After UNC had completed a 12-2 run to tie the score at 72-all with 4:06 to play, Texas guard Javan Felix caught James Michael McAdoo out of position in the Tar Heels’ 3-2 drop zone and drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
With 1:30 remaining and UNC trailing 79-77, Nate Britt stole the ball from Isaiah Taylor in transition before tripping near midcourt and losing the ball out of bounds. Felix drained another 3-pointer on Texas’s ensuing possession to push its lead to five with 1:06 to play.
In standard-issue contests, those are the types of plays that are discussed ad nauseam in explaining away losses that go down to the wire.
In UNC’s 83-80 loss to Belmont on Nov. 17, J.J. Mann’s trio of 3-pointers in the final minute earned national headlines, but the truth of the matter was that the Tar Heels lost that game at the charity stripe by missing 26 of their 48 free throw attempts.
On Wednesday, UNC effectively replicated that feat in missing 23 of 47 free throws in its 86-83 loss. The Tar Heels connected on just 10-of-25 free throws after halftime, including at least one miss on 11 of 12 two-shot fouls.
“I’m tired of talking about free throws,” UNC head coach Roy Williams said. “You’ve got to be tough enough to step up and make the dadgum thing or go play soccer.”
The lone bright spot for the Tar Heels was Marcus Paige, who converted all eight of his attempts and has now made 18 in a row. His teammates combined to shoot 41.0 percent (16-of-39) against the Longhorns. James Michael McAdoo missed 10 of his 15 attempts, while Leslie McDonald connected on 3-of-8 attempts.
"They are free opportunities to get points with the clock stopped,” Paige said. “You have to take advantage of them. I know we miss a lot of them, and it hurts when you're trying to make runs. We shouldn't have been in a position to where free throws determined this game in the first place. Our first half was probably the worst first half of basketball we could have possibly played.
“If you miss two free throws, it's basically like turning the ball over or giving the ball right back to them. It's frustrating to not take advantage of those opportunities."
For the season, Paige, at 91.2 percent, is the only Tar Heel shooting north of 70 percent. The other four UNC players averaging 20 minutes or more are all well below that mark. McAdoo (.544), Brice Johnson (.586), J.P. Tokoto (.385) and Nate Britt (.630).
UNC entered its 10th game of the season ranked 330th nationally at 61.1 percent shooting from the charity stripe, representing the lowest percentage of any power conference school.
Following Wednesday’s loss, the Tar Heels are now shooting 59.6 percent. Making matters worse is that UNC’s percentage is even lower – 58.4 - over its past eight games.