UNC Basketball: Tar Heels go small to survive Wake Forest

CHAPEL HILL, NC - DECEMBER 30: Cameron Johnson
CHAPEL HILL, NC - DECEMBER 30: Cameron Johnson /

The North Carolina Tar Heels and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons faced off in an important ACC conference game in Chapel Hill.

Wake Forest entered the game having won six of their past seven after starting 1-4 to start the year.

Meanwhile, UNC was playing their first game in a week and their first at home since getting stunned by Wofford earlier this month.

It was a Saturday showdown in Chapel Hill as both teams were playing in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

The game was close as Wake Forest went on a late run but UNC was able to hold them off for a but 73-69 win.

The Game

Many thought the loss to Wofford would be a wake-up call for the Tar Heels and it was against Ohio State, but it wasn’t in the first half in Chapel Hill on Saturday.

The Tar Heels came out with a laissez-faire attitude and struggled early against the Demon Deacons.

UNC was not strong going to the basket and was slow getting back on defense. Meanwhile, Wake Forest was ready to play and came out strong. All of this led to a three-point Wake lead with 3:27 to play.

Then Roy Williams started yelling.

UNC came out of the under four-minute timeout with passion and purpose and ended the half on a 9-3 run. It was emphasized by an offensive rebound putback by Theo Pinson near the end of the half.

The second half wasn’t much better. UNC did build a nine-point lead behind the play of Luke Maye who recorded another double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

However, that was not enough to stop the Demon Deacons who went on a 16-3 run to lead UNC by 4 with 2:26 to go.

Things looked bad until Joel Berry II stepped up. Berry hit a floater with 10 seconds left to give the Tar Heels a lead that they would not relinquish.

This game also saw the use of the North Carolina Death Lineup for the first time. At the end of both halves, Williams substituted Cam Johnson in at the four moving Maye to the five joining Berry, Pinson, and Kenny Williams on the perimeter.

The group finished strong both halves, helping UNC earn the win and move to 12-2 on the year.

Player of the Game

Kenny Williams. Williams did not have his typical type of game, hitting only 1-of-6 from downtown, but had a very Pinson-like game.

Williams finished with 11 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals for UNC.

He also hit two free throws with two seconds left to ice the game for the Tar Heels.

Notable Stat

40. Doral Moore entered the game leading the nation shooting 81.8 percent from the field. The Tar Heels were ready for the big man holding him to 2-for-5 and 40 percent from the floor, or half of his season average.

What’s Next

Up next for the Tar Heels is their first road conference game of the season at Florida State. The Seminoles have only lost once this season entering conference play and will be a big test for the Tar Heels.

It begins a tough, early two-game road trip for the Tar Heels taking on the Seminoles and Virginia Cavaliers.