UNC-Gtown: The Good & Bad

Despite holding an eight-point lead in the second half, North Carolina's season ended thanks to a Georgetown run coincided with a UNC drought that had become all too common this season, and the Tar Heels fell, 79-74, before a crowd of 15,043 at the Dean Smith Center in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament.

Here is a look at UNC's 16th loss in 35 games:

GOOD

Rashad McCants – McCants was splendid offensively. He scored 26 points on 10-13 shooting. He also had four assists and almost single-handedly brought the Heels back from a 10-point deficit late. He scored seven points and had an assist in the spurt. But he missed four of seven free throws, including one with the score tied at 70.

Raymond Felton – Felton didn't have a great game but he wasn't bad at all. He finished with 11 points and 11 assists – the fourth time in the last six games he had a double-double in points and assists. He did a solid job defensively, but his six turnovers hurt the Heels, especially against Georgetown's trapping zone defense.

Jawad Williams – Williams nailed some huge 3-pointers when Carolina badly needed buckets. He finished with 19 points and seven rebounds – an improvement over the last few games. However, he did have three turnovers to go with zero assists. It's clear the Heels weren't well prepared to handle the Hoyas' defense. But, the effort and grit of Williams helped keep them close until the final seconds.

Energy – The Heels came out with tremendous energy. They were clearly riding the students' enthusiasm and gave fantastic effort. But, it appeared as if the team began to tire, and the boost the fans were trying to give them didn't help as much. Perhaps 35 games were enough.

Damion Grant - Grant only played four minutes but he sure left an impression on the supportive crowd. He had no points or rebounds, fumbled a nifty dish by Felton and somehow managed to mess up a sure-fire dunk on the break. But he had a crowd-pleasing blocked shot and altered a few other Hoya looks, giving UNC a presence it badly needed. Improved footwork and hands will make him a more viable contributor.

Students – The students were terrific. They stormed into the arena once the doors were open an hour and a half prior to tipoff, and despite it being the NIT, supported their team like it was the NCAA Final Four. Many began camping out for tickets as earlr as 2 a.m.

Jonathan Holmes – Holmes sat at his locker for 20 minutes after the game before he could take the uniform off for the last time. He wasn't a star player and won't likely be remembered like some of the program's legends, but his love for the school and program were clearly evident as he sat expressionless and red-eyed. Carolina basketball is about Charlie Scott, Phil Ford, Al Wood, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Kenny Smith, Antawn Jamison, and Raymond Felton, and it's also about Ged Doughton, Jeff Denny, Scott Cherry, and Jonathan Holmes.

Will Johnson - Like Holmes, Johnson didn't want to take the uniform off either, and said he had a really hard time walking off the court for the last time. He reflected on the past four years like the mature young man he is. Johnson gave UNC some good minutes. He was a fighter, a solid shooter (should have shot more, especially from the perimeter), and at times was the lone Heel trying to run an actual offense this season. He deserved more minutes as well, but overall he won't likely complain. He lived a dream of playing for UNC and, like Holmes, experienced the most amazingly odd four years in the program's history.

Think about it, both Holmes and Johnson went to a Final Four despite being 22-14 in Bill Guthridge's last year. They were on a team ranked No. 1 in the nation as sophomores, experienced last year's 8-20 collapse, and this year were a part of the new Carolina, a new generation of players that may well define the direction of this proud program. As Johnson joked after the game on Wednesday, he could write a book about his time in Chapel Hill.

BAD

Droughts – After scoring seven field goals in the first 6:40 of the game, Carolina made just five baskets for the final 14:19 of the first half. Included in that period were the last 5:16 of the half in which UNC failed to score a basket. The Tar Heels then exploded to convert six field goal attempts in the first 4:19 of the second half, but had just one bucket over the next 10:04. Tucked into the stretch was a 22-4 run by Georgetown. Blame free throw shooting, blame turnovers, and blame the officials as too many did in the arena on Wednesday night, but if the Heels didn't go through these droughts they would have won. And, had scoring slumps not been a major factor this season, Carolina would have finished with a few more wins – at least.

Handling trapping zone – The Heels looked like they had never practiced against a trapping zone defense. They handled the ball poorly and made questionable decisions. Incredibly, UNC shot 52.9 percent (27-51) from the field for the game, but got few quality looks in the second half. And quite frankly, McCants should be credited for the high percentage. He hit some tough shots.

Transition defense – The Heels only allowed 14 fast break points, but it sure seemed like they struggled more in this area, because they did. Georgetown had some excellent secondary break looks, which is part of transition defense.

22-4 – This is when the game was won by Georgetown and lost by UNC. The Heels went from leading 48-40 with 15:41 left in the game to trailing 62-52 with 8:23 remaining. Carolina eventually tied the game at 70, but the Hoyas' run may have taken too much out of all Heels not named McCants. He brought them back to 70-70, but the rest of the team appeared a tad too tired for the final couple of minutes. The evidence is poor shot selection late and clumsy defense.

No timeouts – UNC did not call a timeout during the last 5:16 of the first half in which the Tar Heels were outscored 7-1 and didn't handle things well. The Heels also didn't call a timeout during the 22-4 second-half run until it reached 22-4. Some coached may use their timeouts too quickly, but Matt Doherty doesn't use them enough, especially considering his team is so young and hasn't shown an ability to work through opponents' runs all year.

Ball movement – After around the first 10 minutes the Heels' ball movement wasn't sharp. They resorted back to their old dribble first, pass second ways. There was too much individual play, not enough movement in order to force an increase of ball movement. The slowed action made them easier to defend.

Free throw shooting – If the droughts and struggles against Georgetown's zone didn't beat the Heels, free throw shooting did. Carolina was only 11-17 (64.7%) from the line. The percentage is poor – not awful - but the misses were worse. McCants, who otherwise played a tremendous game, missed two of three after being fouled beyond the arc. He also missed a freebie with the score knotted at 70, and missed a front end of a one-and-one.

Jonathan Holmes - DNP - Win or lose this was absolutely his last home game, yet he didn't see any action. It boggles the mind why he didn't get on the floor for each game this year anyway. He never hurt the team, and in fact hit some big 3s early in the year and looked comfortable and confident. He didn't need seven minutes a game, but three to rest Felton would have sufficed. But for him not to play in an NIT game as a senior in obviously his last home game simply wasn't fair. He'd given the program enough in four years to warrant a few minutes on Wednesday night.

UP NEXT

The Tar Heels will prepare individually over the summer and get ready for next season. There will also have to be a decision by the school's administration regarding the future of coach Matt Doherty.


Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He also covers the ACC for the Wilmington Star-News/Morning Star and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.

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