After three games away from home, there’s plenty of work ahead for North Carolina.
The Tar Heels stumbled out of the Top 25 after losing twice in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off, so they’ll be anxious to return to the win column when they take on UNC Asheville on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Defense seems to be a major concern for North Carolina (3-2). No. 6 Purdue and then-No. 17 Tennessee were trouble for the Tar Heels.
“I’m very disappointed, but I’m not discouraged,” first-year North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “It gives us an opportunity to really reflect and see what we’re doing and the things that we need to change. And I guarantee things will change.”
Sunday’s 89-72 loss to Tennessee came one day after Purdue posted 93 points on the Tar Heels.
While the defensive holes are widespread, part of the shortcomings might have come because versatile guard Leaky Black didn’t play Saturday due to illness — and he wasn’t much of a factor Sunday.
“I’m convinced that not only can we be a good defensive team, I’m convinced that we can be a great defensive team,” Davis said.
North Carolina has trailed at halftime in each its last four games. That included last week’s victory at College of Charleston.
But the comebacks weren’t in the works against the nationally ranked teams. North Carolina took a brief one-point lead in the second half against Purdue.
The Tar Heels couldn’t get enough stops against Tennessee to make a run.
“We’ve had the type of effort that I think we need to have in spots, for particular halves, but never for a full 40 minutes and that’s something that I’m trying as a coach to understand,” Davis said. “I never want to coach effort. It means something to play at this place. It means something to be a part of this program. And there’s a fire inside of you that should never burn out.”
North Carolina forward Armando Bacot said it’s up to the players to be more attentive on defense.
“We just got to do a better job of following the scouting report and also just taking pride and just not giving up easy drives, layup balls, and just on post-ups,” Bacot said.
UNC Asheville (2-2) is coming off Saturday’s 61-55 victory against Tennessee Tech in a neutral-site game at Chattanooga, Tenn. The Bulldogs won despite shooting 4-for-23 on 3-pointers and used a game-closing 12-0 run to gain the upper hand.
Tennessee Tech missed all 21 of its 3-point attempts.
Avoiding extended offensive glitches is one of the keys for the Bulldogs, who averaged 10.3 made 3-pointers across their first three games of the season.
“I just thought we were much better all-around on offense in terms of moving and cutting and that usually leads to points in the paint,” UNC Asheville coach Mike Morrell said.
Drew Pember, a 6-foot-10 player for UNC Asheville, is a transfer from Tennessee, so some of his former teammates faced the Tar Heels during the weekend. Pember had a team-high 16 points against Tennessee Tech.
The Bulldogs haven’t won consecutive nonconference games since 2019.
UNC Asheville will play its next four games at home following its trip to Chapel Hill.
The Tar Heels have won all eight previous meetings with UNC Asheville, though the most-recent clash came in the 2011-12 season.
–Field Level Media
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