This game may have started after 9 o'clock, but there was no lack of energy in the Dean Smith Center at tip off. Both Wake and UNC were playing with a quick pace, running up and down the court and letting it fly from deep at every opportunity.
It looked like the game plan for the Deacs on defense in this one was to help off of Leaky Black and allow him to shoot the ball. That strategy definitely backfired in the first half, as Black knocked down 3 of his 4 3-point attempts and scored 14 points in the half. In his 5-year career at North Carolina, Black had a career high of 16 points (before tonight) and had scored 14 or more exactly 3 times. The strategy made sense on paper, but Black did a great job making Wake Forest pay for it.
Despite Black’s shooting and the Deacs turning the ball over 8 times in the first 10 minutes, Wake was able to keep it close mostly due to Daivien Williamson and Tyree Appleby shooting 4-4 from beyond the arc. At the under 8 timeout, the Deacs trailed just 26-21 with UNC shooting 50% from the floor and 40% from beyond the arc.
After what I would describe as a fun, back-and-forth first half, Wake headed into the locker room with a 38-37 lead. The two teams were pretty much identical after the first 20 minutes; Wake and UNC both shot 12-28 from the floor, 9-12 from the free throw line, scored 12 points in the paint, and turned the ball over 8 times. Really the only difference between the two teams in the first half was that Wake outrebounded the Heels 19-15 and shot 5-12 (42%) from beyond the arc to Carolina’s 4-14 (29%).
The halftime break did nothing to slow down the pace, and both teams came out of the half on fire. In the first 4 minutes of the half, Wake and Carolina combined for 26 points on 10-12 shooting, including 4-4 from beyond the arc, and 10 lead changes. For a while, it just seemed like neither team was going to miss a shot for the rest of the game.
The hot shooting continued for both teams, as Carolina made 9 of their first 11 shots and Wake made 9 of their first 13, including all 4 of their 3-point attempts through the first 10 minutes of the half. RJ Davis was pretty much single handedly doing the scoring for the Heels—the junior scored 12 points on 5-5 shooting through the first 10 minutes of the half, which accounted for half of Carolina’s points at the time. Davis scored 22 of his 27 points on in the second half on 8-11 shooting.
Down the stretch, the turnovers started to become an issue again for Wake Forest—Carolina ramped up the defensive pressure, resulting in 4 or 5 turnovers for Wake Forest in a matter of a few minutes. The turnovers propelled UNC on a 15-4 run to give UNC a whopping 30 points off turnovers for the game. The run resulted in a 77-69 lead for the Tar Heels with under 6 minutes remaining in the game.
That run was basically the difference in the game, as Wake fell down by 9 and really never cut into it. It always hurts to lose, but to have the game right there for the taking and give it away by turning the ball over at halfcourt like 5 times in 8 possessions is just so frustrating. It sucks even more when it happens against North Carolina.
Wake won’t have long to think about this one, as they are on the road again this weekend, taking on a 2-13 Louisville team that is still looking for their first ACC win of the season. Losing to the Tar Heels on the road isn’t much of a setback, but losing to this Louisville team would a pretty tough thing to overcome on Selection Sunday. If the Deacs can limit their turnovers, I like their chances.