It was only a matter of time before North Carolina suffered a loss and it’s no shock it came to an opponent like Michigan.
How quickly it got away from the Tar Heels was a surprise, however as the Wolverines led by as many as 24 points before holding off a late comeback to win 73-64 on Thursday afternoon.
Cole Anthony led Carolina with 22 points and seven rebounds and Garrison Brooks had a second straight solid performance with 13 points and eight rebounds.
An Annual Reminder
This happens to Carolina, quite literally, every year.
Last season, it was the beatdown at Michigan. The year before, it was the offensive disaster vs. Michigan State at PK80. Before the 2017 national title, the Tar Heels lost a November game at Indiana and en route to the Final Four in 2016, they lost at Northern Iowa.
Carolina hasn’t played well this season, and as clear as that became over the past three weeks, things got no better either with offensive flow or doing a better job limiting open shots for opponents.
Roy Williams job of reaching his team becomes a little bit easier after watching Michigan take control and dominate the game for a portion of the second half. Bet on seeing the Tar Heels pay a little better attention to detail on Friday.
There was one positive for the Tar Heel offense today with just 11 turnovers. That’s pretty much where it ends.
As of now, Anthony is the only player on the Carolina roster that can consistently create his own shot, and with eight assists on 26 made field goals, the Tar Heels didn’t do nearly well enough at setting up one another for baskets.
Brooks has improved offensively, but his game is more about getting the ball in position to score and finishing while Armando Bacot had a tough day, going 3 of 10 from the field.
Where Carolina currently is with its perimeter shooting, opponents are free to clog the lane a little more, and it’s showing.
It’s a chicken or the egg argument, but Carolina’s transition offense was again lacking on Thursday.
Two factors in that: Michigan turned the ball over 16 times, but just four of them were steals for the Tar Heels. Carolina won the rebounding battle 36-34, which isn’t nearly the margin it looks for to make a major difference in the game.
Because of those two factors, Carolina was unable to set the pace it wanted nor was it able to create the number of transition opportunities it looks for, finishing with just three fast-break points.
The Tar Heels have had their best stretches of the season when they’re active and disruptive on defense, leading to easy buckets while running off defensive boards gives the Carolina offense better chances to get into the secondary break and take advantage of poorly set defenses.
ESPN cameras captured Williams yelling to his team, “Move yourself, move the ball,” on Thursday.
The Tar Heels did a poor job of both.
After the Gardner-Webb game, Justin Pierce said Carolina often spent too much time watching Anthony on offense. Because he’s such an incredible creator, human nature says you might stand by and watch him go to work, knowing he’s getting his shot off.
With the number of guys that can’t consistently create their own shots, the Carolina offense can’t become stagnant like it did on Thursday as the Tar Heels had just eight assists on 26 made field goals.
Move yourself, move the ball and buckets will follow.
Another of the few positives that came from the loss is that the Tar Heels didn’t roll over and quit when they fell behind by 24.
Thanksgiving, in the Bahamas, on the receiving end of a blowout, it would have been easy to pack it in and start looking ahead to grabbing dinner and enjoying the weather.
Instead, Carolina fought back and put itself in position to threaten Michigan late in the game.
Didn’t get it done because the offense just isn’t there yet, but Williams had to be happy with the fight he saw from his guys down the stretch. There should, at the very least, be no doubt this team will work to get things right.