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UNC basketball loses to Wake Forest, 98-76, drops third consecutive ACC road game

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 1/23/2022 C.L. Brown, The Charlotte Observer

Wake Forest rolled over North Carolina 98-76 on Saturday at Lawrence Joel Veteran Memorial Coliseum then coach Steve Forbes joined students in rolling the quad on campus with toilet paper. Demon Deacon fans took over the court after the final buzzer too.

It was the kind of celebration reserved for when Wake upset a Tar Heels’ team that carried a single-digit ranking next to its name and had the potential to cut down the nets in April.

That is not this team.

At least not now, after the Heels (12-6, 4-3 ACC) trailed by at least 20 points for the fourth time this season as it did in losses to Tennessee, Kentucky and Miami. And maybe not at all this season, with coach Hubert Davis admitting after the game that the Deacons had the three best players on the floor.

Wake (16-4, 6-3) shot 54 percent from the field for the game and was led by Jake LaRavia’s career-high 31 points. Aldones Williams, the ACC’s leading scorer, added 23 points and Daivien Williamson had 19 for the Deacs. Wake’s 98 points was the most it has scored against Carolina in regulation since a 107-85 win on Jan. 6, 1965.

“Williamson, Williams and LaRavia were the best players on the floor and it wasn’t even close,” Davis said. “I mean, we didn’t have anybody that could guard LaRavia, he controlled the entire game. He punched us in the mouth at the beginning of the game. Alondes and Daivian could get into the paint at any time that they wanted to.”

Forward Brady Manek faced Williams, his former Oklahoma teammate, for the first time and led the Heels with 22 points before fouling out with five minutes left.

Carolina had another poor shooting performance, but it was initially bailed out by its offensive rebounding. The Heels had 23 offensive rebounds, which led to a season-high 29 second chance points. Ultimately, Davis said opponents have started to be more physical with Armando Bacot and it has slowed down their offense. Bacot had 12 points and 12 rebounds against Wake.

“Over the last couple of games, even though Armando has had double doubles, they haven’t been those dominant games that Armando has had pretty much throughout the year,” Davis said. “The other thing is, specifically the last two opponents that we’ve played, we just don’t have the ability, the athleticism to be able to break down defenders.”

An off shooting night wasn’t the reason why they lost though. They couldn’t stop Wake from scoring. The Deacons led by 10 at halftime and started the second half making 10 of their first 13 shots to open up a 19-point lead.

Here’s what we learned from Carolina’s loss:

Headed for the bubble?

Carolina’s loss to Wake puts it in a tougher position to build a solid NCAA resume. The Heels still don’t have a Quad I win in the NET rankings and just have three opportunities left to do so, according to the latest update.

Both games against Duke and a road trip to Virginia Tech are the only potential Quad I opportunities. And the Hokies could fall out of that range after their loss to Boston College on Saturday. The way it looks now, UNC isn’t likely to be favored in any of those games.

The Heels best non-conference win against Michigan isn’t as good as it looked in the preseason when the Wolverines were a top 5 team.

Even if they manage to have a winning conference record, in a season when the ACC overall is down, there’s no guarantee that will be enough.

“I know this team doesn’t want to go through what we went through last year, as far as losing so many games that we know we should have won,” said UNC sophomore guard Caleb Love. “We know we’re better than what we’ve been playing like and it’s only us that can change it. It’s nothing that coach Davis can tell us or any of the other coaches can do for us. It’s on us and we’ve got to play better.”

Garcia not the same

UNC forward Dawson Garcia was averaging 10.8 points per game through Carolina’s first 12 games and shooting 45.8 percent from 3-point range and 45.2 percent from the field. Then, two minutes into their win at Boston College, he suffered a concussion when 7-footer Quinten Post fell on his head.

Garcia missed games against Notre Dame and Virginia before returning to the lineup — but not as a starter — against Georgia Tech.

In the three games since his return, the 6-foot-11 sophomore hasn’t reached double figures scoring. He did grab a season-high 11 rebounds against the Yellow Jackets. But his shooting has not returned to form. Garcia was 3-for-10 against the Deacs with seven points. That brings his shooting percentages in the last three games to 22.2 percent from the field (4-for-18) and 12.5 percent (1-for-8) from 3-point range.

Transition game

Wake got moving whenever they had the opportunity and the Heels had no answer for them. The Deacs outscored UNC 18-0 in fast break points in the first half and finished with a 28-point advantage in that category. Wake’s 30 fast break points are the most allowed by the Heels this season.

It marks the third straight game that Carolina has been outscored in transition. And it moved their opponents’ total for the season past the Heels, 187-162.

“We were going to the offensive board and they had guys going back on offense getting out, running, pushing it ahead, attacking the rim, drawing fouls,” Manek said. “We had turnovers too. All of that helped play into their transition points.”

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