By R.L. Bynum
WINSTON-SALEM — In a season-long struggle to figure out how to play better defense, Carolina found no answers Saturday night.
Wake Forest (16–4, 6–3 ACC) took advantage of careless turnovers, ran in transition with ease and shot well as the Demon Deacons overwhelmed UNC 98–76 at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, leading the fans to storm the court.
The painful defeats keep coming for Carolina (12–5, 4–3), which has lost four games by 17 points or more and dropped consecutive games by a combined 50 points.
It’s the first time UNC has lost consecutive games by at least 22 points since the 8–20 season in 2001–02. That was also in January, with the Tar Heels losing 84–62 to Wake Forest and 112–79 to Maryland.
Points came way too easily for the Deacons all night.
Indiana State transfer Jake LaRavia (career-high 31 points), Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams (23) and East Tennessee State transfer Daivien Williamson (19) feasted on UNC’s defense. The Deacs shot 54.2% from the floor, with 10 3-pointers.
“Specifically this past week, when you’re talking about it’s difficult at times to overcome, I think the difficulty at times to overcome is because you’re playing against better players,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “At the end of the day, Williamson, Williams and LaRavia were the best players on the floor. And it wasn’t even close. We didn’t have anybody that could guard Laravia. He controlled the entire game, he punched us in the mouth at the beginning of the game, and Alondes and Daivien, they could get into the paint at any time that they wanted to whether it was off of ball screens, one on one situations.”
Leaky Black started on Williams but shifted to LaRavia after his hot start. With little working, Coach Hubert Davis even tried a little zone, which just led to more 3-pointers.
The Tar Heels’ offense was stagnant most of the night, and the lack of ball movement showed with only nine assists on 27 field goals and 33.3% shooting. Brady Manek was one of the few offensive bright spots, scoring 22 points before fouling out with 5:26 left.
RJ Davis scored 18 and Armando Bacot put up another ninth consecutive double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“We can shoot better than this,” Coach Davis said. “And we haven’t shot the basketball, but there’s there’s a couple things. One, over the last couple games, teams have been more physical and from a defensive standpoint, they’ve been more physical and geared toward making it more difficult for Armando to really dominate down low in the paint.
“They’re making it very difficult for him to get the ball where he can finish around the basket and around the paint,” Davis said. “And so, over the last couple of games, even though Armando has had double doubles, they haven’t been those dominant games that Armando has had pretty much throughout the year.”
Carolina lost its second consecutive road game heading into a stretch of three home games in five days, starting with Virginia Tech on Monday.
Given the busy schedule this week, Hubert Davis played nine players in the first 11 minutes. But no combination worked well and Carolina wouldn’t have kept the game as close as it did without its offensive rebounding.
“We really weren’t getting very much from our starters,” Coach Davis said. “You have to have depth and you need guys playing well. And I wanted to give everybody an opportunity because we needed guys to step up. We need them for the remainder of the year.”
Manek single-handedly kept UNC from getting off to another rough start by scoring seven points and pulling down four rebounds in the first 4½ minutes. His teammates missed their first seven shots before an Bacot layup off of a Love assist with 14:41 left in the first half gave UNC an 11–9 edge.
LaRavia was the hot player early for the Deacs, scoring 11 points in the first 8½ minutes, giving them an 18–15 lead on a 3-pointer. After UNC took a two-point lead, Wake Forest went on a 20–5 run and led 38–28 lead on a Williams 3-pointer with 3:18 left.
The Deacs lead 46–36 at halftime, and it would have been worse without UNC rebounding 14 of its 29 misses for 14 second-chance points. Wake outscored Carolina 18–0 in fast-break points.
Wake Forest made its first six second-half points to expand the lead to 13 on a Williamson fast-break layup. The Deacs led 71–52 after Damari Monsanto scored nine consecutive points on a trio of 3-pointers, and the rout was on.
How do the Tar Heels snap the losing streak?
“Get back to preparation,” Coach Davis said. “Get back to practice and get ready to play a quality opponent in Virginia Tech on Monday. There is no other option. This past week wasn’t a good week for us. We can sit here and whine and complain and point fingers and make excuses or you can get back up and you can keep fighting or start fighting and get ready for this upcoming week. That’s just automatic for me. That’s my personality and that’s what this team is gonna do.”
It’s a quick turnaround and a busy week for the Tar Heels with home games at 8 p.m. Monday against Virginia Tech, 7 p.m. Wednesday against Boston College and 2 p.m. Saturday against N.C. State.
The Hokies (10–8, 2–5) lost on the road Saturday 68–63 to the Eagles (8–9, 3–4), who play at Wake Forest on Monday night. The Wolfpack (10–10, 3–6) beat Virginia 77–63 at home Saturday and visits Notre Dame on Wednesday.
Directors’ Cup standings
UNC season statistics
day, time, TV
|5||83–55 exhibition win||Home||Elizabeth City State|
|9||83–67 win, 1–0||Home||Loyola Maryland|
|12||94–87 win, 2–0||Home||Brown|
|16||94–83 win, 3–0||Road||College of Charleston|
|20||93–84 loss, 3–1||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 7 Purdue|
|21||89–72 loss, 3–2||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 22 Tennessee|
|23||72–53 win, 4–2||Home||UNC Asheville|
|December (5–1, 1-0 ACC)|
|1||72–51 win, 5–2||Home||X — Michigan|
|5||79–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACC||Road||Georgia Tech|
|11||80–63 win, 7–2||Home||Elon|
|14||74–61 win, 8–2||Home||Furman|
|18||98–69 loss, 8–3||Las Vegas||Z — No. 18 Kentucky|
|21||70–50 win, 9–3||Home||Appalachian State|
|January (3–3, 3–3 ACC)|
|2||91–65 win, 10–3, 2-0 ACC||Road||Boston College|
|5||78–73 loss, 10–4, 2-1 ACC||Road||Notre Dame|
|8||74–58 win, 11–4, 3–1 ACC||Home||Virginia|
|15||88–65 win, 12–4, 4–1 ACC||Home||Georgia Tech|
|18||85–57 loss, 12–5, 4–2 ACC||Road||Miami|
|22||98–76 loss, 12–6, 4–3 ACC||Road||Wake Forest|
|24||Monday, 8, ACCN||Home||Virginia Tech|
|26||Wednesday, 7, RSN||Home||Boston College|
|29||Saturday, 2, ACCN||Home||N.C. State|
|1||Tuesday, 8, ACC Network||Road||Louisville|
|5||Saturday, 6, ESPN||Home||No. 8 Duke|
|8||Tuesday, 9, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||Clemson|
|12||Saturday, 2, ESPN or ESPN2||Home||Florida State|
|16||Wednesday, 8, ACCN||Home||Pittsburgh|
|19||Saturday, 4, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||Virginia Tech|
|21||Monday, 7, ESPN||Home||Louisville|
|26||Saturday, 2 or 4, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||N.C. State|
|28||Monday, 7, ESPN||Home||Syracuse|
|5||Saturday, 6, ESPN||Road||No. 8 Duke|
Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic