of the season. Freshman Coby White chipped in 4 points on 0-4 shooting, adding 4 turnovers (versus 2 assists) to boot.
“We got our butts kicked,” graduate Cameron Johnson said. “It’s no excuse to play the way we did.”
Excuses are there for the taking, though.
One was the lack of size inside, as 6’11 sophomore Sterling Manley missed his fourth consecutive game due to soreness in his knee.
“I think he could have helped,” Kenny Williams said. “They got us inside.”
The Cardinals had their way in the paint against an undersized Carolina team, out-rebounding the nation’s leading rebounding team 40-31, just the second time this year (Kentucky) that UNC has been outdone on the glass.
Forwards Dwayne Sutton, Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch each scored 17 points and combined for 24 rebounds.
“They had some big guys,” Johnson said. “We struggled to contain them.”
Roy Williams played seldom-used 6’10” sophomore Brandon Huffman to attempt to address the size disparity, but admitted he wasn’t ready.
“I asked too much of Huff,” Williams said. “It’s my job to get them prepared better.”
Another potential Tar Heel excuse was the emotional crash destined to happen after a big win.
Much like how the Kentucky loss was preceded by the season’s biggest win over Gonzaga, Carolina followed up its 90-82 win over N.C. State in Raleigh Tuesday with Saturday’s stinker.
“I think the Kentucky and Louisville game were pretty similar,” Johnson said. “After we get a win, we can’t think everything’s going to be easy.”
And it’s not going to be easy. In fact, it’s only going to get harder.
Still on UNC’s schedule are games against No. 1 Duke, No. 4 Virginia, No. 9 Virginia Tech, No. 13 Florida State and No. 15 N.C. State.
Then again, the daunting slate that has UNC ranked first by the NCAA in difficulty of schedule is a double-edged sword.
Carolina has plenty of chances to build its résumé and fight for an ACC championship in an uber-competitive conference. Duke and Virginia have to play the same teams, after all.
Either way, the team is moving on as only Williams could describe.
“I told them whatever they did to prepare for this game, never do it again.”