This One Hurts in So Many Ways

The extent of my UNC basketball memory is roughly 25 years. It begins with a Tar Heel championship win over Georgetown and runs until a loss over that same team today. Based on these long 25 years I am confident in saying that this is the worst collapse I have ever watched a UNC team produce. When you consider the stage the game was being played on, the stakes and the nagging fact that UNC was in control with a double digit lead only to lose not only the lead but the game, it tops my list as one of the worst tournament losses I can remember. It was surreal watching it unfold and you kept waiting for UNC to get control of the game back, to push the lead back to two possessions and it never happened.


Where did it all go wrong? With 9:56 to go in the game Deon Thompson, who had a sensational game, tipped in a missed Brandan Wright jumper to give UNC an eight point lead at 73-65. Over the next nearly 15 minutes of game play the Heels would only hit two shots from the floor and six free throws. UNC was 2 for 23 from the floor during the final minutes of the game. Some of that is good defense by Georgetown, some of that is poor shot selection and on some level that is just a clear case of a victory that was not meant to be. The shots just stopped falling pure and simple. However, in the bigger picture of what was happening for the Heels offensively, it was also a matter of failing to do the things which had worked for the first 30 minutes. UNC executed their offensive game plan so well up to that point which included a heavy dose of Tyler Hansbrough which also created a lot of foul trouble for Georgetown. With about six minutes to go, UNC veered away from the offensive game plan. Maybe the Hoya zone proved to be confusing for the young Heels but at that point UNC started in on a steady diet of three pointers which came too early in the shot clock and provided zero chance for an offensive rebound. Now on one side of that is the absolute certainty that had any one of those threes gone down it could very well been a dagger in the Hoyas’ season and I am presently talking about UNC heading to the Final Four. Since they did not and since UNC seemed to be engaged in milking the clock while not really taking time off the clock it left the door ajar. From there Georgetown strung together some big shots, seized the momentum, and that was it.

It is painful mainly because the season is a long cycle which seemingly takes forever to unfold and when you are on the verge of a Final Four you want very much to seize upon it. It is painful because unlike some other UNC season ending losses I never felt like the Heels played that badly. Actually I thought they were doing all the right things and the score was reflective of that until that ice cold stretch snatched a Final Four berth from the boys in blue and left Tar Heel Nation with nothing but questions. Such is the way of college basketball and pulling so hard for a team playing in a single elimination tournament.

I am fond of a saying my mother used to quote from her grandfather and that is “What ever will be, will be.” And when you consider that in the past 25 years there have been only two teams to win three national titles, Duke and UNC, you understand that doing so is a rare event. Having your season end at some point in the NCAA Tournament is more of the rule rather than the exception. And by no means does it make it a easier but given it will be eight months before we see the Heels on the court again it would be nice to have them playing as long as possible.

Then again to use the line from that Jimmy Ruffin song my father used to quote when UNC went down, “I’ve passed this way before…”

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21 Responses to This One Hurts in So Many Ways

  1. williamodouglas says:

    With the 35 second clock and the 3 pointer, I think it is hard to call anything under 15 points, a huge collapse. Carolina wiped out that 16 point lead the other night in ten minutes without a single three, due to lay-ups and turn-overs. Here, Georgetown hit at least two three’s and made some excellent shots. I don’t remember many missed free throws or turn-overs. It was like a lid was on the bucket for us, after scoring 80 up to that point.

    We have seen in the past several years, Duke wipe out a 12 point deficit against Maryland in about a minute and Illinois a 15 point deficit in under four minutes. This was not really like that. How many three-pointers did Illinois miss against UNC in the last couple of minutes against Carolina in 2005. They kept missing and the ball kept bouncing right back to them but none of us seemed to find that very strange. Carolina also had a 15 point lead in that game but I don’t recall anyone complaining about losing that lead or calling our performance a collapse, but if Ray Felton had not hit that bad shot for a 3 pointer after they tied us, they probably would have. Some of us are spoiled. Ohio State has not won a title since 1960. Georgetown lost in the last seconds 2 out of 3 years when arguably they deserved to win. We probably deserved to win here but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

    Sometimes things happen. Ask the Yankees in 2004.

  2. williamodouglas says:

    I have tried to tell other Tar Heel fans on other sites complaining about a “collapse” that if they want to see a real “collapse”, take a look at the 2005 team against Illinois. They blew a 15 point lead and then Felton came down and took a questionable 3-pointer, but it swished. Illinois then missed about five or six three’s at the end and we held on to win and nobody talks about the worst collapse in Carolina history, because we won.

    Tonight we know how Illinois felt at the end of that game, even though they had made a bunch earlier, they couldn’t get one to go down at the end. We had several good looks in the last 5 minutes today, but they wouldn’t go down.

    In 1993, Donald Williams couldn’t buy a 3-pointer in the ACC finals and we lost and then he couldn’t miss one in the tournament and we won.(Williams was 10-14 on three’s in the Final Four that year–great coaching, Dean!) The next 2 years, Donald reverted to form and was pretty average on his three’s. There are so many good teams that it takes both skill and luck. Indeed, the last 3 teams to make it to the Final Four with 1 loss or fewer, all lost. (1991 UNLV, 1999 Duke, 2005 Illinois).

  3. Tar Heel Fan says:

    2 for 23 from the floor. Total abandonment of the offensive execution that got them the 10 point lead. It just felt like a collapse because there did not seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. It was honestly like they fell apart and could not hit a shot when they needed it. And because it happened with six minutes left in a regional final it simply magnified it.

  4. tarheelbaby says:

    It hurts too, because now everyone in the media is going to be writing articles on the hows and whys Carolina blew it. To wit, http://msn.foxsports.com/cbk/story/6609762
    I’ve felt in this season Carolina was not respected in the press, and now we’ll get treated to a slew of “I was right all along about the Tar Heels” articles and commentaries.

  5. williamodouglas says:

    Well, sure it hurts. I pulled out some of my Tar Heel books and read the Art Chansky one, Blue Blood about the Carolina comeback from 9 down against Duke in three minutes, from 73-64 and I started feeling better.

    But in 2005, both the Villanova game and the Illinois game were games where they almost lost games in a much worse manner and often a lot of it has to do with luck. Georgetown was lucky to even be in this game. OSU should have gone out twice. Honestly, if you remember the 1998 Utah game, it was similar in that the Heels simply could not make an outside shot, but that time it was pretty much from the beginning and then they got a little better at the end but still lost. No one could explain it–didn’t Shammond Williams go 1-12 from the field? And he was an excellent shooter. That team was probably most similar to this one in that they were very good but had some strange losses during the year and almost lost to UNCC in the tournament, winning in overtime.

  6. 52BigGameJames says:

    THF–if you listen carefully to Ginyard’s remarks, it sounds to me like he’s setting himself up to be the leader of this team next year. That’s imo, what they really lacked this season. It was put on Tyler, but he’s not comfortable being vocal in that role, instead preferring to lead by example (and what an example he gives!). The shot selection and defensive lapses plagued us to a greater or lesser degree all year–they were bound to jump up and bite us sometime. What Ginyard could provide next year, is to verbally blister the players who are guilty of mental and physical lapses (early in the season to break the bad habits). I think Frasor could provide some too, but he needs to keep his house clean to win some cred. Thompson showed some leadership by example yesterday too. We’ll be alright if a true vocal leader will emerge, if not, it will be more of the same underachievement imo

  7. C. Michael says:

    William,

    I agree with the 1998 comparison, save for one, huge difference. In 1998, everyone knew Carter, Jamison would be going to the NBA, so there was more of an urgency, similar to 2005. Lawson said yesterday he is definitely coming back. Tyler said he is 95-100% coming back. Green and Ginyard both said they would be back (as opposed to transfer). Ellington didn’t answer, but no one thinks he’s leaving next year, Wright will likely go, but Alex and Deon showed there won;t be much of a drop-off there, and Frasor should be healthier next year and back to his freshman form. Next year should be fun.

  8. Chuckheel says:

    THF,
    I don’t this was a collapse at all. If you look at Carolina’s seven losses this season and especially the one in Chapel Hill against Va Tech, Carolina went through periods of horrible shot selection.
    Why in the wide , wide world of sports are you shooting three-pointers with 5:00 left and your team up 10 points, when your opponent has two guys inside with 4 fouls?
    BRAINS!!
    Carolina didn’t play like they had one down the stretch, took stupid shots and that is why they are not in the Final Four.

  9. Chris says:

    Hindsight is pretty accurate, but why the Heels decided that the 3 pointer was the only shot they would take in the last 4 minutes confuses me. A quick 3 pointer is probably what Georgetown wanted us to do instead of grinding down the clock, getting inside to Tyler, Thompson, Wright, and get a few foul shots and/or layups. Losing a 10 point lead with 4-5 minutes to go is a very large clock management error.

  10. MDTarheelfan says:

    I think this one hurts so bad is because we up by 10 and having our way with G-town. They couldn’t stop us. Then UNC stopped doing what was working. We were firing up 3s too quickly without even looking inside. We even shot a 3 on the last play of the game. I give G-town alot of credit. They went inside, made shots, bottled up our inside and made a great shot to tie the game. It hurts because for most the game we were the better team and I feel we beat ourselves at the end with poor shot selection. G-town looked like they wanted it more.
    It was a great season and I am looking forward to next year. I have enjoyed anyones insights and will keep checking in.

  11. […] were lazy. Frank Dascenzo is a fturd.  Bill Cole has already moved on to next season. Tar Heel Fan hurts. Adam Lucas reflects.  850 ther buzz has intereviews and more. I deleted […]

  12. Tar Heel alum and fan says:

    It was pretty simple – at the end of the game G’town wanted it more than UNC. You could see their confidence running plays, like they knew they would score. I was a bit confused by Roy Williams’ post-game comments, when he said he too was disappointed with the 3-point shots. Perhaps to counter UNC nervousness, at that point he should have started calling a play every trip down the court. Maybe he did, I don’t know, but it sure looked like UNC players on the court didn’t have a firm idea on what they should be doing, particularly on offense.

  13. tarheelinthecity says:

    Maybe it’s poor form to bring this up one day after but it seems Coach Roy is the elephant in the china room here. I like him, really, I do, but it seems he has a huge history of chokes under pressure. Choked all the time in the Big Dance as Kansas coach – most spectacularly when Jayhawks got whopped in the Final by a much less able Syracuse (that choke lasted the whole game as I recall). This year, everyone wondered about whether the frosh were up to the psychological pressure – but I think it’s old Roy who cracks under pressure. And perhaps the only reason he didn’t mess up at the end of the ’05 season was because he had only been with those guys one season and hadn’t gotten all emotionally wrapped up. Sometimes, it just seems that what he says – or the way he says it – during the most important time-outs rattles his players’ nerves or their confidence or just leaves them cold. Got no problem with him crying after the game but he might need to keep a cooler head before it’s over – or designate a deputy to take over when things get tight.

  14. williamodouglas says:

    Lot’s of Tar Heel coaches choke if missing a bunch of shots is choking, but some of you guys know so little about either basketball or statistics that it might not be worth discussing. Here is what Guthridge’s guys did from outside against Utah in the National Semifinal in 1998–they were 3-23.

    3-Point goals–Utah 5-17 (Jensen 1-1, Hansen 1-1, McTavish 1-2, Johnsen 1-2, Mottola 1-4, Doleac 0-1, Jackson 0-1, Caton 0-2, Miller 0-3), North Carolina 3-23 (Carter 1-4, Okulaja 1-5, Sha.Williams 1-9, Jamison 0-1, Cota 0-4)

    UTAH 65, NORTH CAROLINA 59
    UTAH (30-3)
    Mottola 2-9 4-6 9, Jensen 3-4 0-0 7, Doleac 6-11 4-7 16, Miller 7-15 2-7 16, Hansen 1-1 2-2 5, Jackson 0-2 0-0 0, McTavish 1-2 0-0 3, Johnsen 3-7 0-0 7, Caton 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 24-54 12-22 65.
    NORTH CAROLINA (34-4)
    Okulaja 3-8 0-0 7, Jamison 7-19 0-2 14, Ndiaye 0-3 0-2 0, Cota 4-9 0-0 8, Carter 10-16 0-1 21, Sha.Williams 2-12 2-2 7, Haywood 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 27-69 2-7 59.
    Halftime–Utah 35, North Carolina 22. 3-Point goals–Utah 5-17 (Jensen 1-1, Hansen 1-1, McTavish 1-2, Johnsen 1-2, Mottola 1-4, Doleac 0-1, Jackson 0-1, Caton 0-2, Miller 0-3), North Carolina 3-23 (Carter 1-4, Okulaja 1-5, Sha.Williams 1-9, Jamison 0-1, Cota 0-4). Fouled out–Ndiaye. Rebounds–Utah 39 (Miller 14), North Carolina 42 (Jamison 12). Assists–Utah 14 (Miller 7), North Carolina 14 (Cota 7). Total fouls–Utah 15, North Carolina 19. A–40,590.

  15. williamodouglas says:

    Dean Smith was a choker too. Here is what Carolina did vs. Arizona in 1997 in the National Semifinal:

    The Tar Heels shot just 31.1 percent (23-of-74) from the floor,
    including a woeful 4-of-21 from three-point range. Shammond
    Williams made his first shot, a three-pointer from the top of
    the key, but missed his final 12 shots. The starting frontcourt
    of Jamison, Zwikker and Ademola Okulaja shot a combined
    12-of-37.

  16. Russell says:

    In the absence of a team leader on the floor, a go-to guy force, the coach must be The Man. This year this coach did not realize that; there was no template for an all-frosh team strategy from Dean’s years. As he said, he left it to this players in the USC game. With G’town D and the P-Offense that did not work. Now he knows. PS- the crying bit is cringingly superficial and needs to be replaced with genuine competence for F4 level play. Histrionics don’t pay; good cookin’ do. Go Heels! Zoomba!

  17. TxTarheel says:

    2 points of perspective: It has been 5 full seasons following the 8-20 debacle (may another 30-40 years pass til the next). 2nd: that ’05 title banner still hangs freshly in the Dome. Realistically this team was built for NEXT year all along. To say a group of largely freshmen and sophs whithered on the vine after clinching an ACC regular season share and an ACC title is cutting these guys short. It had been far too long since clinching the ACC brass ring – maybe next year they finish it up by winning 10 straight to complete the round-tripper. Sunday’s loss and the manner of that loss will sting for a good while

    Roy is the right guy in the right place. He’s beaten Dook 3 straight – not happened since Deano stepped away. The “Dick Vermeil” bit does start to get old though . . .

  18. ben says:

    Despite 2005, I also have some concerns with Roy in the tourney. But, honestly, who would you rather have? I wouldn’t trade Roy for anybody.

  19. tarheelinthecity says:

    ben –
    agreed except possibly tom izzo, who would never leave msu anyway

  20. tarheelinthecity says:

    williamodouglas – I think we were at best 1 of 22 in the final minutes of Sunday’s whatever-you-want-to-call-it. That’s considerably worse than the stats you cite (do the math). At what point does it become a choke? 1 of 40??

  21. tarheelinthecity says:

    williamodouglas – correction: 1 of 23. Even worse.

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