CHAPEL HILL– The No. 14 North Carolina Tar Heels fell to the Texas Longhorns 86-83 thanks in large part to atrocious foul shooting in the Dean Smith Center Wednesday night.
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UNC slid to 7-3 on the season while Texas improved to 10-1 on the year. Marcus Paige led the Tar Heels in scoring with 20 points and Isaiah Taylor was tops for the Longhorns with 16 points.
Fifth-year senior Leslie McDonald returned to action after having been cleared by the NCAA just hours before the contest and delivered a strong showing, netting four three-pointers in his 14 point effort.
But the story of the game was all the missed free throws by Carolina. Shockingly, UNC missed 23 foul shots in the contest. The Tar Heels were 24 for 47 from the free throw line.
The Longhorns won the opening tip and didn’t waste any time drawing first blood. Demarcus Holland converted on the two-pointer to claim the early lead.
Joel James hit the floor and stayed there for a while in tremendous pain before a couple Tar Heel players helped to escort him off the floor and into the locker room.
Kennedy Meeks replaced James and scored Carolina’s first points of the game before McAdoo swished a comfortable two-pointer to close the Tar Heels within one at 7-6 in favor of Texas, off to a hot start offensively.
And Texas got to the free throw line on the next possession and converted on both attempts to get a three-point margin.
Texas transitioned into some zone defense from there and stymied the Carolina drive. And the hot shooting continued for the Longhorns with quick drives inside to extend the lead out to 14-7 with 16:52 left on the first half clock.
Leslie McDonald was put in the game for the first time this season and was welcomed with a rousing ovation from the crowd in the Smith Center.
Early on in the game, rebounds were the story. With 15:53 on the clock Texas had a 7-1 edge in rebounding.
Javan Felix knocked down a free throw to push Texas ahead even further, but McAdoo answered on the other end with a basket and a foul. Paige hit a long three to get the Tar Heels within five at 19-14.
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And Paige hit another three to make it back-to-back to trim the lead to 19-17 with 13:48 left in the first half. The crowd went wild.
But the noise level reached another decibel level when McDonald knocked in a three-pointer of his own to give Carolina their first lead of the night at 20-19.
Texas reasserted itself with some trips to the foul line. The Longhorns earned a 23-21 lead with 11:01 on the clock. The men in burnt orange were certainly dominating the boards.
Connor Lammert nailed down a couple more foul shots to extend the lead to 27-21 for the visiting team coached by Rick Barnes. UNC was experiencing a drought on the offensive end before Tokoto made a jumper from the far side.
A controversial foul on Tokoto handed Texas another trip to the free throw line. Meeks scored for UNC, but the offensive barrage inside continued. UNC was picking up a lot of fouls early in the game.
Isaiah Hicks added some nice play for UNC to keep the Tar Heels hanging around, but with 7:42 left on the clock, Carolina found itself down 37-27.
The free throw woes for UNC continued as Hicks missed his opportunity at the line.
With 6:35 left in the first half, Carolina had managed to claw itself to within seven points by going into the 3-2 zone on defense.
Paige ignited the crowd with another three to get UNC within six before Texas’ Prince Ibeh jammed a dunk through the nets to push the Longhorns up 42-34 with 5:21 on the clock.
Nate Britt came up with a big steal before McDonald was fouled hard to get sent to the line. The Texas aggression was displayed on both sides of the court with physical play.
Paige netted a jumper to keep UNC alive, but Texas kept relentlessly pounding the boards inside. With 3:27 left in the first half, Texas maintained a 46-38 lead on Carolina.
After the timeout, Paige dove inside to get himself to the foul line, and he made both both to close the scoreboard to 46-40.
An apparent Brice Johnson block was called a foul, and Texas took advantage. Every rebound and loose ball was going the way of Texas.
Carolina was down 53-40 with 1:17 to go in the first half. Paige knocked down a couple of free throws to reduce the arrears to eleven.
At the half, it was Texas taking a sizable 53-42 lead into the locker room.
Paige’s 15 points led the way for the Tar Heels with McAdoo registering seven points. The Longhorns held a 29-15 rebounding advantage. UNC missed 8 free throws in the first half and Nate Britt had four turnovers.
UNC came out with more focus and energy in the second half, but McAdoo missed his first pair of foul shots. Me made one of two the next trip up.
Paige was slammed by a Longhorn to pick up a foul. But Johnson ignited the crowd with a slam with under 18 minutes to play.
McDonald popped a three and Carolina was trailing Texas 58-50 when a time out was called with 15:20 left in the game.
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Texas kept drawing fouls on UNC, but was letting Carolina hang around in the contest with unproductive offense. McDonald found his way to the foul line and made one of the shots to close UNC within nine.
Johnson went hard inside and got to the line, but the poor foul shooting continued. He missed both attempts. Texas led 61-51 with 12:05 to play.
The hustle plays were picking up for Carolina, Simmons scored a third chance effort, and the score was tightened to 63-58 with 10:19 to play.
Texas knocked down an outside shot to extend the margin to nine points with the scoreboard totals reading 67-58 with 9:12 on the clock.
Britt slid in a smooth running floater to close UNC to within seven. Texas’ Holland answered the bell with a three-pointer on the other end.
Cameron Ridley slammed one home inside to give Texas the 72-64 lead with 6:45 to play in the game. McDonald hit an electric three pointer for the Tar Heels to get the home team within 72-68 with 5:33 left.
McAdoo scored with one off the glass to get the Tar Heels within a whisker of Texas by trailing 72-71 with 4:06 to play in the contest.
The Carolina defense was making its presence known in the second half. The intensity was ratcheted up, but UNC turned the ball over as a time out was called with the score knotted up at 72 with 3:35 on the clock.
A Texas three-point snipe hit its target before Coach Barnes called a time out with his team up three. Johnson responded with a bucket of his own on the other end, and Meeks went strong inside with a basket and a foul. He made it this time.
The score was tied up at 77 with 2:07 left to play. But Felix came up huge for the Longhorns down the stretch, nailing a three-pointer with 1:06 left to play to hand Texas the 82-77 lead.
Paige nailed a clutch three-pointer with 12 second left to get UNC down a single point at 84-83.
Texas grabbed a crucial rebound off a missed free throw and put it back for a score to claim an 86-83 edge with 3.5 seconds left. Paige missed the three point effort at the buzzer to give Texas the win.