With four seconds left in overtime at College of Charleston last Monday, freshman Dexter Strickland drove to the basket, missed - and was still shaking his head over the decision (and loss) three days later.
"It was a dumb play on me ... because even if it would have gone in, we still would have been down one; we needed a 3," the North Carolina guard said. "You have to think more, you have to use your head more.
"...The transition, the learning process, it's not as easy as you think it's going to be."
And not just for Strickland. Entering its ACC opener against Virginia Tech tonight, ninth-ranked Carolina's quintet of freshmen - ranked the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation by scout.com - is still struggling to adjust to coach Roy Williams' system and the leap from high school competition to college.
Although these freshmen are often compared with the rookie class that came in after UNC's 2005 national championship, even Williams acknowledges that this group hasn't caught on, or played as well so far, as that one.
John Henson, a 6-foot-10, five-star forward widely considered a "one-year-and-done" player, has had a harder-than-expected time adapting to the small forward position and had trouble learning plays. He has shown flashes of highlight-worthy athleticism but is still averaging only 3.6 points and 11.7 minutes per game.
Strickland, an athletic natural shooting guard, has grown less tentative in recent weeks after getting more comfortable at the backup point guard position, and after starting two games at the "2." But his challenge is melding his scoring instincts with decision-making while playing both positions.
Guard Leslie McDonald, hindered early in the learning process by an offseason knee bruise, has earned more playing time by becoming the best defender of the bunch. He would start tonight, Williams said, if it wasn't for the sprained right ankle he sustained Monday, further frustrating his attempts to improve in practice.
And the Wear twins, David and Travis, seem to have "gotten it" a little quicker than the rest, but even they say the speed of the game and intensity of the competition has surprised them.
Said McDonald: "In high school, you could probably take a play off or forget the play, but this type of level - college, the ACC - you can't forget anything. ... We're all learning that."
And they've had some frustrating lessons.
Oh, there have been plenty of other problems that have led to the defending national champion's four losses, including injuries to starters Marcus Ginyard (who will miss his fourth straight game tonight with a sprained right ankle) and Will Graves (questionable with an ankle sprain); a frontcourt that is deep in height but not in physicality; and a schedule that has included defeats to three teams now ranked in the top 10.
But many fans expected more out of the freshmen so far, perhaps because it seems so natural to compare them to the rookie class of 2005-06 - a group that exceeded early expectations after arriving in Chapel Hill after Williams' first national title.
That quintet of Tyler Hansbrough, Bobby Frasor, Danny Green, Ginyard and Mike Copeland, also opened that season 11-4. But they seemed to produce more quickly.
Then again, that team boasted a super leader in David Noel; a super rookie in Hansbrough; and a group of freshmen that seemed a lot more mature and experienced, probably because they grew up with coaches in the family, Williams said.
"That one was the unusual group in my opinion - they were off the charts with their savvy, off the charts with their feel for the game," Williams said. "And the one thing they were, too - they were really competitive, and that's something we're trying to push to be that way, not just the freshmen, but all the young guys."
It might have helped, too, that the 2005-06 crew seemed to have fewer expectations, even though scout.com rated it the No. 4 recruiting class in the country at the time. By comparison, this year's freshmen were talking about repeating as national champions from the get-go, perhaps a sign that their biggest battle would be tempering their own egos.
"I used this example with Dexter and Leslie: 'Have you ever heard of [Andrew] Goudelock?' " Williams said, referring to the Charleston guard who buried the tying 3-pointer in regulation Monday and finished with 24 points. "No, they had never heard of Goudelock. 'Well, that guy just kicked your tail from one end of the court to the other.'
"And what you have, is when you have a highly recruited class, they think they're really, really good and no one else is any good, and that kind of thing. Well, there are a lot of good players. ... It hits them right between the eyes, and they have to become aware of that."
Strickland said he and his classmates have learned that lesson - painfully. And that the key, beginning with tonight's game against the Hokies, is to prove they can learn from their mistakes. Be it failing to call a timeout, playing the wrong defense or driving to the hoop when you were supposed to attempt a 3-pointer.
"Coming here, you're thinking that even if you have a bad game, you're still going to win overall because you're North Carolina," Strickland said. "But I quickly found out that's not the case; we've still got to play hard, we've still got to come out and play every game. And we've just got to pick up the intensity. I don't think we've played to our full potential yet - either myself as an individual or other players on the team."