North Carolina and Wake Forest combined to lose five players in the first round of the NBA draft last year. It’s starting to show for both teams.
The No. 24 Tar Heels will try to avoid their first three-game losing streak under Roy Williams on Wednesday night when they host the Demon Deacons, who were blown out in their last game.
North Carolina (12-6, 1-2 ACC) remained in the Top 25 despite losses to then-No. 24 Clemson and then-No. 20 Georgia Tech last week. The Tar Heels haven’t lost three in a row since a five-game slide Jan. 22-Feb. 5, 2003, in the season before Williams was hired to restore the program to prominence.
The coach has certainly done that with two national titles, but doesn’t seem to have the answers yet for this season’s squad.
“We’ve got to work on things and we’ve got to concentrate better,” Williams said. “I don’t think I can get out Doc Allen’s book or coach (Dean) Smith’s book and find any secrets, but we’re just going to have to work at it.”
Tar Heels Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington were taken in the first round of the draft, while Wake Forest (12-4, 2-2) saw its leading scorers James Johnson and Jeff Teague selected in that round. All of that talent was on display in the Deacons’ 92-89 home win over the Heels on Jan. 11, 2009.
This season, Wake Forest has been forced to rely more on Al-Farouq Aminu, a 6-foot-9 forward who is averaging a team-high 17.6 points. Aminu, though, has been faced with more double-teams and his shooting percentage is down from 51.6 as a freshman to 47.3.
“I think coach Williams said, maybe a couple weeks ago, the game is getting incredibly physical,” Wake coach Dino Gaudio said. “It’s unbelievable, and like I said, my kids and the other team as well. The game is just so physical, it’s unbelievable.”
North Carolina ranks near the bottom of the conference with 16.9 turnovers per game after committing an average of 21.5 in the two losses last week. They trailed by 20 points within the first 12 minutes of a 73-71 defeat to the Yellow Jackets on Saturday.
The starting backcourt of Larry Drew II and Marcus Ginyard combined to go 2 of 12 and finished with four points, 10 assists and seven turnovers. The Tar Heels also failed to get enough production from leading scorers Deon Thompson and Ed Davis, who combined for 24 points after totaling eight in an 83-64 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday.
Thompson and Davis combine to average nearly 30 points.
“We’ve put ourselves in this spot and we’ve got to figure out a way to get out of it,” Williams said. “We can go belly up but I choose not to do that and I told them that in the locker room.”
The Demon Deacons have dropped both of their ACC road games, falling 90-70 at then-No. 8 Duke on Sunday. Wake shot below 40 percent for the second time in three games, finishing at 39.4 as Aminu went 7 of 18 and had 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The physical play also took its toll on senior guard Ishmael Smith, who fouled out with seven points on 3-of-12 shooting. Smith averaged 17.0 points on 43.8 percent from the field in his previous four games.
“You know what, that kid, man he plays hard,” Gaudio said. “I don’t have any problems with his numbers because that kid plays with a big heart.”
Wake Forest’s win over North Carolina last season ended a four-game slide in the series.