Photo by Todd Melet

Why was Roy Williams so upset after an ACC victory?

The Tar Heels had just beaten better-than-expected Wake Forest to begin their conference schedule, but their coach pulled out the old line when asked what he thought about his team’s execution. “I’m in favor of it,” Ol’ Roy said, his tone sounding like he wasn’t kidding.

UNC had just rallied from four points down in the last two minutes, avoided a second straight home loss to an unranked opponent and did it by killing the Deacons on the backboards and getting clutch play from his veterans down the stretch.

No, the Heels did not shoot the ball well, but held Wake to a similar 39 percent from the floor for the game. They also corralled 10 more offensive rebounds, from which they had a 16-0 scoring advantage. So why was the coach ready to pull out his fingernails?

Plain and simple, Wake Forest played harder than Carolina. Wake Forest seemed to want the win more until those fateful last minutes when the Deacons of Danny Manning finally cooled off after shooting 60 percent for most of the second half.

Several statistics bear out Williams’ ire. One was the Deacons scored 13 points off 12 Tar Heel turnovers, and Wake scored 15 points on fast breaks. Those are hustle stats, and Carolina was on the wrong end of both numbers, meaning they gave up the ball at the most careless of times – and one of the running-est teams in college ball was outrun by this opponent. Wake also made 11 three-pointers, which is far too many.

Otherwise, four players were in double figures, including Cameron Johnson off the bench to play his best game in a UNC uniform, hitting 3 out of 4 from behind the arc. And Luke Maye had his eighth double-double of the season with 17 points and 15 rebounds, mostly from the hustle the rest of the team apparently did not show. In the last two minutes, Carolina did lock down the “D” and outscored the Deacons 8-0 to win 73-69.

Overall, it was not good enough for the two road games this week, at FSU Wednesday night and at Virginia Saturday afternoon. The Seminoles had Duke on the ropes in Cameron before losing Saturday, while the Cavaliers showed their usual toughness in holding off Boston College in Charlottesville. More than merely shooting better, Williams’ team must play harder and smarter if it hopes to come home with two more Ws.