Off the cuff: The season has gone South in a hurry for the Tar Heels after they dropped the fifth of their last seven games. North Carolina didn't look bad in losses to Pitt and Duke, and were impressive in a win over Georgia Tech. But this game makes one wonder how far this team can go.
Perhaps a lot of it is attributed to NC State making the game ugly with a slow-down offense. Carolina couldn't get into the tempo it wanted except during the run in the second half that cut a 16-point deficit to two with plenty of time left.
The Tar Heels were cookin' with gas as they scored on nine straight possessions.
But a couple of unforced turnovers and a couple of bad shots and a couple of bad shot selections, and the window to take the lead was gone.
As a result, the Tar Heels dropped their fourth loss at home this season.
UNC coach Roy Williams had challenged the crowd after he criticized them for being lackadaisical all year.
"I hate it for our crowd. God almighty, they were good," he said.
The game was winnable as State could only hit 35 percent from the floor. But the deliberate play and the good defense against the Heels was good enough on this night.
The Tar Heels can beat anybody - well, anybody who doesn't keep them from playing up tempo. But they are starting to look like a team that will go down early in the ACC tourney and early in the NCAA tourney.
There is still time to turn things around as the Heels travel to Miami and Georgia Tech before hosting Duke in a revenge game in the regular season finale.
Let's be honest, holding the ball for 14 seconds before scoring isn't exactly the Four Corners of old. But it was a nice gesture.
Unfortunately, it happened so quickly that I'm not sure everybody was keyed into it. As a result, it sounds as if Coach Roy Williams wasn't real happy with the response from the crowd.
Based on the subdued crowd reaction, he thinks a lot of people didn't recognize what he was doing.
While there are probably a lot of newcomers to Carolina basketball in the 18 years since Coach Smith retired, I tend to think that even those who recognized it were emotional themselves about it. It might have been more of a melancholy moment for them rather than a rah-rah moment.
Regardless, it did get Coach Williams on his soapbox about Carolina's home crowd not being as loud and supportive as he'd like this season.
He says when he coaches on the road, his players have to read his lips but that they hear him fine at home.
He said "we're in this together" and that the Tar Heels need some help from the home crowd. He thinks some fans are simply there to be entertained instead of being part of it all.
Frankly, Tar Heel fans are knowledgable and they know when to be loud. Yelling for the sake of yelling and creating some imaginary chaos is often futile and annoying.
Yes, the home crowd needs to be more engaged but I'd give them a pass on a day when they are paying tribute to Dean Smith - and beating a losing team by 30 points.
One thing is almost certain - the Tar Heel faithful will have the Smith Center rocking Tuesday night against rival NC State.
NCSU holds Heels to fewest points in CH After getting out to a 16-point lead, a deliberate North Carolina State withstood a 12-0 North Carolina run to win in Chapel Hill for the first time since 2003 by a 58-46 score. (2/24)
"They dominated from the get-go," UNC coach Roy Williams said of the Wolfpack, who never trailed after falling behind 2-0. "Our crowd was fantastic and our team and our coach let 'em down."
The 46 points were the fewest the Tar Heels have ever scored at the Smith Center.
State's defense held Carolina to 34.5 percent from the floor as Beejay Anya blocked six Tar Heel shots.
Offensively, the Wolfpack held the ball until late in the shot clock and, despite shooting just 35 percent, drained seven three-pointers. State hit four threes in the first half to take a 29-18 halftime lead.
The Pack got the lead up to 16 following a three by Ralston Turner early in the second half. But then the Tar Heels seemed to wake up with a 12-0 run.
Two buckets by UNC's Justin Jackson cut the margin to 12. After a State timeout, a couple of nifty assists by Marcus Paige and Jackson cut the lead to eight and precipitated another State timeout.
But the run continued for the Heels. After a Jackson steal, Paige dove and passed to Jackson for a fastbreak layup. Then Paige whipped a pass to Kennedy Meeks to cut the lead to four at 36-32 as State called its third timeout of the half.
A Meeks follow shot cut the lead to 38-36 with 11:04 left in the game.
But State's Turner drilled a three and, following a Carolina turnover, he went in for a fastbreak layup as the Pack weathered the storm to lead 43-36.
The Tar Heels cut the margin to four twice, the last time after a Paige three made it 50-46 with 2:33 to go.
But Carolina seemed to lose its poise with turnovers and bad shots while State was scoring the final eight points of the game to earn the 12-point victory.
"They made a run - we knew it was coming," Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. "The rafters were shaking and our guys answered the run." He said he was extremely proud of his team, particularly defensively.
Coach Williams said while his players made a nice run, they had no poise late in the game. Lazy passes, bad shot selection and simply poor execution of plays doomed the Heels.
"The last three or four minutes we looked like a team that's never had a practice," Williams said.
Jackson led the Tar Heels with 16 points while Meeks had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Anthony Barber led NC State, now 17-11 and 8-7 in the league, with 15 points. Turner and Trevor Lacey added 14 each.
The Tar Heels, who play at Miami Saturday, fall to 19-9 overall and 9-6 in the ACC.
Heels impressive in emotional rout of GT North Carolina coach Roy Williams had tears in his eyes as he called Four Corners to begin the game against Georgia Tech in tribute to former Coach Dean Smith. The slow-down offense resulted in a bucket and the Tar Heels went into uptempo the rest of the way in an 89-60 rout. (2/21)
The Tar Heels bounced back from a disappointing loss at Duke with an impressive victory that included six men in double figures, along with the Heels shooting a season-high 62 percent from the floor.
"We got the ball up and down the court at a speed we like," Williams said. "They ran into us on a good day, a good day for us."
It was the first home game since Coach Smith's death and Williams came up with the idea of starting the game in the Four Corners. "It's something I've been thinking about a long time," he said. "I wanted to do something that would mean a great deal to him and a great deal to me."
It meant even more that the Tar Heels scored on the play. Coach Smith liked to say that the Four Corners was designed as a way to score.
Coach Williams noted that the oldest player on his team was only about 3 when Coach Smith retired from coaching. But the players have learned a great deal about how much Coach Smith meant to so many.
"It was a last way to honor Coach Smith," UNC guard Marcus Paige said. "I was probably the most nervous I've ever been because I knew I would be the ball handler in the middle. I didn't want anything to go wrong."
Paige said he was relieved when Brice Johnson cleanly got his backdoor pass and put it through the hoop.
Carolina got out to a 7-0 lead and worked the lead up to double digits early at 17-7.
The Tar Heels had a lot of success getting the ball down low with 26 points in the paint to work the lead up to a 43-29 at the halftime.
Any thoughts that the Yellow Jackets could come back were squelched in the first three minutes of the second half as the Heels went on a 21-1 run. Johnson had six points during the stretch that extended the Carolina lead to 25 at 55-30.
A two-handed power dunk by Isaiah Hicks gave the Heels their largest lead up to that point at 78-42 with 8:26 to go. Less than two minutes later, Hicks took a pass from Justin Jackson to give the Heels their largest lead of the game - 38 points - at 82-44.
Kennedy Meeks led the Tar Heels with 18 points while Johnson had 16. Paige had 13 points, 10 assists and no turnovers while JP Tokoto and Hicks each finished with 12 points. Jackson was the sixth Heel in double figures with 11.
Marcus Georges-Hunt led Georgia Tech, now 12-15, with 15 points.
The Tar Heels, who play at home against NC State Tuesday, improve to 19-8 overall and 9-5 in the ACC.
Heel Prints reviewed each UNC game
As a student sports editor years ago, prior to the season, Clifton Barnes predicted a national championship for the Tar Heels and indeed they won. In fact he wrote his lede paragraph for the national championship game almost a year early. He regrets that he didn't keep a journal after each game. He kept a journal after each game of the 2007-2008 season and you can reach them here. At the request of readers, he has kept up his journal of each game ever since. He also has written about UNC baseball and wrote an analysis after each 2008 UNC football game.
Editor's Note: HeelPrints chronicled the UNC basketball, baseball and football seasons for 2008 and 2009. Since the vast majority of comments I get about the site relate to basketball and since this isn't a paying job for me, I decided to limit my coverage and analysis to basketball. Baseball and football will remain archived and if I have comments or opinions I want to make on those or any other sports at UNC, I will make them here on the front page and then archive them in the corresponding sports section. Thanks for all the positive comments I have received about the site. Should I get sponsorship in the future, I will reconsider adding baseball and football again. Ironically, my favorite sports to watch in person are baseball and football. But my first connections to UNC came from watching Dean Smith's basketball teams on TV or listening to them on the radio in the days before all the games were televised. It should come as no surprise that people pay more attention to the basketball coverage. Thanks for your interest in this site.