As a UNC Basketball fan, I’m not going to get mad about last night’s loss to UConn. Even in defeat, the Tar Heels showed more fight and ability than they did in any game last year, so although an opportunity for a top-tier win slipped through their fingers, I feel better about UNC’s prospects for the rest of the season than I did at this time yesterday.
UConn is really good, arguably the best team in the country. Carolina hung around all game, answering every time the Huskies went on a run, and midway through the second half, the Heels had cut it to six with the ball.
The atmosphere and intensity in this game felt a lot like an Elite Eight matchup. Madison Square Garden is known for being UConn’s safe space (cue Kemba Walker highlights), and their fans were out in full force. So too, though, were Carolina’s supporters, so that the crowd fed into the intensity and the intensity fed into the crowd.
Emotions ran so hot that each team picked up a technical foul, and Carolina fans that have spent a lifetime rooting against the punchable faces of Christian Laettner, J.J. Redick, and Grayson Allen now have a new villain to detest. Cam Spencer seized the role of antagonist-du-jour in this game, not only for scoring 16 of his 23 points in the first half, but for the delight he took in trash-talking the Heels after every play. Needless to say, I will be fervently rooting for his demise (figuratively speaking) for the rest of the season.
This game was the constructive criticism of losses. If Hubert Davis is paying attention, there’s much to learn that can serve his team going forward, so while Carolina fans may get bored as the team takes 10 days off before playing Kentucky, there’s a real opportunity for growth here. Let’s look at three takeaways from Carolina’s second loss of the season.