What Hubert Davis said after another UNC Tuesday letdown vs. Syracuse

Tuesday night against Syracuse showed one thing – the UNC men’s basketball team is nowhere near a National Championship contender.

Losing 86-79 to the Orange (16-9, 7-7 ACC) was a far cry from the original matchup, when North Carolina dominated in a 36-point victory on Saturday, Jan. 13. The Tar Heels looked like a true title favorite last month, in the midst of a historic defensive stretch and having virtually everyone step up to make shots.

UNC didn’t play horrible basketball, but it didn’t play well, either. Tuesday was North Carolina’s third time allowing 80 points in a game this month, after not allowing an opponent to score more than 74 in January.

Syracuse enjoyed a historic offensive night, shooting 62.5 percent from the field. Judah Mintz and JJ Starling both scored 20 points, while not a single Tar Heel reached that mark. On the bright side, Cormac Ryan played all 40 minutes and scored in double-digits for the first time in January.

North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis played his bench, but no one saw more minutes than Seth Trimble with 11. You could make the case UNC players were tired, but they appeared more frustrated with not being able to break Syracuse’s zone.

Let’s see exactly what Hubert had to say after the Tar Heels’ third loss in five games:

On guard play from Syracuse

“It was their depth in which they were getting into the lane that was causing us problems in the first half,” Davis said. “In the second half, we changed a number of times and different ways to guard the ball screen action. It did help us, we were able to get back into the game. We took a 1-point lead, I don’t know what time it was but their starter, he banked a 40-footer. From that point on, it just felt like we could never catch back up. Their guards were really good tonight, (Judah) Mintz and (JJ) Starling. We just didn’t have an answer for them.”

On Syracuse's defense forcing turnovers late

“Syracuse is number one in the conference in terms of steals and forced turnovers,” Davis said. “They swipe, they go for steals, they gamble and in those situations, they went to the monitor 2-3 times and reversed calls that ended up being Syracuse’s ball.”

On UNC not being able to find answers down the stretch

“Obviously we didn’t,” Davis said. “I was proud of how our guys reacted and continued to fight to stay in the game, but you also have to compliment Syracuse. They stepped up and made plays, they made shots, they made free throws, they created turnovers. That helped them down the stretch. We’re in the game so I think it’s two parts – us not being able to make plays and them being able to step up.”

On Syracuse being able to contain UNC attacking the basket

“They were playing zone on their made shots. They played zone a lot because they made 63% of their shots. Yes, we want to get the ball to Armando but for us, we want to live in the paint, live at the free throw line. That’s just a big part of us all season from an offensive standpoint, being able to attack the basket through post penetration, offensive rebounds. We just didn’t do that from the level we needed to at an offensive standpoint to be able to come away with the win.”

On a common thread in the past three losses

“No, I don’t look at it that way,” Davis said. “I don’t look at 10-game win streak, then the fact we lost tonight. We just didn’t play well enough to win and we just have to get better. Syracuse shot 63% from the field, there’s very few teams in the country you can beat, especially on the road, a team shooting that from the field.”

On the focus being there for UNC

“I don’t know if that hasn’t been there,” Davis said. “You also have to complement the teams we’ve been playing. Syracuse stepped up and made plays. (Maliq) Brown came into the game and made four threes throughout the entire year, hit two threes and had six points. That’s big. At the end of the day, we just have to step up and make plays and we just didn’t. We didn’t make enough. We’ll go back, work hard, look at the tape, see if there’s things that we need to get better at, to improve, to tighten up and move forward to the next game on Saturday.”

On Syracuse getting revenge in the rematch

“Syracuse is a good basketball team, extremely well coached,” Davis said. “That’s rec league high school, to think that you can beat somebody one time and think it’s an easy game next time. That’s confidence in college basketball. We knew going into this game that Syracuse was 11-2 at home. They’re a very good basketball team and we needed to play well in order to have a chance to win.”

On RJ Davis not getting going early and playing from behind

“You have to attribute it to Syracuse,” Hubert Davis said. “We were playing against the zone a lot more than we did the first game. The reason being is because we were getting stops and getting out in transition. Syracuse was going back in man, our misses, we only missed less than 40% of the time. We’re always going up against a set defense. And so in those situations, obviously in their 2-3 zone, they have a couple things in terms of not letting RJ get open shots. I felt like we got good shots. We shot 48% from the field – that’s good enough to win on the road. We just didn’t get it done defensively and because of their zone, we just didn’t attack the basket and weren’t able to get to the free throw line as much as we have throughout this entire season.”

Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire