Here is a look at the good and bad of UNC's 14th loss in 29 games and 10th defeat in 15 Atlantic Coast Conference contests.
Jawad Williams – Williams had a nice game with 17 points and six rebounds. He made four 3-pointers and helped keep the Tar Heels in the game. He picked up his fourth foul with more than 10 minutes left, and despite wanting to stay in the game with the Heels fading, he had to sit on the bench during those key moments. He said he could have played through it, but coach Matt Doherty felt sitting was best. That's pretty typical for Williams. He may appear soft at times, but he's still a tremendous competitor.
Jackie Manuel – Manuel made some blunders on offense, but had a nice floor game finishing with six rebounds, two blocks and a steal to go with 12 points - nine of which came in the first half. He played with a bit more poise than in recent games, which may be why his numbers were up from those performances.
David Noel – Noel had nine points with five rebounds, but he also had three assists, a block and three steals. His floor game was solid and his defense was pretty good for much of the game too. Some of the moves he makes have Carolina fans salivating to see quickly into his future. Basketball fans are interested, too. In time he will be an excellent player.
Active arms – The Heels had very active arms, touching a number of Wake passes in the first half and forcing a few more bad tosses. The Heels looked well prepared, and anticipated well, a sign of preparation. However, there were some negative issues, which is cited later in the G&B.
Energy – The Tar Heels had energy out of the gate, especially on defense. They were active, communicated pretty well and looked ready to play.
3-point shooting – UNC made 11 of 29 from 3-point range for the game, but did shoot 6-14 in the first half. Six different Heels made 3s. If they could shoot a little better from inside the arc and get to the free throw line more often life would be a little easier in Chapel Hill.
Second-chance points allowed – Remarkably, Wake had only eight second-chance points despite grabbing 12 offensive rebounds. UNC, on the other hand, had seven points on as many offensive boards.
44-42 – That McCants was in foul trouble throughout and Raymond Felton was having a very off night and the Heels was within two points with less than 16 minutes to play is a testament to them.
Field goal defense – While the Tar Heels did some nice things defensively, as stated earlier, Wake still shot 49.1 percent (27-55) for the game, including 50% (7-14) from beyond the arc. UNC did not rotate well when Wake swung the ball around the perimeter, and when they did adjust, allowed too many driving layups (a real issue over the last few weeks).
Perimeter defense - See field goal defense. Doherty said he wanted to use his team's quickness advantages at certain positions offensively, but for some reason that didn't translate to the defensive end. Carolina was slow to react too often, bringing to question if the team is consistently focused on what the opposition (in this case Wake) does well. They are well prepared, but too often it appears UNC is better defensively early in games than throughout or late (save for the Ga. Tech game last weekend).
Rebounding – Wake outrebounded the Heels 40-28, getting 25 boards from three of its starters (Vytas Danelius, Josh Howard, Jamaal Levy). The Heels had a disadvantage in size and depth up front, so outrebounding the Deacons was unlikely. But the Heels were too inconsistent boxing out, which could have offset the numbers some. But this is typical, and one reason why they are last in the ACC on the glass.
Drought – After Williams drilled a 3 to cut the margin to 42-39 with 18:15 left in the game, the Heels went 6:44 without a field goal and trailed 51-45 after Williams connected for another 3 with 11:31 left.
In fact, UNC went 11:17 with just two field goals – one out of the offense. Other than Williams' 3, Noel had a put-back with 6:58 left. It was obvious quickly into the drought that the Heels were slipping into it and that a timeout made sense. Doherty could have called one at any time during the funk but opted not to. He should be more liberal with his timeouts.
Dean Smith used to hold onto his and make the team learn to play through tough times. But Smith never had a squad anywhere close to as young as this one, and odds are he would have handled the TOs a bit different with this youngest club in school history.
Raymond Felton – Felton just didn't look like his usual self from the outset. He missed some open mates early due to his slow reaction, and didn't score until 5:33 remained in the game. He was only 2-14 from the field, including 1-8 from 3-point range, and had just two assists with four turnovers. It was just one of those games – an off night. That happens. There's no need to delve further into his poor night.
Fouls – This isn't to say UNC was the victim of poor officiating, because that may not exactly be the case. But the Tar Heels were hampered by being called for 23 fouls as opposed to just 12 for Wake Forest. Rashad McCants was particularly affected, as he never admittedly got into the flow of the game. When McCants and Williams each picked up their fourth fouls, Carolina was essentially doomed.
0-12 – The Heels are 0-12 against in-state ACC schools in the last two seasons.
14 straight – UNC has now lost 14 straight games to in-state ACC teams dating back to a pair of Sunday losses to Duke in March, 2001.
16 losses… - Unless the Tar Heels win the ACC tournament or NIT, they will finish with at least 16 losses. Prior to last season, no UNC team had ever lost more than 15 in a single
In other words, UNC can defeat Duke and will still lose 16 games unless the Heels win the ACC tourney or NIT. If they beat Duke and don't win the ACC tourney they will have 15 losses. And then if they don't win the NIT they will finish with 16 (perhaps 17 if they lose twice in New York). This part was edited Friday evening to make clear this was not a statement that UNC would not defeat Duke, just an explanation of why 16 losses are almost inevitable.
The Tar Heels return home for their final regular season game of the year as they host rival Duke. Game time is 4 p.m. and will be televised nationally by CBS. It will be the final home game for Jonathan Holmes and Will Johnson.
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.