Talking Points: Tournament time runs out for Heels
Posted March 23, 2014
Updated March 24, 2014
1. North Carolina and Iowa State engaged in high level basketball throughout the second half, but it was a terrible ending for the Tar Heels as momentum proved to be fickle.
Up 76-68 with 3:56 left in the game, North Carolina saw their lead evaporate. James Michael McAdoo sank two free throws to tie the game at 83 with :16 on the clock, leaving the Cyclones plenty of time run their offense and clear out the lane for DeAndre Kane. The senior, who had a game-high 24 points thanks to repeated drives toward the basket, forced J.P. Tokoto to trail on defense and hit a layup over Jackson Simmons with barely any time remaining.
Iowa State scored on nine of their last 11 possessions and went 7-for-8 from the field in the final 3:47, including two crucial 3-pointers from Naz Long.
As much as the Cyclones played like they had acquired one of those invincibility stars from "Super Mario Bros.," North Carolina contributed to their own demise with a handful of mistakes during that critical stretch. The Tar Heels took some questionable shots, had an offensive foul and Marcus Paige committed an unfortunate turnover trying to pass the ball while mid-air to McAdoo.
2. While Kane's basket was ultimately the dagger, North Carolina in-bounded the ball with 1.6 seconds on the clock. Head coach Roy Williams frantically called for the timeout, but the officials didn't grant it until Nate Britt signaled for a timeout once he crossed half-court.
"We're not laying this on the officials," said Williams. "We made some mistakes. We practice all the time in that situation for five guys to be calling timeout, and I'm supposed to be calling timeout. And I was calling timeout, the referees didn't recognize it."
What the officials did recognize was a delayed start on the clock following the inbound, rendering whether or not North Carolina called a timeout before the buzzer a moot point.
3. Brice Johnson left the game early after turning his ankle and didn't return to the lineup. That took away a key part of North Carolina's size advantage, considering Iowa State didn't have Georges Niang due to his own injury. Enter Kennedy Meeks, who stepped up with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes of playing time.
Meeks was one of five Tar Heels who scored in double-figures, but the usual contributors had to struggle through Iowa State's defensive gameplan. McAdoo was 5-for-14 from the field. Leslie McDonald concluded his Tar Heel career with 18 points on 15 shots. Marcus Paige had some of that second-half magic, but turned the ball over four times and registered no assists.
4. There's a subtle difference between "disappointing season" and "could have been better." North Carolina's 2013-14 campaign falls under the latter, especially when you consider the high rate of drama associated with the beginning of the season.
Yes, North Carolina lost to UAB and Belmont. Sure, they were quickly bounced out of the ACC Tournament and couldn't close the deal on a Sweet 16 trip. But the Tar Heels still strung together a 12-game winning streak and notched high-profile wins. All without P.J. Hairston, who spent all season in the NBDL following months of NCAA drama.
It's amazing what one more win in the NCAA Tournament can do for the overall perception of a season. Regardless, it still goes down as another example of Williams maximizing the best out of a talented but flawed roster.
5. NC State? Missed enough free throws and couldn't get any stops in the paint against St. Louis. Duke? Got hit with the "Nae Nae" by Mercer. Syracuse and Pittsburgh? Short-circuited in the third round.
It was a no good, terrible, very bad NCAA Tournament for the ACC.
Meanwhile, all three SEC teams in the NCAA Tournament are in the Sweet 16. Hey, at least Florida State snapped their BCS Championship streak.