The North Carolina Tar Heels came out with a pitiful win against the Northern Kentucky Norse on Saturday night as the home team finished off their mismatched opponents by 15 points. Although the final score seems to suggest a decent performance by the favored Tar Heels, their game play lacked hustle, urgency and technical precision.
The Norse came out to play in the first half, holding the usually potent UNC offense to only 35 points. While NKU played well, scoring 30 points, blocking four shots and recording five steals, UNC came out equally flat on the offensive end of the court. The Tar Heels only shot 12-27 in the opening 20 minutes, but maintained a five-point halftime lead as a result of superior defensive presence. UNC outrebounded the Norse 20-10 in the first half and recorded five blocks.
In order to finish well in the ACC and to make a run in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, Roy Williams’ squad needs to play like every opponent is worthy of their time and energy. The Tar Heels must have gotten an earful during halftime as they came out and played slightly better, but if the team goes into another marquee matchup without full focus, they will not stand a chance. Further, if UNC plays like they did on Saturday against lowly opponents, they may find themselves with enough shameful losses to drop in the tourney seeding.
This kind of up and down, hot and cold play has plagued North Carolina in the 2013-14 season as they improved their record to 9-3 on Saturday. Despite posting wins against all three teams in the preseason Top 3 Rankings (Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan State), UNC has lost three games, all of which were against unworthy opponents.
UNC heads to New York to face the current number two-ranked Syracuse Orange in a couple weeks. The Tar Heels have a fortnight to refocus and prepare to enter a serious game with the right mentality. For their sakes, hopefully they do not drop any games they ought to win in the meantime.