By R.L. Bynum

Any Carolina fan who is frustrated with how the Tar Heels are playing has nothing on Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek.

His critique after UNC’s 72–53 Tuesday victory over UNC Asheville was delivered differently than many that Coach Roy Williams passionately made over the years after poor efforts. But the harsh tenor of it wasn’t all that different.

Manek, who played with one McDonald’s All-American in Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young during his four-year career with the Sooners, admitted Tuesday night that he was mad.

“Yeah, I would say so,” said Manek, adding that his individual effort — eight points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes — against UNCA was just OK.

“We’ve got some amazing talent,” he said “We’ve got some good players. We’ve got a lot of guys that know how to play basketball. We’ve got to play basketball. And then we got four McDonald’s All Americans. Most I’ve ever had on a team is one. So, with four on a team, we should be really good. And we’re not showing it. So, we have to play. We’ve got to play better. We’ve got to play harder. We’ve got to play smarter, and we need to make up for what happened and keep moving forward.”

There were no dadgums or frickins, but if what he tells his teammates is anything like what he told the media Tuesday night, he is probably one of the team’s leaders.

After four years of never making it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, Manek was eager to change that this season. But he knows that it is unlikely to happen unless the Tar Heels get better.

The losses last weekend in Uncasville, Conn., to now-No. 3 Purdue (93–84) and now-No. 15 Tennessee (89–72) still stung, even after a victory.

“Almost everybody on this team has felt a disappointment at the end of the season,” Manek said. “Everybody on this team got somewhere and got blitzed. I mean, we felt it last weekend. I felt it several years. I mean, guys have felt it and we don’t want to be there. We’ve just got to keep moving forward, keep getting better. And, like I said, we’ve just got to be a team.”

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Manek, who has come off the bench in five of six games, is third on the team in scoring (14.8 per game) and rebounding (6.3), second in blocks (6) and tied with RJ Davis for the most 3-pointers at 13 (shooting 41.9% from outside the arc).

With gritty post moves, Manek will be even more dangerous if he can draw fouls, considering he is shooting 80% (16 of 20) from the free-throw line.

Manek talked earlier in the season about his critics and trying to prove them wrong, and he clearly has heard what people have been saying about Carolina and its struggles on defense. He says he and his teammates have tried to ignore the critics.

You could tell by his tone that this has been difficult for him.

“Last few weeks, everybody’s been on us for our defense and we’re giving up so many points and all I hear is so many points in the paint, giving up this many points, people are outscoring us by this much and teams are in the 90s, this and that,” Manek said. “Well, we played defense tonight and we didn’t really play offense. We got to play both. We can’t just pick one, we’ve got to play both.”

Manek is well aware that No. 20 Michigan will present a different challenge than UNC Asheville and the margin for error won’t be nearly as large if the Tar Heels’ issues persist.

He’s also aware that the Wolverines, 4–2 after beating Tarleton State 65–54 on Wednesday, have had their issues with two losses in the last four games.

“You’ve got to fix whatever’s wrong and we’ve just got to enjoy it,” Manek said. “Everybody’s down on us. We’re down on ourselves. We’ve got to get out of this hole that we dug for ourselves. So, whatever we’ve got to do, we’ve got to get out of it. We’ve got to play well because the next team that comes in, they’re going to be just as frustrated. They’re going to be ready to play. If we’re going to be slow start, down at half, all that stuff, they’re going to make us pay, just like this last weekend, because they’re going to be a good team.”

If Manek has anything to do with it, a different Carolina team with a different mentality will show up to face Michigan on Dec. 1.

UNC season statistics

DateScore, record/day, time, TVLocationOpponent
November
583–55 exhibition winHomeElizabeth City State
983–67 win, 1–0HomeLoyola Maryland
1294–87 win, 2–0HomeBrown
1694–83 win, 3–0RoadCollege of Charleston
2093–84 loss, 3–1Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 3 Purdue
2189–72 loss, 3-2Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 15 Tennessee
2372–53 win, 4-2HomeUNC Asheville
December
1Wednesday, 9:15, ESPNHomeX — No. 20 Michigan
5Sunday, 3, ESPNRoadGeorgia Tech
11Saturday, 8, ACCNHomeElon
14Tuesday, 7, ESPN2HomeFurman
18Saturday, 3, CBSLas VegasZ — No. 2 UCLA
21Tuesday, 7, ACCNHomeAppalachian State
29Wednesday, 7, ESPN2HomeVirginia Tech
January
1Saturday, noon, ACCNRoadBoston College
5Wednesday, 9, ESPN2RoadNotre Dame
8Saturday, 1, ESPNHomeVirginia
15Saturday, 8, ACCNHomeGeorgia Tech
18Tuesday, TBA, ESPNRoadMiami
22Saturday, 8, ACCNRoadWake Forest
26Wednesday, RSNHomeBoston College
29Saturday, 2, ACCNHomeN.C. State
31Monday, 7, ESPNRoadLouisville
February
5Saturday, 6, ESPNHomeNo. 5 Duke
8Tuesday, 9, ESPN or ESPN2RoadClemson
12Saturday, 2, ESPN or ESPN2HomeFlorida State
16Wednesday, 8, ACCNHomePittsburgh
19Saturday, 4, ESPN or ESPN2RoadVirginia Tech
21Monday, 7, ESPNHomeLouisville
26Saturday, 2 or 4, ESPN or ESPN2RoadN.C. State
28Monday, 7, ESPNHomeSyracuse
March
5Saturday, 6, ESPNRoadNo. 5 Duke
8–
12
ACC TournamentBrooklyn
RSN — regional sports networks; ACCN — ACC Network; X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge;
Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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