North Carolina’s four-game win streak and run through the NIT came to a halt on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Playing in the championship game against Dayton, the Heels fell to the Flyers 79-68 in a sloppy, frustrating affair that featured a grimacing Roy Williams helplessly watching his club make the mistakes it did all season.
Carolina traded leads with the Flyers early but gave up a big run at the end of the first half. The Tar Heels managed to pull within a few points in the second half but continued to undermine their own progress, committing costly turnovers and missing too many open shots.
Truthfully, Will Graves was the primary reason the game didn’t become another of the season’s embarrassing blowouts. The portly junior tossed in 25 points on a scorching 7-for-13 on threes, at times serving as UNC’s only legitimate offensive option.
Deon Thompson ended his career with a double-double, getting 13 points and 10 rebounds. Marcus Ginyard wasn’t so lucky, as he finished with only two points and was unable to become a factor on either end of the court.
The most perplexing stat from this game was the rebounding of John Henson and Tyler Zeller. The Tar Heels’ tallest two players combined for one rebound in 44 minutes of playing time. It seems nearly impossible for them to board that poorly, and it helps explain how the Flyers were able to out-rebound Carolina 35-26.
With the defeat, Carolina failed to become the first program ever to capture the NIT championship the year after winning the NCAA title. Of course, such an achievement would be considered dubious by UNC’s standards, but losing in the NIT obviously didn’t enhance the already miserable season.
The focus now shifts to the offseason. To wit, will there be any transfers? (Probably.) Will Ed Davis declare for the NBA Draft? (Almost definitely.) Will Carolina sign any additional recruits for next year? (Depends largely on the answers to the first two questions.)
And, of course, Tar Heel eyes will look anxiously and enviously at the Final Four this weekend, as the Blue Devils attempt to prove that they have returned to the dominant position in the rivalry.
To see the UNC/Dayton box score, click here.