Not a single point, from the 17-minute mark of the second half until the nine-minute mark. By the time Tracy Smith finally put the ball through the hoop, North Carolina had turned a five-point deficit into an eight-point lead. The damage only got worse as the energized Tar Heels, playing on six days rest, dominated the final minutes to hand the Wolfpack a 77-63 loss that has the Pack spiraling downward after last week's upset of Duke.
"We just have to play harder," freshman Scott Wood said. "We matched their intensity for about 25 minutes but for about a nine-minute stretch we couldn't throw the ball in the ocean."
The Pack had one of its worst shooting performances of the season during the second half, making just 29 percent of its shots from the field while allowing Carolina to shoot 58 percent. For the game the Pack shot 39 percent and was 7-of-22 from behind the arc while the Heels shot 51 percent and were 6-of-13 from downtown.
"I don't want to take anything away from [Carolina's] defense, but we had some good looks," Lowe said. "We had good looks but we couldn't knock them down."
Smith led the Pack with another 20 point performance and added six rebounds but was mired with foul trouble during the second half as the Heels made their run. Javi Gonzalez was the only other Pack player in double figures, finishing with 19 points on 6-of-11 shooting. Farnold Degand, Dennis Horner and Wood shot a combined 5-for-24 and scored just 16 points total in the loss.
"It's very frustrating [being in foul trouble]," Smith said. "I was looking forward to this game. I wanted to get this win."
The two teams traded baskets for most of the first half, with neither team able to find an offensive rhythm. The Heels used their superior size and rebounding edge to pull ahead, going on a 9-0 run to take the lead for the rest of the half. But just as Carolina looked to be taking control, Gonzalez exploded in the final minutes of the half. The junior, playing with two fouls, hit back-to-back 3-pointers and a baseline jumper to cut a nine-point lead down to 37-33 advantage for the Heels at halftime.
"I was just making the right basketball play," Gonzalez said. "They get up on me, I go by them. They give me some space, I shoot it."
The Heels shot 45 percent in the half and was 3-of-7 from behind the arc, while the Pack shot 50 percent from the floor and hit 3-of-10 on 3-pointers. The Heels held a small edge in rebounding, with 18 boards compared to 14 for the Pack and also turned the ball over just three times compared to five for the home team. Carolina did hold a big edge at the free-throw line, attempting nine freebies compared to just two attempts for the Pack.
Out of the locker room, the Pack jumped on the Heels. Wood nailed a straight-away 3-pointer and Gonzalez sank a corner 3 a few minutes later, then nailed a follow shot to give the pack a 43-38 lead. But then the Pack offense disappeared. From the 17-minute mark until the nine-minute mark, the Pack failed to score a single point. During that time, the Heels took control of the game, going on a 13-0 run to take back the lead for good.
"It hurt a lot – not just because this is a rivalry game," Javi Gonzalez said. "We also needed this win. Now we gotta make a run."