Wake Forest stifles Tar Heels
If No. 19 North Carolina needed a reminder about the intensity of ACC play, it received one Sunday night at Wake Forest.
The Tar Heels failed to convert numerous opportunities around the basket – netting just seven second-chance points on 17 offensive rebounds in the first half – and fell to Wake Forest 73-67 Sunday night at Joel Coliseum.
The Demon Deacons had a 33-11 edge in free throws and held UNC to 38.7 percent shooting as the Tar Heels (10-4, 0-1) lost their conference opener for the 11th time in 61 seasons.
“You can’t just get the rebound and go up soft,” sophomore guard Marcus Paige said. “That’s part of the whole toughness thing. You have to go up strong in our league. Everybody’s bigger, stronger, and that was kind of a wake-up call for some of our guys. That’s an example of how the intensity jumps up.”
Paige (1 for 8) and senior Leslie McDonald (1 for 7) also struggled from behind the arc as the Tar Heels, who have wins over top 11 opponents Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky, fell to 7-4 against unranked teams.
UNC used a 9-2 run to get within 64-61 with two minutes left, but J.P. Tokoto missed a lay-up after getting a steal in the backcourt and Travis McKie got a 3-point play on the other end to keep the hosts in front to stay.
Wake Forest (11-3, 1-0) improved to 10-0 at Joel Coliseum, where it beat top 20 teams Miami and N.C. State last season.
“We understand the importance that it means to so many people, but from a basketball standpoint it shows everyone that we are getting better,” Demon Deacons coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “To beat a team like North Carolina is another step in the right direction.”
Wake Forest took control with 11 straight points midway through the second half to go up by 13. The Demon Deacons scored on two backdoor lay-ups and a three-point play during the run while UNC committed three turnovers and missed an ill-advised stepback 3-pointer by McDonald.
By the time James Michael McAdoo broke the Tar Heels’ four-minute scoreless streak, Wake Forest led 53-40 with 10:03 remaining.
The Tar Heels finished with 17 turnovers, most of them unforced. UNC coach Roy Williams said that his team had four turnovers “just dribbling the ball” in the first half, and made three more on uncontested passes in the second half.
UNC won the rebounding battle 53-34 in a matchup of two of the nation’s top 20 rebounding teams, but the Tar Heels finished with just 17 points off of 24 offensive rebounds. And while the Tar Heels wanted to run against Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons had an 11-8 edge in fast-break points.
It was still a nine-point game with five minutes to play when UNC made its final push, which started when Paige passed to Kennedy Meeks for a lay-up and to McAdoo for a dunk on consecutive possessions.
UNC seemed to lose some momentum when McDonald was given a technical foul for elbowing Tyler Cavanaugh on a loose ball tie-up, but Paige made his first 3-pointer on his eighth attempts to bring UNC within 64-59 with 2:47 left.
After Cavanaugh airballed a lay-up, Tokoto’s follow slam brought UNC within 64-61, but Tokoto’s missed lay-up ended UNC’s last chance.
Paige (eight points) finished 3 of 12 shooting and didn’t score in double-digits for the first time this season. He also missed a free throw, snapping his streak of 31 in a row.
“I got plenty of clean looks that didn’t go in,” Paige said. “Missed a free throw. It was one of those nights for me.”
McAdoo (13 points), Tokoto (12 points) and Johnson (12 points) led the scoring, while McAdoo, Tokoto, Johnson and Meeks all had at least eight rebounds.
It wasn’t nearly enough. Williams had warned his players they couldn’t “tip-toe through the tulips” once ACC play started. When asked after the Wake Forest game if his team had raised its intensity enough, Williams responded: “No. God almighty. Not at all. Not at all.”
WAKE FOREST 73, No. 19 NORTH CAROLINA 67
Percentages: FG .387, FT .636.
3-Point Goals: 2-15, .133 (McDonald 1-7, Paige 1-8).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 3 (Tokoto 3).
Turnovers: 17 (McAdoo 5, Paige 4, McDonald 3, Meeks, Britt, Tokoto, Hicks, Johnson).
Steals: 9 (Britt 2, McAdoo 2, Hicks, Tokoto, Paige, McDonald, Johnson).
Technical Fouls: McDonald.
Percentages: FG .481, FT .576.
3-Point Goals: 2-12, .167 (Williams 2-6, Cavanaugh 0-1, Miller-McIntyre 0-2, McKie 0-3).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 6 (Rountree III 4, Cavanaugh 2).
Turnovers: 13 (Jones 3, Adala Moto 3, Miller-McIntyre 3, Thomas 2, McKie 2).
Steals: 11 (Jones 3, Rountree III 3, Thomas 2, Cavanaugh, Miller-McIntyre, McKie).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Mike Eades, Mike Roberts, Doug Shows.