Timeouts did not put Carolina out of the ACC tournament.
Even though Roy Williams contributes to his own reputation by joking he will have time-outs left when he dies, his not calling enough TOs, baby, against Duke in Brooklyn didn’t cost his team the game. More so, poor management of Joel Berry’s foul problems did.
The Tar Heels led Duke by eight points when Berry was called for his fourth foul with 15 minutes left in the game. Perhaps Roy should have pulled him for a spell upon his third foul three minutes earlier, but after Berry sat down UNC actually increased its lead to 13 on buckets by Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks.
Jayson Tatum’s dunk cut the lead back to 11, and Duke called a timeout to rev up for one last push. You know, the other coach can talk to his team then, too, and certainly Williams warned his players that the Blue Devils were coming after them and to keep getting the ball inside, where they had dominated to that point.
Less than a minute after that time out, Luke Kennard made his four-point play to cut the lead to seven but Isaiah Hick’s dunk moved the margin back to nine. Duke then scored seven straight points in 59 seconds, and Williams took a time out with just under 11 minutes to play. Another Duke TO actually gave Roy three chances to chat.
What he did not do was risk putting Berry back in the game with four fouls, and that ultimately shut down the UNC offense against the hot-shooting Dukies. By the time Berry returned with five minutes left, his team had fallen behind by seven. There was still plenty of time to rally back, but the Tar Heels went stone-cold from the field, missing eight of their next nine shots and scoring only three points from the foul line.
That left them nine down with 1:27 left, and now the game was over since Duke doesn’t miss many free throws. The rally was so swift that it seemed to stun Carolina, which with 14 minutes to play looked like it was on the way to a comfortable victory. Instead, Duke got re-energized by Berry’s absence and collapsed its defense under the basket and dared the Tar Heels to hit from outside. Five players missed 12 shots, and that was the real story of the game.
So perhaps Williams can be second-guessed for his decisions on how to handle Berry’s foul problems, both at the end of the first half and early in the second, but not for NOT calling timeouts.