With just three ACC victories in hand, and their postseason hopes looking bleaker by the day, you would think there would have been a sense of desperation among North Carolina's basketball players Tuesday night in Atlanta.
But it sure didn't look like it during the Tar Heels' 68-51 blowout loss at Georgia Tech - not even to coach Roy Williams.
UNC committed 19 turnovers, shot just 32.2 percent, and never countered the Yellow Jackets' 21-4 first-half run.
"I didn't say in the locker room, 'Win this, or we're not going to do that,' " Williams said. "I believe in doing the best you can every day.
"But if I'm desperate, I'm going to dive on the dadgum floor for the ball. If I'm desperate, I'm not going to turn it over on a handoff. If I'm desperate, I'm going to sprint back. If I'm desperate, I'm going to know who I'm guarding."
And North Carolina (14-12, 3-8 ACC) did none of those things consistently - yet again.
On paper, the biggest problem was offense. UNC's 54 total points, 21 first-half points and 22.6 percent first-half shooting were new lows in the Roy Williams era.
But in reality, the bigger concern may be the building sense of resignation in the locker room and on the court. Unlike the last time the Tar Heels played Georgia Tech - when they came back from a 20-point deficit, only to lose by two - there was never any sense that UNC would rally after the Jackets' first-half blast. "The minute a team makes a run on us, if we're not able to respond to the run, we just shut down," said point guard Larry Drew II, who was 2-for-8 shooting with eight turnovers, three assists and seven points. "... Coach will probably say that we quit out there, but maybe if shots aren't going in or if we're turning the ball over, after a missed shot or a turnover, instead of responding to it with a good play, it has a smothering effect for us sometimes - it just keeps happening, keeps happening, keeps happening. Other teams, they capitalize on that."
Williams, whose shock and sadness over his team's inconsistent play early in the season seems to be turning to irritation, insisted that he still thinks UNC can put together a late-season run. The team needs to win two of its final five regular-season games to post a winning record in hopes of securing an NIT bid (a .500 record isn't required, but the tournament has never taken a team with a losing record).
The Hall-of-Fame coach has never posted a losing record, and his worst mark was 19-12 - in 1988-89, his first season at Kansas. That was also the last (and only) time a Williams-coached team didn't make the NCAA Tournament.
Judging by Tuesday's performance, though, it's hard to see these Tar Heels finishing strong - especially if they don't play with some sense of urgency.
"I didn't feel like we were going to play like this tonight," Williams said after the game. "I thought we'd play really well - I honestly did. I thought and told the guys, 'We can get this done. We've got to play every possession, possession by possession.' I'm a guy who always feels like the glass is half full, that we can.
"But guys, we can't win against anybody with that kind of effort, intellectually and physically. That just didn't get it done tonight. ... I'm totally shocked, flabbergasted. It's not fair to say embarrassed, because I'm embarrassed in myself, too."
Briefly: Senior Marcus Ginyard re-sprained his ankle in the first half and played only 17 scoreless minutes, with one assist and a rebound.