'HORNS HOOK HEELS
North Carolina coach Roy Williams wanted to take a page from famed U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks by scheduling a practice after the No. 14 Tar Heels lost 86-83 to Texas at the Smith Center on Wednesday night.
UNC players, however, were spared by NCAA rules — at least for a few hours. After an ugly first-half performance and an even uglier free throw performance against the Longhorns, the Heels likely will feel Williams’ wrath this morning.
“I am not happy, guys,” a dour Williams told reporters. “I am not in the dadgum Christmas spirit. You want to really know how ticked off I am? I told them we’d practice at midnight (Wednesday night). They told me I better check the NCAA rules, so we cannot practice at midnight.
“We cannot practice until 5 a.m., and everybody’s (butt) will be here at 5 a.m. Everybody’s whole body will be here, too.”
Brooks famously forced his players to exhaustion after a particularly poor effort in a match before the 1980 Winter Olympics, and UNC fans can only hope Williams’ practice will have the same effect, since the U.S. team went on to win the gold medal.
“I try to just get better in practice and not try to worry about what it’s going to be like,” UNC forward Kennedy Meeks said. “I’m sure it’s not going to be pretty, but, oh, well. We’ve got to put that game behind us and move on to the next one.”
Not even the return of senior guard Leslie McDonald — who entered the game at the 16:14 mark of the first half to the cheers of the UNC crowd — could pick up the Heels.
For his part, Williams avoided the kind of rant that made Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson an Internet star earlier this week.
“Barry Hinson’s a great friend of mine, so I’m not going to copy what he did, but I’m not very pleased,” Williams said. “I’m not very pleased with our intensity, with our effort, with our concentration. It was just ridiculous in the first half.”
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige (23 points) called it the “worst first half of basketball we could’ve possibly played.”
Texas dominated the glass in the first 20 minutes, getting 29 rebounds (14 offensive boards) to UNC’s 15. The leading rebounder among Tar Heel starters was Paige — who had one.
“They played harder than us,” Paige said. “They out-ran us, they out-rebounded us. That’s why we lost.”
And then there was the free throw shooting, though it was quite costly to UNC on this night. Ranked 330th in the NCAA at 61.1 percent coming into the game, the Heels could only make 24 of 47 from the line against the Longhorns. And they were horrid in the second half, making only 10 of 25.
“We’ve got to be tough enough to step up and make shots, we’ve got to be tough enough — I’m tired of talking about free throws — we’ve got to be tough enough to step up and make the dadgum things — or go play soccer,” Williams said. “Tell (UNC women’s soccer coach) Anson (Dorrance) I’m not trying to rag on his sport, but God almighty.”
Still, somehow, UNC had a chance. The Heels played better defense and rebounded better in the second half. With 25.2 seconds left, Texas’ Isaiah Taylor (16 points) was fouled, but he was also whistled for a technical when he threw an elbow.
Taylor and Paige traded free throws, but Paige then made a nifty move to get open, drilling a 3 to cut the lead to 84-83 with 12.1 seconds remaining. Demarcus Holland missed two free throws for Texas — which was 4-for-13 from the line in the second half — but Holland somehow sneaked into the lane and got the rebound and putback.
“It would’ve been nice if it was just the dead-ball technical since (Taylor) made both free throws,” Williams said. “It would’ve also been nice had we boxed out the shooter on the free throw at the end, which we work on every day.”
Paige then missed a long open 3 at the buzzer as the crowd went silent.
“I got a clean look,” Paige said. “It was a little further out than we would’ve liked, but I got a clean look at the basket. It just rimmed out. We ran it exactly the way it was designed.”
That was about the only thing that went right for the Heels.
NOTES— McDonald played well in his return, hitting 4 of 9 3s and scoring 15 points. “It felt good being back and being able to play,” McDonald said. “I had to get a couple of kinks out. I’m a little disappointed in my free throws (3 of 8). I know I’m better than that.” He hoped he’d be able to return with P.J. Hairston, but UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said a decision on Hairston’s status could come this week. “The University of North Carolina is working with P.J. and his family to settle a few unresolved issues that remain,” Cunningham said in a statement read by UNC senior associate athletic director for communications Steve Kirschner after the game. “We expect to have this matter resolved by the end of the week.” … Starting forward Joel Jones went down on the Heels’ first possession with an apparent knee injury. He did not return. “It’s just all guesswork until they do the MRI,” Williams said, but he added he was told it was a possible MCL injury.
|TEXAS 86, No. 14 NORTH CAROLINA 83|
Percentages: FG .403, FT .606.
3-Point Goals: 8-21, .381 (Felix 3-7, Holmes 2-4, Holland 2-5, Croaker 1-4, Taylor 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 7 (Holmes 3, Ridley 2, Yancy, Ibeh).
Turnovers: 12 (Taylor 4, Croaker 2, Holland, Yancy, Ridley, Felix, Holmes, Lammert).
Steals: 6 (Holland 2, Yancy 2, Taylor 2).
Technical Fouls: Taylor.
Percentages: FG .385, FT .511.
3-Point Goals: 9-19, .474 (Paige 5-9, McDonald 4-9, Tokoto 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 5 (McAdoo 3, Hicks, Britt).
Turnovers: 8 (Britt 3, Tokoto 2, Paige, McAdoo, Johnson).
Steals: 7 (Britt 3, Paige, Meeks, McDonald, Johnson).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Karl Hess, Les Jones, Bryan Kersey.