That loss has apparently grown in scope the further Roy Williams gets away from the road trip to South Florida. Ten days after the defeat, the 10th-year UNC head coach referenced losing by 88 points to Miami on his radio show.
That margin grew to 400 points a few weeks later, and on Saturday, Williams closed the opening comments portion of his press conference by saying the Tar Heels would play a team in the ACC title game that had beaten them twice by about eight million points.
Hyperbole aside, the point remains. Miami dismantled North Carolina at the BankUnited Center in a manner rarely seen during the Williams era. The loss prompted a locker room coaches’ meeting to discuss possible changes to stop the negative momentum.
Two ideas emerged – shortening the rotation and switching to a small lineup.
Since then, North Carolina is 8-2 and has won eight of nine. The memories of that devastating loss, complete with Lebron James and Dwayne Wade seated courtside, remain fresh.
“We knew we had to definitely change things,” James Michael McAdoo said following UNC’s 79-76 win over Maryland in ACC Tournament semifinal action. “Things couldn’t keep going the way they were, because they weren’t going well. That loss hurt. The biggest thing is we didn’t even show up to compete. They hit us in the mouth and we just took it.”
Dexter Strickland referred to the loss in South Florida as a “wake-up call.”
While new starts midseason are often boring clichés, there is some truth when applying that concept to UNC’s 2012-13 season. There’s Before Duke, culminating with the second Miami loss, and there’s After Duke.
Not only do the stats prove it, but the players know it. Which, at the end of the day, is the defining factor in the ability to make a legitimate midseason adjustment.
“I think emotionally we have that confidence,” McAdoo said. “With the lineup, we know what we’re going to get from certain guys, so I think the biggest thing is taking them out of what they’re going to run offensively and really just try to force our tempo.”
There was plenty of confidence brewing in UNC’s locker room late Saturday afternoon.
“I think we’re a much better team than what we were the last two times we played them,” Strickland said, adding, “I think we’re too good of a team to beat three times in a row.”
Everything that’s happened up to this point is forever in the past. Opportunity awaits, beginning on Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve lost a few games that have hurt, but we’re still here,” McAdoo said. “Carolina’s still getting the opportunity to play for a championship.”