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Off the cuff: That was a painful way to lose, especially coming on the heels of two impressive wins in the first two NCAA Tournament game and due to the worst shooting performance perhaps of RJ Davis' career at Carolina.

The Tar Heels should have had enough firepower even with Davis struggling, especially from beyond the arc. In the first half, Harrison Ingram took up some of the slack by scoring 10 points but he had just two in the second half. Ingram should have been able to handle Grant Nelson, an inferior athlete, but Nelson ended up with 24 and along with other Alabama players held Ingram to those two in the second half. Ingram could use another year of seasoning before the NBA if Nelson can better him.

Bacot had 12 at the half and only seven in the second half. Cormac Ryan had 12 in the first half and only five in the second half.

Jae'Lyn Withers picked up four fouls in only 10 minutes of play but his worst decision was to shoot a three with a minute to go and the Heels still up 85-84. Sure he was open - Alabama wanted him open - but he has hit only four of 19 threes all season. That's not the shot you want with a one-point lead and a minute left. Grant Nelson promptly scored on Withers and Withers picked up a foul. Carolina never led again.

There was plenty of blame to go around. Alabama's plan ultimately worked.

"We had a game plan," Bama coach Nate Oates said. "Gotta give Cadeau and Trimble a lot of credit. We planned on leaving them open; they hit four 3s in the first half. We questioned whether to stay with it or not. We decided to stick with it. Those guys ended up not playing very many minutes, 13 between the two of them. I think the plan was right."

Especially if your leading scorer - RJ Davis - misses all nine of his three-point attempts.

"Shout-out to Rylan (Griffen)," Alabama star Mark Sears said. "He did a great job on him. We don't win this game without Rylan locking him up. And he executing the game plan."


Michigan State is good. This was a two-point game at 48-46 with less than 16 minutes to play. It was a team effort with Bacot doing his normal positive things and RJ Davis getting 20 again.

The difference may have been the supporting cast. Harrison Ingram, who scored 17 poiunts, tied his career high with five threes. Cormac Ryan scored in double figures for the 20th time this season. Elliot Cadeau had a plus/minus of 20, which means the Tar Heels outscored Michigan State by 20 points when he was on the floor. And Seth Trimble blocked two shots and disrupted others.

The recipe is for Bacot and Davis to do their usual things and for the others - particularly the four mentioned above - to play up to their abilities.

It was another Tar Heel that Bacot called out as instrumental to the win - Paxson Wojcik. "What really changed for us defensively was Paxson coming in. I thought he really made a huge impact on us, and he really got us going. For him to come in like that and step up when his number's called speaks volumes about guys being ready to play on our team."

RJ Davis pointed out Trimble's defense. "Seth is the best defender in the ACC and one of the best defenders in the country. Just his impact on the defensive end has been huge for us all year, especially today's game," he said adding that Trimble was challenged with covering Tyson Walker at times. "I think he did a great of making it hard for him, being physical on the catch, getting over screens."

This was a national championship type effort. Can the Heels keep it up?




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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.


(Photo by UNC Sports Information)
Alabama 89, Carolina 87
Davis, Heels lose lead as season ends
RJ Davis saved the worst for last. The North Carolina senior All-America player made just four of 20 shots and missed all nine of his three-point attempts as the Tar Heels lost a late lead and fell to Alabama 89-87 in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. (3/28)

Certainly the blame doesn't rest solely on Davis as other things went wrong for Carolina in the season-ending lost but the Tar Heels did lose by only two and it was the first time in 41 games, dating back to last season, that Davis failed to hit a three-point shot.

After the game, as Davis was talking about the "easy shots" he normally makes, transfer Cormac Ryan was having none of the blame Davis talk.

"I've got to chime in here," Ryan said. "You guys can write whatever you want about tonight's game. You could talk about RJ, you could talk about the stats. You could talk about whatever. We would not be in this position today without RJ Davis and Armando Bacot. Carolina wouldn't be in this position today without these two guys.

"And so say what you want, there's just not a true fiber in your being that could actually believe that anything that happened tonight could be the result of something RJ did wrong, because RJ's done something incredible for this team. He's done stuff that's never been done before. He's one of the greatest Tar Heels of all time. And for anybody to come and say anything negative about RJ is unacceptable."

UNC, which ends the season with a 29-8 record, shot just 25 percent as a team (10 for 40) in the second half, its worst shooting performance in a half all season and the lowest in a Tournament game since shooting a paltry 22.6 percent in the second half in a lost to Kansas in 2012.

The Tar Heels erased a five-point deficit in the first half to take an eight-point lead, 54-46, at the break. The Heels were hot offensively in the first half, shooting 52.6 from the field including 10 of 16 from the three-point line.

But in the second half, the cold Heels quickly lost the lead as Alabama went on an 11-2 run over just three minutes to go up 59-57.

The Tar Heels came back with a 13-5 run of its on, highlighted by a pass from Davis to Armando Bacot for a dunk that put the Heels back in control, 70-64.

Carolina still led 75-70 after a Ryan three before the tide changed on a 12-2 Crimson run, highlighted by threes from Aaron Estrada and Grant Nelson, that put Alabama up 82-77 with just 3:43 to play.

With Davis abandoning the three and driving to the hoop, the Tar Heels came back to take an 85-82 lead following a Davis runner and four straight free throws.

But Alabama took over from there, outscoring the Heels 7-2 over the last 1:20, even forcing a Carolina shot clock violation late in the game to seal the victory.

"Always in the closing minutes, it comes down to a play here or there," UNC coach Hubert Davis said. "I've talked all season about the little details that make big things happen, not just necessarily shots -- rebounds, free throws, loose balls. At the end of the day, they made down the stretch more plays than us. And unfortunately we came out on the short end."

The 24-11 Alabama team, led by Nelson's 24 points (12 came in the last seven minutes), plays Clemson with a chance to go to the Final Four.

Carolina now must look forward without Bacot, Ryan and Paxson Wojcik - and possibly RJ Davis who has another year of eligibility if he wants to get the bad taste out of his mouth.

Box score

Carolina 85, Michigan State 69
Heels rally to defeat tough Michigan St.
A physical, aggressive Michigan State team put North Carolina on notice early as the Spartans raced out to 12-point lead. But after a fiery UNC coach Hubert Davis went ballistic during a timeout, the Tar Heels matched and exceeded the competitive fire, going on to beat a tough Michigan State team 85-69. (3/23) 

Down 26-14, Carolina rallied to go on a commanding 26-5 run that turned the game around that put the Tar Heels in front 40-31 at the half.

"He instills confidence in us at time like that when we go down 12," Armando Bacot said of his coach.

RJ Davis, who led Carolina with 20 points, said, "Coach Davis gives us that passion, fire and competitive spirit to play to the best of our abilities." He said that the timeout speech really got the Tar Heels going as the team responded immediately.

Coach Davis said that Michigan State punched them first and the Tar Heels didn't match their physical aggression. "We started to compete," he said. "We joined the fight."

That game-changing run was fueled by five threes by three different Carolina players - Davis, Harrison Ingram and Cormac Ryan. Ingram hit his third three of the run just seconds before halftime.

"Today I was open and I was able to hit the shots," said Ingram, who finished five of seven from three for 17 points. "But we're all about team. I was just able to hit them today."

The Tar Heels hit six of 16 from three in the first half and finished 10 of 28 in the game for 38 percent. The Heels shot 47 percent from the floor compared to 44 percent for Michigan State.

It didn't start that was as the Spartans hit seven of their first 10 shots to get a double-digit lead at 17-7.

"They brought the fight and were really killing us but then our defense started going for the rest of the game," Bacot said.

Carolina blocked six shots and came up with five steals. The Heels scored 16 points off 11 Michigan State turnovers.

The Tar Heels did lose the rebounding battle for the first time in 25 games, 37-32. Carolina didn't get an offensive rebound until a tip in by Bacot put the Heels up 48-43 with 16 minutes left. But UNC was effective after that outscoring the Spartans in second-chance points 10-2.

The game stayed close for much of the second half until a 14-2 run erased any doubt of the outcome. A free throw by Davis gave the Tar Heels their biggest lead at 76-59 with 3:35 to go.

Michigan State, who finish the season 20-15, were led by Tyson Walker's 24 points.

Bacot and Ryan joined Davis and Ingram in double figures with 18 and 14 points respectively. The Tar Heels, now 29-7, advance to the West Regional semi-finals in Los Angeles to play the winner of Sunday's game between Alabama and Grand Canyon on Thursday.

Box score


2022-2023 UNC Season Preview

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.

© 2024 CB3media Cary, NC


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.