UNC Baseball Swept at Wake Forest, Demon Deacons Walk-Off Winners

Trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning Sunday–on the verge of yet another ACC loss–the No. 17 UNC baseball team was desperately in need of a spark.

Enter Tyler Lynn.

The junior college transfer from Phenix City, Alabama came off the bench and led off the frame with a game-tying solo home run–appearing to shift all momentum to the visiting dugout.

Wake Forest had other ideas, however, as sophomore Stuart Fairchild doubled home Will Craig in the bottom of the ninth against UNC reliever AJ Bogucki–giving the Demon Deacons a 3-2 victory in walk-off fashion.

Hunter Williams got his first weekend start of 2016 on Sunday, allowing a pair of homers in the third inning. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Hunter Williams got his first weekend start of 2016 on Sunday, allowing a pair of homers in the third inning. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

It also completed a clean sweep for Wake Forest (26-17, 10-11 ACC), which continually saw its superstar, Craig, come up clutch against the Tar Heels (26-15, 9-12 ACC) all weekend long.

UNC head coach Mike Fox shook up his pitching rotation in another attempt to give his team some life, but it made no difference.

Lefty Hunter Williams got the call over Jason Morgan, who pitched on Wednesday against William & Mary but had been the starter in each of the team’s Sunday games in 2016.

Williams lasted just three innings, though, as he surrendered a pair of solo homers in the third–the first to Kevin Conway and the second to Craig, who now has 13 on the season.

After his offense powered the Demon Deacons to a win on Friday–and his pitching sealed the deal on Saturday–the mere threat of Craig at the plate turned out to be UNC’s undoing on Sunday.

Despite having thrown over four solid innings out of the bullpen, the call was made for Bogucki to intentionally walk Craig with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

A wild pitch allowed Craig to reach second base, which allowed him to easily score the game-winning run on Fairchild’s double down the left-field line.

Brandon Riley doubled to start the ninth for UNC, but the Tar Heels weren't able to capitalize. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Brandon Riley doubled to start the ninth for UNC, but the Tar Heels weren’t able to capitalize. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

The Tar Heels’ offensive woes continued to haunt them as Wake Forest starter Connor Johnstone held them to just four hits across seven innings.

Eli Sutherland’s RBI single in the seventh was the only time Johnstone found himself in the slightest bit of trouble.

Not until the Demon Deacons went to their bullpen did UNC get its life.

Lynn homered off Garrett Kelly to tie the game in the eighth, while freshman Brandon Riley doubled off John McCarren to lead off the ninth–putting the Tar Heels in position to take the lead.

Seven pitches and three outs later, those hopes were brought to a halt.

Fairchild’s game-winner sent UNC to its fourth straight ACC loss and 12th in total–more than any other team in the conference except for Virginia Tech, which entered Sunday with 17.

Up Next:

The Tar Heels will return home to Boshamer Stadium for a non-conference battle against UNC-Wilmington on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Riley’s ninth-inning double was the only extra-base hit UNC had during the game.
  • Will Craig’s 13 home runs for Wake Forest this season are more than Tyler Ramirez (seven) and Eli Sutherland (four)–the top two men on UNC’s list this year–have combined for.
  • Not one time during the game Sunday did UNC have a man on third base with less than two outs.





UNC Baseball Continues to Slide, Drops Series to Wake Forest

The late season free-fall continued on Saturday for the No. 17 UNC baseball team.

For the second straight outing the Tar Heels lost in Winston Salem to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons–this one by a score of 5-4–putting the team two games below .500 in ACC play.

Now sitting at 26-14 this season (9-11 ACC) after an 18-2 start, the Tar Heels find themselves in real danger of missing out on postseason play.

Freshman catcher Logan Harvey put the Demon Deacons (25-17, 9-11 ACC) out in front with a two-run double off UNC starter JB Bukauskas in the bottom of the fourth inning, as the home team was able to hang on to a close lead for the majority of the game.

Just a day removed from leading his team to victory at the plate, Wake Forest junior Will Craig struck out four times against Bukauskas, but pitched the last two innings to pick up the win on the mound.

JB Bukauskas wasn't able to carry the Tar Heels to victory against Wake Forest on Saturday. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

JB Bukauskas wasn’t able to carry the Tar Heels to victory against Wake Forest on Saturday. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Craig ran into trouble late when he allowed UNC center fielder Tyler Ramirez to make it a 5-4 game with a one-out, RBI single in the ninth, however he recovered to retire Logan Warmoth and Brandon Riley to end the game with the tying run on base.

Brian Miller, the Tar Heel lead-off man, again led the way on offense for head coach Mike Fox–going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs.

For a brief moment it appeared as if UNC wouldn’t need the rest of the lineup to start hitting.

After taking over for reliever Donnie Sellers with the bases loaded in the seventh, Craig walked Miller and Ramirez–tying the game at 3-3.

Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, they met the same fate in the bottom half of the frame. Hansen Butler walked Wake Forest’s Johnny Aiello with two outs and the bags full–handing over the lead for good.

The Demon Deacons added an insurance run in the eighth on a single by Kevin Conway, which proved to be the difference.

Up Next:

UNC will look to prevent a surprising sweep on Sunday, with first pitch set for 1 p.m. Jason Morgan, the 6-foot-6 righty.

Game Notes:

  • Bukauskas was pulled with one out in the sixth inning after having thrown 106 pitches for the Tar Heels. The ACC leader in strikeouts entering the weekend, he struck out seven Demon Deacons on Saturday.
  • Logan Warmoth, Brandon Riley, and Eli Sutherland–UNC’s 3, 4, and 5 hitters–went a combined 1-for-13 in the game.
  • UNC had just seven hits in the game.




Craig Leads Wake Forest Past Gallen, No. 17 UNC Baseball to Open Series

When it comes to the best hitters in college baseball, you won’t find many better than Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig.

The ACC leader in batting average and RBIs, Craig sparked the Demon Deacons to a 6-1 win on Friday in their series opener with the No. 17 Tar Heels.

Zac Gallen–one of the ACC’s top pitchers–gave up just five hits in 6.2 innings on the mound for UNC, but it was Craig who shined brightest in the battle between the two stars.

Zac Gallen was solid on the mound for UNC on Friday, but didn't get the run support necessary to get a win. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Zac Gallen was solid on the mound for UNC on Friday, but didn’t get the run support necessary to get a win. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

A 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound junior from Johnson City, Tennessee, Craig put Wake Forest (24-17, 8-11 ACC) ahead with an RBI single against Gallen in the first inning, scored a run in the fourth after reaching base on a walk, then sent his 12th home run of the season over the wall in left center to lead off the sixth.

He also walked in his fourth, and final, plate appearance of the night–keeping his average at a staggering .455.

The Tar Heels (26-13, 9-10 ACC) continued their inconsistency at the plate, picking up just a single run on six hits–two days after scoring 17 runs in a rout over William & Mary.

Parker Dunshee continually pitched to contact all night for the Demon Deacons, but managed to hold UNC scoreless for seven innings, before finally allowing the Tar Heels to scrape one across in the eighth on an RBI groundout from Brian Miller.

Miller, a sophomore from Raleigh, led the Tar Heels offensively, going 2-for-4 with a double. He was the only UNC player to reach base more than once, as the entire team failed to see ball four at all during the game.

Brian Miller had two hits for UNC, which failed to draw a single walk against Wake Forest. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Brian Miller had two hits for UNC, which failed to draw a single walk against Wake Forest. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Facing reliever Brett Daniels in their half of the eighth, Wake Forest added a fourth run when Daniels walked Jonathan Pryor with two outs and the bases loaded.

A single by freshman catcher Logan Harvey in the next at-bat brought home two more–all but ensuring the Tar Heels would come up short in conference play yet again.

After falling below .500 in the conference standings, UNC has one month–and 11 ACC more games–to show it can regain the consistency that carried it through the early portion of the year.

That’s easier said than done, though, against players as dominant as Craig and a league as dominant as the ACC–which has had as many as eight teams ranked in the Top 25 this season.

Up Next:

UNC and Wake Forest will play the second game of the three-game series on Saturday, with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • With runners on base, the Tar Heels went just 1-for-13, despite the lead-off man reaching on four occasions.
  • Craig’s 12 home runs put him second in the ACC behind only Clemson freshman Seth Beer, who entered Friday with 14.
  • Gallen fell to 4-4 this season for UNC after suffering his second straight loss.




No. 2 Tar Heels Sleepwalk Past Wake Forest, 83-68

Without playing anywhere close to its potential on Wednesday night, the No. 2 UNC men’s basketball team still managed an 83-68 win at the Smith Center over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

The Tar Heels have now won 10 games in a row—and could return to No. 1 next week—even though their brightest star, senior guard Marcus Paige, finds himself mired in the biggest slump of his career.

In the past three games—all of which have come after he got his first haircut of the season—Paige has scored a total of just eight points, including two on Wednesday, and has made only three of his last 25 shots.

Despite Paige’s struggles, his roommate–Brice Johnson—answered the bell against Wake Forest with 27 points and 11 rebounds–lifting the team’s record to 17-2 overall and 6-0 in the ACC.

Brice Johnson's 27 points and 11 rebounds led the way for the Tar Heels, who now have a chance to return to No. 1. (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson’s 27 points and 11 rebounds led the way for the Tar Heels, who now have a chance to return to No. 1. (Todd Melet)

Johnson was the only UNC player to reach double figures for head coach Roy Williams in a sloppy game that saw the Tar Heels build a 16-point halftime lead, before poor defense allowed the Demon Deacons– now 10-8 with a 1-5 mark in conference play–to stick around.

“We won,” Williams said after the game, following it with a sarcastic chuckle. “I’m as happy as I can possibly be. It wasn’t very pretty.

“Wake struggled, and so did we.”

What’s telling about the Tar Heels’ ability to win games by double digits without Paige producing as he normally does, is that they’re showing how consistent they can be no matter who scores the points.

If that’s the case now, and a double-digit win can be viewed in a negative light, then certainly nobody will want to face UNC when Paige gets it together and everything’s clicking.

Just don’t ask Williams when that will be, because his guess is as good as yours.

“I’ve never had a player in 28 years as a head coach that I’ve got more confidence in than Marcus [Paige],” Williams said.

“So I’m gonna go get a crystal ball, put a wig on, and get some incense.” he continued. “Is that what it is? That smoke stuff? And then chant something to see if I can figure it out.”

It wasn’t just Paige that had an off-night though. The Tar Heels shot just 38 percent as a team, their second worst performance of the season—with the last game against NC State being the worst. They also allowed Wake Forest to make 13 layups in a second half in which they shot just 26 percent themselves.

Sophomore guard Joel Berry, who was UNC’s second leading scorer with nine points, explained to reporters how that happened.

“I mean, we were up 20,” Berry said. “And so we thought we had the game coming into the second half. They just kept playing.

“They didnt get it too close, but we could get another team that could get on a roll and we won’t be able to stop ‘em.”

Wake Forest continually got to the rim for easy buckets throughout the second half, which they won 38-37. (Todd Melet)

Wake Forest continually got to the rim for easy buckets throughout the second half, which they won 38-37. (Todd Melet)

After top-ranked Oklahoma lost to Iowa State on Monday, the door is now open for the Tar Heels to return to the top spot in the rankings for the first time since late November. All they need to do is defeat Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on Sunday and they’ll be back atop the mountain.

To reach that point, there’s still plenty of room for improvement—which is scary given the way this team has been able to win convincingly while turning in a few sub-par performances.

“We have all the pieces that we need,” Berry said. “We just have to play to our potential, and not take it easy on anyone.

“I think once we get to that point–and we start buckling down on the defensive end—I think that’ll just take us to being a greater team.”

With that “should have done more” feeling permeating throughout the locker room, it shouldn’t be a shock to hear that Williams was in touch with his inner Mick Jagger as he got ready to leave the arena.

“Satisfaction is not part of my language right now,” the coach said before pausing for a second.

“Nowhere. No. Not even close”

Up Next:

UNC will play four of its next five games away from home, starting with this Sunday’s contest at Virginia Tech, who is 12-7 right now with a 4-2 mark in the ACC.

Game Notes:

  • This is the ninth time in Roy Williams’s tenure as UNC’s head coach that the Tar Heels have won at least 10 games in a row.
  • It was the first time UNC has had only one player in double figures (Johnson) since a loss vs. Miami on 1/8/14 (James Michael McAdoo).
  • Isaiah Hicks had a career-high nine rebounds.
  • Paige has never gone scoreless in a game during his UNC career. He has now scored two points on six separate occasions (the first five were during his freshman year).




Follow @averytrendel and @WCHLChapelboro for updates on the team all season long


UNC Overcomes Sloppy Start to Smash Wake Forest 50-14

Over the past seventeen seasons, each since 1997, one thing has remained the same in the UNC football program. The team has been unable to win its first two conference games during any of those years.

On Saturday night the 18th time proved to be the charm, as the Tar Heels overcame a sloppy first quarter at Kenan Stadium to defeat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons by a score of 50-14.

Five straight wins, including the first two ACC games, has UNC sitting in unfamiliar territory. Now at 5-1 (2-0 ACC), the Tar Heels still control their own destiny within the ACC Coastal Division, tied with Duke and Pittsburgh atop the standings.

Wake Forest drops to 3-4 overall with a 1-3 record in conference play after the loss.

“Our guys are playing well right now, they feel good about themselves as a team,” UNC Head Coach Larry Fedora said after the game. “The chemistry, the love that they have for each other–it’s fun to coach this team.”

Mack Hollins goes up for the second of his three touchdown catches. (UNC Athletics)

Mack Hollins goes up for the second of his three touchdown catches. (UNC Athletics)

Junior wide receiver Mack Hollins caught three passes in the game, all of them for touchdowns. His scores came on plays of 57, 4, and 42 yards.

“When I catch the ball I want to score, because it might mess up my yards per catch [if I don’t],” Hollins said with a laugh afterwards. “As a receiver that’s what you should do, and if you talk to [any other receiver on the team] they’ll say the same thing. When you catch the ball you might not get another opportunity to get it.”

At quarterback, senior Marquise Williams struggled early, throwing two interceptions on the Tar Heels’ first two offensive possessions, including one that was deflected by a defender. But he recovered for a solid performance–completing 14-of-20 passes for 282 yards and three scores, while also running the ball 12 times for 59 yards and another touchdown.

“Nothing you can do when you’re getting a ball batted down,” Williams said about the slow start. “If the defense is gonna bat the ball down, then that’s nothing. You can’t control that. [I said] ‘Let’s go out and let’s go answer.’  And we answered real quick. That’s the thing, just answer and come back, and keep answering and keep answering.

“This team is more of a family, more of a bonded team,” he added. “Nobody’s pointing fingers.”

The Demon Deacons were also completely helpless trying to stop UNC’s wrecking ball of a tailback, sophomore Elijah Hood.

Hood carried the ball just 8 times, but still picked up 101 yards and a touchdown while also catching two passes for 19 yards.

Sophomore quarterback John Wolford led Wake Forest offensively, completing 16-of-22 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns–but had to come out of the game on two separate occasions due to minor injuries.

Overall the Demon Deacons picked up just 310 total yards, compared to UNC’s 538.

At the end of the first quarter Wake Forest led 7-0, but 29 second quarter points helped the Tar Heels turn this into a blowout.

Marquise Williams recovered strong after throwing back-to-back interceptions to begin the game. (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams recovered strong after throwing back-to-back interceptions to begin the game. (UNC Athletics)

On just the fourth play of the night, Williams dropped back and looked for senior Quinshad Davis deep down the field. However, on what appeared to be a miscommunication of some type, Davis stopped running. The ball was then picked off by Wake Forest defensive back Brad Watson.

After Demon Deacon kicker Mike Weaver missed wide right on a 47-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing possession, Williams again met a similar fate.

With the ball on his own 30-yard-line, Williams was picked off for the second time in less than five minutes of game time. His pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Marquel Lee, then found the hands of Demetrius Kemp–forcing fans at Kenan Stadium to collectively hold their breath.

This time the Demon Deacons capitalized on the short field, driving down the field in five plays. A 1-yard touchdown pass from Wolford to Cam Serigne gave Wake Forest the first touchdown of the game–a strange sight considering its 3-0 victory over Boston College a week ago.

But with the end of the first quarter came the end of Wake’s luck.

Beginning the second quarter back on their own 30-yard-line, the Tar Heels finally put their offense in gear. Williams wasted no time looking down field for a streaking Mack Hollins, who reeled in a 57-yard rainbow for a touchdown–tying the game 7-7.

Wake’s first play following UNC’s touchdown also resulted in disaster. A fumble by tailback Tyler Bell was recovered by Tar Heel linebacker Jeff Schoettmer at the Demon Deacons’ 34-yard-line.

Four plays later, Williams was running the ball back into the end zone from 13 yards out, firmly shifting momentum over to UNC.

A Wake Forest three-and-out then gave the Tar Heels a chance to release the beast, as Hood rumbled for a 65 yards–including a 36-yard touchdown–on two carries.

Just like that, the Tar Heels were up 22-7 less than five minutes into the second quarter–thanks to a successful two point conversion.

The big plays weren’t done there either.

Following a methodical 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive by the Demon Deacons, Williams found sophomore receiver Austin Proehl for a 61-yard catch-and-run screen pass. A 1-yard touchdown run from TJ Logan came after, handing UNC a 29-14 halftime lead.

A small bit of controversy erupted early in the third quarter after Wake Forest was forced to punt on the half’s opening drive.

Austin Proehl caught 2 passes for 94 yards against his father's alma mater. (UNC Athletics)

Austin Proehl caught 2 passes for 94 yards against his father’s alma mater. (UNC Athletics)

Tar Heel return man Ryan Switzer brought the punt back 70 yards to the 1-yard-line, but had it wiped out due to penalty when the referee said he signaled for a fair catch–even though replays showed otherwise.

As UNC went three-and-out on offense after the penalty call, the home crowd serenaded the officials with loud boos, which lasted for close to six minutes of game time.

By the end of the quarter, those boos had all transformed into cheers. After a 33-yard scamper by Williams brought UNC into the red zone, he found Hollins two plays later in the back of the end zone for a bobbling 4-yard touchdown to give the Tar Heels a commanding 22-point lead.

Hollins again found pay dirt early in the fourth quarter as he caught another deep pass, then made a slick cut past the defense to pick up his third score of the night.

That spelled the end of the night for the UNC starters, as Mitch Trubisky replaced Williams at quarterback for the remainder of the game–scoring a 10-yard rushing touchdown before running the clock out on the Tar Heels’ first 2-0 ACC start since 1997.

“Coach Fedora talks about it all the time,” Proehl said about the statistic. “We talk about it as a team all the time, even though it doesn’t get out to the media. We know we have a special group of guys here right now that are feeding off each other, that are working together to be good–to be great.

“We don’t wanna stop,” he continued. “I think that’s the biggest part about us right now. We don’t wanna stop.”

Up Next:

UNC will remain at home next weekend for another ACC game, as they play host to the 2-4 (1-1 ACC)Virginia Cavaliers, who are coming off a wild 44-38 overtime victory over Syracuse.

Game Notes:

  • Senior cornerback Malik Simmons, suspended for the season’s first two games due to a pair of misdemeanor charges, started in place of sophomore MJ Stewart, who was suspended indefinitely earlier in the week for an assault charge relating to an October 4th incident.
  • Marquise Williams has now been responsible for 76 touchdowns in his career (passing, rushing, and receiving). The school record is 79 held by former quarterback Darian Durant (2001-2004).
  • So far in 2015, 20 of UNC’s 30 touchdown drives have taken less than two minutes.
  • Sophomore Austin Proehl, who caught a 61-yard pass in the second quarter for UNC, is the son of long time NFL receiver Ricky Proehl–the all-time leading receiver in Wake Forest history.

Style Clash: High-Powered UNC Offense Meets Stingy Wake Forest Defense

When UNC and Wake Forest meet on the gridiron this Saturday night at Kenan Stadium an old, tired cliché will ring true. An unstoppable force—the Tar Heel offense—will collide with an immovable object—the Demon Deacon defense.

“They’re gonna fight you all the way to the end,” UNC Head Coach Larry Fedora said about Wake Forest. “There’s no doubt about it. They’re really good on defense. I mean, they’re 15th in the country in total defense right now.”

Allowing just 296 yards per game, the Demon Deacons are 3-3 (1-2 ACC) coming off a grind-it-out 3-0 victory over Boston College last week.

The Tar Heel running backs will have a tougher time finding lanes this week. (UNC Athletics)

The Tar Heel running backs will have a tougher time finding lanes this week. (UNC Athletics)

Compare that to UNC, which has built a record of 4-1 (1-0 ACC)—the best start under head coach Larry Fedora–by scoring an average of 39 points an outing–good enough for the 17th best mark in the country. Given those numbers, a stylistic clash will be on full display Saturday night in primetime.

“Being in a close game doesn’t scare them,” Fedora said. “They don’t care if they win 3-0, or whatever it is. We know it’s gonna be a dang battle.”

The Tar Heels will almost certainly need another dynamite performance from senior quarterback Marquise Williams like the one he put on against Georgia Tech with over 300 yards of total offense and three touchdowns—if they are going to get past the stingy Wake defense.

That gritty performance came directly after his starting job was put in jeopardy, showing his teammates—like senior receiver Quinshad Davis—that he’s the right man to lead this squad into the heart of the season.

“They gonna love us when we’re good, they gonna hate us when we’re down—that’s with anything in life,” Davis said after practice on Tuesday. “So we just tell [Williams], ‘Keep the confidence, don’t worry about the extended family. Worry about our immediate family, and we gonna get the job done on Saturday”

For Williams to provide that kind of production he’ll have to find a way to move the ball efficiently. UNC offensive coordinator Seth Littrell says that his group will need to be patient as they work their way down the field—pointing to one key in particular.

“Once you get the first first down, then you can get into a little bit of rhythm,” Littrell said. “As we go, that’s the most important thing. It’s all about getting that first first down and moving the chains for that first time, because then everything kinda opens up and you can get a defense back on their heels a little bit.”

Kendall Hinton #2 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons drops back to pass against the Indiana Hoosiers at BB&T Field on September 26, 2015 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Indiana defeated Wake Forest 31-24. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Kendall Hinton #2 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons drops back to pass. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

On the other side of the ball the Tar Heel defense will have to look out for the possibility of two quarterbacks playing for Wake Forest.

Freshman Kendall Hinton, a local product out of Southern Durham High School who wears number two, and sophomore John Wolford, who wears number 10, have traded the job back-and-forth this season—meaning senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer and the rest of the gang will have to be ready for anything.

“They have some similar schemes as Delaware and South Carolina, so we’re pretty comfortable with that,” Schoettmer said. “Number two [Hinton], the freshman, he’s more of a mobile quarterback—he runs the zone read. Number ten [Wolford] started the last game. He’s more the pocket passer, capable runner, but not as much as [Hinton].

“So we’ll have to prepare for both of them obviously,” he continued. “We don’t know who’s gonna start. Or play more.”

Regardless of which quarterback starts, Schoettmer wants the defense to play at the same level as its counterparts. In a game between two in-state rivals, it could come down to which team puts together the most complete game—offensively and defensively.

“A 3-0 game [last week] shows they have a great defense,” Schoettmer said. “So we’d like to be able to match that ourselves. Anytime a defense can hold a team to zero points that’s saying something huge. Especially an ACC opponent.

“We understand they’re a very capable team, and we’re excited for the opportunity.”


‘Road Warrior’ Tar Heels Easily Top Deacs

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team used a blistering offense to cruise past Wake Forest  , 87-71, inside Joel Coliseum Wednesday evening. The Tar Heels improved to 15-4 overall and 5-1 in ACC play.

With the loss, the Demon Deacons dropped to 9-10 overall and a 1-5 mark in league action.

***Listen to the story***

Kennedy Meeks meets J.P. Tokoto (Todd Melet)

Kennedy Meeks meets J.P. Tokoto (Todd Melet)

The Tar Heels shot a season-high 60 percent from the floor to stifle any hopes for an upset bid. For the first time since the 2007-08 season, Carolina begins the ACC campaign with a 3-0 road record.

But maybe most encouraging for UNC head coach Roy Williams was the physicality displayed  by his team in finishing baskets. The Tar Heels owned a commanding 50-26 edge in points in the paint.

“It was a weird night for us. We were a little low on personnel. We lose Theo [Pinson] and then at the end, lose Nate [Britt] too. Justin [Jackson] I think played the entire second half. I think Marcus [Paige] may have played the entire second half. We needed them to do some things like that. It’s a tough stretch we’re in,” Coach Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

Brice Johnson with a monster dunk (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson with a monster dunk (Todd Melet)

UNC junior forward Brice Johnson turned in an impressive performance, leading the Tar Heels in scoring with 19 points on a sharp 8-11 shooting. And despite getting into foul trouble early, UNC sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks continued to battle, closing with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Wake Forest’s Codi Miller-McIntyre led all scorers with 20 points and also tossed in six rebounds and six assists.

Not all the news was positive for Carolina. Freshman talent Theo Pinson went down with a bruised left foot and did not return to the game. Nate Britt also got banged up Wednesday night. Pinson and Britt join a laundry list of injured Tar Heels, including Joel Berry, Stilman White and Luke Davis.

The first half established the physical nature of the contest. A bruising battle for the boards resulted in Meeks picking up his fourth foul a few minutes before halftime.

The nip-and-tuck nature of the first 20 minutes of play saw the Tar Heels unable to establish more than a six-point lead at any stage – it just so happened the largest margin came at the halftime buzzer.

Tokoto extends for the slam (Todd Melet)

Tokoto extends for the slam (Todd Melet)

At intermission, the upset-minded Deacons trailed the Tar Heels 40-34.

The Tar Heels must have received a pointed locker room speech from Coach Williams. UNC started the second half on a torrid pace, making seven of the first eight shot attempts to establish a 54-40 advantage with 15:15 to play.

UNC’s offense was in full flow to the finish line, consistently knocking down shots against the Wake Forest zone defense.

Next up for the surging Tar Heels are the Seminoles of Florida State. FSU will visit Chapel Hill for a 2 p.m. tipoff Saturday in the Smith Center.



Carolina Set To Clash With Wake Forest In Winston-Salem

The No. 15 North Carolina men’s basketball team, 14-4 on the season and 4-1 in conference, will aim for its fourth ACC win in a row Wednesday evening inside Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem.

Meanwhile, the upset-minded Wake Forest Demon Deacons, sitting at a 9-9 mark overall and a 1-4 record in league play, will be hoping to topple the Tar Heels.

***Listen to the story***

The Tar Heel road warriors will be searching for a 3-0 start in ACC enemy territory for the first time since the 2007-08 season. That year, Carolina burst out to an 8-0 league road record.

UNC head coach Roy Williams’ teams have historically been strong in hostile environments, sporting a 60-32 ACC road record in 12 seasons under the Hall of Famer.

Justin Jackson will be looking for another solid performance Wednesday night (Todd Melet)

Justin Jackson will be looking for another solid performance Wednesday night (Todd Melet)

But for the Carolina skipper, there’s a lot to work on with this year’s squad. For starters, Coach Williams says the Tar Heels need to play more consistent defensively and make better use of their size advantage to get to the foul line with tough, physical play in the paint.

“We’ve got to get a heck of a lot better on the defensive end of the floor. We knew they [Hokies] were going to shoot a lot of threes. They shot 29, but we shot 16 and 13 in the first half. If you look at the stat sheet in the first half, we shot zero free throws. That’s not the way a North Carolina team is supposed to play,” Coach Williams says.

In an encouraging sign for Carolina, the freshmen appear to be making strides.

Freshman Justin Jackson led UNC in scoring with 16 points last time out, but Jackson says the Tar Heels need to do a better job dictating the pace, which in signature Roy Williams style, means turning the game into a track meet.

“We love to run. We have so many athletic guys who can get out on the wings and run. Whenever we just have to score in the half court, it gets slowed down and can definitely get to you,” Jackson says.

UNC will need to keep an eye on Wake Forest’s junior big man Devin Thomas, who’s averaging 12.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

Devin Thomas is a difference maker for the Deacs (Vebidoo.com)

Devin Thomas is a difference maker for the Deacs (Vebidoo.com)

The battle on the boards should be something to watch for in this contest. The Deacons can hold their own in the rebounding department, ranking 15th in the nation, while the Tar Heels check in at No. 2 with 44.3 rebounds per contest.

But the team’s energy level is what sophomore forward Isaiah Hicks is choosing to focus on, if nothing else, because the coaching staff gets pretty angry with any sort of lethargy.

“It took us a while to get into it. I know that’s what really pisses the coaches off. They talked to us last year about coming out with energy and playing from the beginning – that’s something we have to do every game no matter what,” Hicks says.

The Deacons should be rested and raring to go with over a week of practice time since their last call to action – a heartbreaking overtime loss at Syracuse.

On the other hand, the Tar Heels should be motivated to produce a much cleaner performance following a sloppy, turnover-filled battle with Virginia Tech Sunday that had Coach Williams none too pleased.

“I don’t think we’re a stupid team, but every team plays stupid sometimes,” Coach Williams says.

UNC leads the all-time series with Wake Forest 156-66, but the Demon Deacons surprised the Tar Heels just last year with a 73-67 victory in the comfy confines of Joel Coliseum – always a tricky place to play.


Pivotal ACC Series For Tar Heels As Demon Deacons Invade Chapel Hill

The No. 29 North Carolina baseball team, 19-14 on the year and 7-8 in conference, faces a tough weekend series challenge starting Friday from Wake Forest, 22-13 overall and 10-5 in ACC play.

The Tar Heels are coming off a disappointing 3-2 loss in extra innings to Coastal Carolina Wednesday while the Demon Deacons fell to UNC-Greensboro 4-2 in a midweek contest.

Sophomore slinger Trent Thornton will be looking to continue his fine form on the mound this season, but Carolina’s bats will likely decide the series. The Tar Heels only managed two runs, both in the first inning, Wednesday against the Chanticleers.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Wake Forest 95-73-1. The Demon Deacons are searching for their first series win in Chapel Hill since 2001.

First pitch for game one is slated for 7 p.m. Friday. Game two on Saturday will commence at 6 p.m. while the series finale gets underway at 1 p.m. Sunday.


ACC Tourney: Thursday Thoughts (Pt. I)

It’s starting to get serious over here in Greensboro. Here are my quick reactions so far:

GAME ONE: #8 Maryland vs. #9 Florida State

I strolled into the Greensboro Coliseum for an interesting matchup between the Terps and Noles. I was impressed with the Maryland contingent. They were vocal and you could sense their fans were desperate not to leave their final ACC Tournament without a victory.

Everybody else…they wanted nothing more than to see Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles crush the ACC traitors and give them a rude parting gift out the door. ACC purists, including many seated next to me in press row, were licking their chops at the possibility of a Maryland loss.

All in all, it was a competitive first half, however sloppy. Maryland’s Allen tallied 13 points. The Terps held the 34-32 edge. Both teams were shooting at a 43-percent clip from the floor.

Okaro White stepped up with an athletic block that resulted in a sprint to the basket in the other end. There’s no questioning the athleticism of the Seminoles – and their cheerleaders, oh my! But that’s another story for another day.

There were some great spikes in this one. It seemed like a volleyball match at time out there on the court. Mark Turgeon was his usual disgusted self on the sidelines for the Terps. I must say, I’ll miss his sour looks when he departs for the Big Ten next year.

Florida State was smartly getting out on the perimeter, limiting the Maryland three-point shots to perfection and forcing the drive inside – right into the Seminole wheelhouse.

Ian Miller and Thomas were both solid scoring options for Florida State. Dez Wells was doing his best to keep the Terps in the contest. But ultimately, it was the farewell party Maryland never wanted – falling on a last second Bojo dunk. Bojo, the Turtle Slayer!

FINAL: FSU 67 – MD 65


GAME TWO: #5 Pitt vs. #12 Wake Forest

There would be no slow start for Pitt in this one. The Panthers got off to a roaring start – 15-5 with 14:32 to play.

It was a heavy dose of Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna for the Panthers. Tyler Cavanaugh sniping three-pointers is a necessary ingredient to the Demon Deacons. And speaking of Demon Deacons, their mascot has some sick dance moves!

Wake Forest’s players, however, were not quite as enthusiastic as the mascot and cheerleaders. They seemed lethargic, sluggishly getting back on defense and not running solid offense.

Zanna and Patterson duo were proving too much for the Deac defense to handle. At the intermission, the Panthers held the 39-25 lead.
It was an epic halftime show. The mascots of all the ACC teams took over the floor and put on a zany, entertaining display of hoops. The Pitt dance team wasn’t too bad either.

The pace definitely quickened in the second half of play. The energy was ratcheted up for both squads, but again, Patterson was still Patterson. And his speciality was shredding the Demon Deacon defense.

The game got uglier and uglier by the minute, with Wake trailing by as many as 26 points midway through the second half. Head Coach Bzdelik’s funeral procession had begun.

Things got so out of hand that the fans all left for early happy hour and dinner. You could hear individual shouts from the crowd. Patterson finished with 24 points and sat the bench the final minutes.

In the end, Pitt advanced seamlessly on to the quarterfinals and a date with North Carolina.

FINAL: Pitt 84 – Wake Forest 55