North Carolina senior Marcus Ginyard said beating Duke on Saturday would have been one of his top memories – right up there with winning a national championship last season.
But losing to the fourth-ranked Blue Devils 82-50 – the most lopsided defeat by the Tar Heels at Duke -- has got to be the worst.
“This is the first time that we've had to come in this locker room after a loss,’’ said Ginyard, whose team will be the 10th seed in the ACC tournament, and play 7th-seeded Georgia Tech on Thursday. “But the thing is, teams in the past found success here because we were tough enough -- and we came in and stuck it out through the times that weren't going our way and we made things go our way.
“And tonight we didn't do that. They were the aggressors on everything and when it got tough, we allowed them to put it on us.”
The performance – which keeps UNC (16-15, 5-11 ACC) solidly on the NIT bubble -- was a repeat of everything that’s gone wrong for the Tar Heels this season: injuries, inconsistent effort, turnovers, poor shooting.
Freshman reserve Leslie McDonald became the ninth Tar Heel to miss a game because of injury this season, when he hurt his right hamstring in practice Friday.
Then UNC dug a hole early, as the Devils connected on three straight 3-pointers – plus three free throws, when Jon Scheyer was fouled on a 3-pointer – to take a 12-3 lead.
“I was shocked from the get-go, just with the way guys were coming out and playing,’’ said point guard Larry Drew II.
The Tar Heels’ best offensive flurry came with about 7 minutes left in the first half, when they scored on four straight possessions – a burst that actually had Duke (26-5, 13-3) coach Mike Krzyzewski calling for a timeout.
Problem was, it only cut UNC’s deficit to 35-19. And the Tar Heels never managed a stretch like that again on offense – scoring only six field goals in the second half, and making only a third of their shots for the game. Only two Tar Heels – John Henson (14 points) and Deon Thompson (11) finished in double figures, and the team finished with 15 turnovers, and only nine assists.
The outcome just-missed the most lopsided defeat, home or away, against Duke in series history; the 1963-64 Tar Heels were blown out 104-69. But it does mark the worst loss of the Roy Williams era , surpassing the 19-point loss at Clemson, then 21-point loss at Maryland, earlier this season.
It also snapped a four-game winning streak at Cameron.
“It hurts that we didn’t come prepared to play against Duke,’’ said junior Will Graves, who finished 0-for-6. “All year, it’s been something new in the learning process, and we’ve just got to keep learning.”