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Off the cuff: That Syracuse zone defense makes a lot of teams look bad. Carolina made the zone look bad in the first meeting as the Tar Heels hit 11 threes and several long jumpers. This time around the shots weren't falling.

Unable to score, Syracuse went on a 15-0 run and basically ended the painful UNC season with a romp over the Heels.

"Tonight. First time in my life, I felt sort of hopeless," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "I couldn't find any cures, couldn't find any solutions. You know, and I've lost before, Jiminy Christmas. We've had great teams that have lost before. But tonight wasn't much fun."

Injuries, team chemistry and lack of consistent long-range shooting did the Heels in this season. But, for whatever reason, it was not a good coaching performance by the great Roy Williams. And he knows it.

Earlier in the year, he blamed himself for one loss for not telling his team to foul before the other team could get a three-point shot off.

He coached like he was, as he said, hopeless in the season ender. There were some bad calls early and only once - and briefly - did Williams really give it to the officials. It was the horrible Ted Valentine crew too that cost the Heels the first Duke game.

When the coach doesn't lead the way in defending his players, the players will do it themselves and that's what happened in this one.

"It's tough, especially when you see calls like that don't go your way," UNC junior Garrison Brooks said. "The officials made the calls, we just have to live with it, but I think we could have controlled ourselves a little bit better, especially with our frustration, and I don't think us fussing at the refs and crying and whining will help eventually any of those calls, it only makes it worse for us, so hopefully our players that were whining and complaining learn from that."

Coach Williams perhaps didn't have his mind on the game, having admitted to watching the dire, fearmonging CNN commentators discuss the coronavirus, instead of keeping it to himself.

"I didn't find the right buttons to push," Coach Williams said. "I mean, even today it's just -- I got them together after pregame meal and before we went over the scouting report and talked to them about what's going on in the world and told them things are changing, things are changing with this tournament and the whole bit, but let's just get it out in the open and see what questions you have because I wanted just to really focus on the game. Evidently that didn't work, either."

No, it didn't. Their minds are only on the game if your mind is only on the game. If a baseball coach tells a player not to worry about striking out, he's more likely to strike out.

Both nights of the tournament Coach Williams spent a good deal of time talking about the coronavirus and what he had learned by listening to that agenda-driven, often wrong CNN.

Regardless of what is going on in the outside world, Carolina needed to be focused only on the game. Syracuse looked focused and outhustled the Tar Heels throughout.

Too late to matter, Coach Williams finally said something right in response to a question about continuing the ACC and NCAA tournaments. " I just got my rear end beat. I don't know that I can evaluate anybody doing anything," he said.

Hopefully the coach and his players will shake it off and come back with a focused vengence next year.

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The Carolina players and coaches seemed to all feel as if the first round of the ACC Tournament was a home game. The partisan crowd in Greensboro gave the Heels a lift in defeating Virginia Tech.

The crowd makeup will change a bit as the tournament goes on. With other teams playing, often other fans root against the Tar Heels. But Carolina isn't exactly a favorite in this tournament.

The Tar Heels certainly looked better than a 14th seed and will have to play well to beat a disciplined Syracuse team they just recently defeated.

Should Carolina beat Syracuse, they'll have a chance to get revenge on what would be the heavily-favored Louisville Cardinals.

Both Brandon Robinson and Garrison Brooks separately said that while the goal is to win five games to win the ACC Tournament, they are taking it one game at a time.

If Carolina can win three or four games, the Heels might have a shot at an invitation to the NIT. If they win all five, they'll be the ACC's representative in the NCAA Tourney.

It seemed impossible to imagine just a couple of weeks ago.

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Look for my immediate, off-the-cuff comments following UNC basketball games this season. Opinions, observations, irritations and general insightful rants.

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Archives

Click here to go to the football page.
Click here to keep up with the 2008 run to the World Series.

Carolina Football: Golden anniversary of a redeeming 50-0 victory over Duke.

Carolina Football: Excerpts from an article on the history of the Carolina-Duke rivalry.

 

Carolina's historically bad season ends
The 2019-2020 North Carolina basketball team, besieged by injuries all season, lost a slew of close games but Wednesday night the Tar Heels suffered their largest defeat of the year, 81-53 to Syracuse in the ACC Tournament. (3/9)

The Tar Heels, who turned the ball over 18 times, failed miserably against Syracuse's zone defense. When Carolina beat Syracuse at the end of February, the Tar Heels pumped in 11 three pointers over the zone. In the season-ending loss to Syracuse, the Heels managed just two in 16 attempts.

Meanwhile, Syracuse was hot, especially in the first half when the Orange went on a 15-0 run to end the half and all but seal the Tar Heels' fate.

Carolina was down just 28-22 when they went cold on offense, ending the half shooting a season-low 26 percent, and couldn't stop Syracuse.

The tide seemed to turn after UNC's Cole Anthony was charged with a flagrant foul by elbowing a defender on the way up for a shot. Anthony and the Carolina faithful argued but UNC coach Roy Williams seemed to resign himself to the outcome.

The Orange converted the free throws and then on their possession tossed in a three for a five- and possibly seven-point turnaround.

Syracuse's Elijah Hughes, who started the game with three triples in the first four and a half minutes, canned a fade away jumper at the buzzer to give the Orange a commanding 43-22 halftime advantage. All five Carolina starters were in foul trouble by the break.

The Tar Heels got no closer than 16 the rest of the way after Leaky Black converted an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 57-41 with just under 12 minutes to play.

"We got in foul trouble and started turning the ball over and they started capitalizing on that," UNC's Black said. "We just dug ourselves into a hole and just couldn't pretty much dig ourselves out."

That last sentence could describe the whole season, which ended with the Tar Heels standing at 14-19. It was Carolina's first losing season since 2002 and only the fourth in school history since being in the ACC.

"Needless to say, I thought we'd have a better record at the end of the year," said Coach Williams who had never had a losing record in 32 years as a coach. "I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what our record is going to be, but I try to evaluate our team, and I thought that we could be better... Things didn't go very smoothly for us."

Coach Williams pointed to the fact that three of the best players - Cole Anthony, Garrison Brooks and Brandon Robinson - rarely played an entire game together as one or another was out with an injury most games. "But those are all excuses," he said.

Even though the three were healthy in this game, only Brooks had a good showing, hitting half his shots and leading the way with 18 points. Anthony had twice as many turnovers (six) as assists and he only hit two of 10 shots, including one of six from behind the three-point line.

Robinson, in his last game as a Tar Heels, turned the ball over four times, missed all three of his three-point attempts and ended with just four points.

Syracuse, now 18-14, was led by Hughes' 27 points.

During the game, the ACC announced that the tournament would continue but without fans in the stands over fear of the contagious coronavirus. Since then, the league has canceled the remainder of the tournament.

Carolina loyalists, perhaps jokingly, wonder if this game should count since the tournament was canceled.

With Brooks coming back for his senior season, with Armando Bacot saying he'll be back for his sophomore season and with a bevy of highly respected recruits coming in, North Carolina looks to get back on track next season.

Box Score


Junior Garrison Brooks continued his strong play for the Tar Heels but it wasn't enough to keep Carolina's season alive. (UNC Athletic Communications)

Heels click in first round rout of Hokies
North Carolina dominated Virginia Tech in the second half to win going away, 78-56, in a revenge game that keeps the season alive in the ACC Tournament. (3/9)

The Tar Heels, a program low 14th seed in the tournament, started a journey that they hope will erase an injury-filled season filled with last-second, inprobable losses. UNC still need to win four more to take the title and earn an NCAA birth.

But on this day, the Tar Heels could celebrate avenging a tough loss to Virginia Tech in February. Carolina was without Brandon Robinson in that game and the Heels blew a 12-point second-half lead to lose in overtime.

Robinson, who had just been in an auto accident the first time the two teams played, wasn't about to let the Tar Heels blow a lead this time.

Carolina was up by an identical 12 points with under nine minutes to play. Instead of faltering, the Heels reeled off 13 straight points to blow the game open at 68-43, the team's largest advantage of the game.

During that run, Robinson hit three of his five three pointers on the night. The first came after a fake and dribble between his legs got the defender out of the picture. His second three was from the left corner and his last three came from the right sideline.

Robinson finished with 17 points. "I didn't want today to be the last day I put on this jersey," the senior said.

Garrison Brooks led the way with 20 points, hitting five of six shots in the second half. UNC coach Roy Williams said the Heels were trying to get the ball down low to Brooks and he did a good job of kicking it back out to Robinson if he couldn't score.

UNC opened up a 10-point lead in the first half but Virginia Tech stayed in it by hitting six three pointers before halftime.

The Heels, up 32-26 at the half, clicked better as a team, shooting 55 percent and only turning the ball over twice after the break.

Carolina started the second half on a 7-0 run that set the tone for the second half. A highlight-reel baseline move and floater by Cole Anthony who was fouled on the play put the Heels up 39-26 and the Heels never looked back. The lead never got under 10 the rest of the way.

The Tar Heels, now 14-18 overall, play Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Tournament Wednesday night.

Box Score


Brandon Robinson, who didn't play the first time the two teams met, scored 17 this time. (UNC Athletic Communications)


Read about any UNC basketball game since 2007-2008

Other old archived headlines:
2012-2013 UNC basketball season preview
2010-2011 season began with Late Nite with Roy

ESPN blows it - What were they thinking?
Read about UNC's 2010 football bowl win
Readers weighed in on Tar Heels' 2009-2010 troubles
Shorthanded Heels get big game from freshmen in opener
Season Review: UNC baseball had one of its best years in 2008
Carolina basketball's run ends after comeback falls short
Tar Heels run out of gas against Fresno State
Season Review: Carolina ends season where it wanted - in Omaha

Flack does it in the clutch again as Tar Heels fight on
Federowicz heroics keep UNC alive in College World Series
Carolina in the College World Series again
UNC is one win away from third straight trip to the World Series

Carolina baseball advances to host Super Regional starting Saturday
Heels defeats UNC-Wilmington 7-3 with five-run inning
UNC's wins over Miami vault Heels to No. 1 in the nation
Carolina baseball reaches 40-game win mark
Tar Heels take two of three from Florida State

Also, check out my articles for the UNC alumni Web site on Carolina's 8-4 win over LSU, the 5-3 loss to Fresno State, the 7-3 win over LSU, the 4-3 victory over Fresno State and the season-ending loss to Fresno State.

© 2019 CB3media Cary, NC

Barnes

Heel Prints reviewed each UNC game
As a student sports editor years ago, prior to the season, Clifton Barnes predicted a national championship for the Tar Heels and indeed they won. In fact he wrote his lede paragraph for the national championship game almost a year early. He regrets that he didn't keep a journal after each game. He kept a journal after each game of the 2007-2008 season and you can reach them here. At the request of readers, he has kept up his journal of each game ever since. He also has written about UNC baseball and wrote an analysis after each 2008 UNC football game.

 

Editor's Note: HeelPrints chronicled the UNC basketball, baseball and football seasons for 2008 and 2009. Since the vast majority of comments I get about the site relate to basketball and since this isn't a paying job for me, I decided to limit my coverage and analysis to basketball. Baseball and football will remain archived and if I have comments or opinions I want to make on those or any other sports at UNC, I will make them here on the front page and then archive them in the corresponding sports section. Thanks for all the positive comments I have received about the site. Should I get sponsorship in the future, I will reconsider adding baseball and football again. Ironically, my favorite sports to watch in person are baseball and football. But my first connections to UNC came from watching Dean Smith's basketball teams on TV or listening to them on the radio in the days before all the games were televised. It should come as no surprise that people pay more attention to the basketball coverage. Thanks for your interest in this site.