Joel Berry used the word “effort” so many times in trying to explain North Carolina’s shocking loss to Wofford the senior guard stopped himself.
“We keep saying it, but that’s what it is,” Berry said.
Specifically, the 7-minute stretch to open the second half cost the fifth-ranked Tar Heels on Wednesday in a 79-75 home loss to the Terriers.
Wofford (8-4) made 9 of 13 shots and outscored the Heels (10-2) 23-10 to open the second half.
Never miss a local story.
The Terriers led 57-43 at 13:27 before the Tar Heels really knew what had hit them.
UNC coach Roy Williams questioned his players’ effort, and just about everything else, after losing to a team that entered the game ranked No. 197 in the Ken Pomeroy rankings – the lowest such-rated team Williams has lost to in his 15 seasons at UNC.
“Bad movement, bad defense, bad coaching,” Williams said. “It was a disgusting thing for me the entire game.”
Berry, who had 23 points, and junior forward Luke Maye (17 points, 14 rebounds) led a second-half rally. The season debut of Cam Johnson, a grad transfer from Pittsburgh, helped, too.
Johnson, who had knee surgery and missed the first 11 games, had 10 points in 17 minutes.
Berry was encouraged by the addition of Johnson, but the senior guard kept circling back to effort.
“The effort has to be there,” Berry said. “We can’t just come out and give that effort that we did.”
Williams was more visceral with his assessment.
“We’ve got to, by God, be ready to play and not act like we’re prima donnas, (like) we’ve got North Carolina (on our jerseys) and we can walk out there and the other team is going to fold,” Williams said.
Just where UNC’s effort went wrong can be difficult to quantify, but Wofford was the first team to shoot 50 percent (17-of-34) or better in the second half against UNC this season.
The Terriers were also only the third team – Michigan State and Tennessee were the others – to get at least 34 rebounds against UNC.
UNC lost to Michigan State and trailed for all but the last minute of the Tennessee game.
The Heels finished with a slight rebounding margin, 38-34 but were at a loss to find an answer for Wofford forward Cameron Jackson.
The 6-8, 245-pound junior scored in the low post on UNC freshman Garrison Brooks in the first two possessions of the game. Fletcher Magee led Wofford with 27 points, but Jackson – who finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three steals – was the reason the Terriers won.
He had a block of Brooks, with 1:43 left and UNC down 73-70, that looked like he was taking a toy away from a child. Two possessions later, he took a charge on Berry to help seal the win – Wofford’s first over a ranked team.
Williams was so disgusted with his team’s effort, he said he wanted to practice at 6 a.m. The Heels weren’t back to work that early on Thursday, but the players knew what to expect.
“I think Coach will hit us pretty hard the next couple of days and make sure we give that effort,” Johnson said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio