So much for the talk of whether North Carolina could actually go unbeaten this season. The third-ranked Tar Heels couldn't get through the first week of Atlantic Coast Conference play before matching their league loss total for all last season.
One week after a stunning home loss to Boston College, the team
everybody picked for No. 1 now finds itself 0-2 in ACC play for the
first time in more than a decade after Sunday's 92-89 loss at No. 4
All those lofty preseason expectations and magazine covers seem
distant after this week. The top six scorers are back from a Final
Four team that won a school-record 36 games, but the Tar Heels look
like a different team searching for what's gone wrong.
"It's better now than in March," said Tyler Hansbrough, who
had 17 points but didn't manage a field goal after the 8:16 mark of
the first half. "But you have to understand: It's early. We've got
a lot of games to prove ourselves. Hopefully with these next couple
of games, we'll do that. We'll find out who we are as a team and
The answers haven't come as easily as last year, when the Tar
Heels (14-2, 0-2) lost just twice in the ACC before winning their
second straight tournament title on the way to a 36-3 season.
They haven't had the same toughness since losing versatile
senior swingman Marcus Ginyard, who has been slow to recover from
preseason foot surgery and missed his second straight game Sunday.
They don't have the depth they expected after losing 7-foot
freshman Tyler Zeller to a broken wrist in the second game of the
They couldn't stop Tyrese Rice and Boston College's outside
shooting in the 85-78 loss to the Eagles, a team picked in the
preseason to finish 11th in the ACC. Then, after an easy win
against College of Charleston, they found themselves unable to stop
another point guard - this time, Jeff Teague - and playing catch-up
most of the second half before coming up short in the final
Now they're facing their first 0-2 ACC start since the 1996-97
squad lost its first three league games. Consider it a lesson that
things aren't going to be as easy as maybe they thought.
"Sometimes we just went out there and expected to win instead
of going out there and taking to win," said Wayne Ellington, who
had 17 points. "We expected teams to just roll over for us instead
coming out from the gate and making a statement and taking the
Hansbrough struggled from the field against 7-footer Chas
McFarland and other members of Wake Forest's physical front line,
finishing 3-for-12 while constantly finding himself getting the
ball further and further from the paint. Ellington didn't get much
going offensively until a late burst as the Tar Heels tried to
rally from an eight-point deficit in the final 4½ minutes.
Then there was point guard Ty Lawson and forward Deon Thompson,
who struggled like they did against BC. Lawson had just nine points
on 4-for-12 shooting with four turnovers and was completely
outplayed by Teague, who finished with a career-high 34 points.
As for Thompson, Hansbrough's frontcourtmate who came into the
game averaging 13.5 points per game, he struggled through a
miserable night in which he repeatedly had shots swatted away and
bricked an easy one-handed dunk. He finished with eight points on
3-for-13 shooting, following his five-point performance against the
It put coach Roy Williams in an interesting position Sunday
night. After spending the preseason shrugging off questions whether
his team could finish unbeaten, he's now hearing questions as to
what his team needs to do in order to start climbing the ACC
"It is what it is. We're 0-2 and we're going to try to play
better, be more effective," Williams said. "I told the kids ...
I'm still looking at the big picture and know that we can get a
heck of a lot better. There's no question that the conference race
is always our No. 1 goal, but it's not over with after just two