“We have to congratulate Duke—I thought they were sensational,” says Williams. “As I said after the game, their offense beat our defense, their defense beat our offense, they out played us, and better than we were. It had a lot to due to our poor play, but also I was not pleased with the way we played. The good news is we get to play some more.”
UNC had won six of seven since inserting Hairston into the starting lineup in the teams’ first matchup of the season in Durham.
Hairston says the team couldn’t recover after falling behind early.
“Since we have been playing so well the past few game, I guess we weren’t used to getting behind by so much,” says Hairston. “I think they jumped out to a 14-0 lead and we kind of starting rushing things on the offensive end and doing things that Duke wanted us to do like rushing shots and playing 1-on-1 instead of playing as a team.”
UNC suffered three double-digit defeats in non-conference play—in Maui to Butler, at Indiana, and at Texas. But freshman point guard Marcus Paige says the Tar Heels are more equipped to handle a big loss now than earlier in the season.
“We had some guys like this early in the season, but we failed to bounce back,” says Paige. “But I think the progress we’ve shown, especially through the second half of ACC play has shown that we can bounce back from a game like that and go back to the way we were playing where everyone is moving the ball, taking great shots, and stuff like that. We had a let-down game, especially with all the hype and everything around the game, but I think we’re going to be able to bounce back.”
Coach Williams also says that UNC will need to bounce back quickly, but overall he’s proud of how his team has improved throughout the season.
“I’m happy for our team and what they accomplished, especially after a tough early season and a tough start,” says Williams. “To end up getting the third seed—I’m glad we bounced back like that. I would’ve liked to get the 1st or the 2nd seed, there’s no question, but I am pleased with the way they’ve bounced back after some difficult times and that’s what we have to do right now.”
In other news, two UNC players were named to the All-ACC second team—junior swingman Reggie Bullock and sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo. McAdoo led UNC in points (14.6), rebounds (7.6) and steals (1.5). Bullock was third in the conference in both 3-point percentage (44%) and 3-pointers made (76) and finished just behind McAdoo in both points (14.2) and rebounds (6.4) and steals (1.3).
P.J. Hairston was named an honorable mention while Marcus Paige was also named to the All-ACC freshman team.