Jeff Becker/Special to Inside Carolina

Tar Heels Let UNI Game Slip Away

No. 1 North Carolina held a 16-point second-half lead, but could not close out Northern Iowa.

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Roy Williams placed all the blame on one person after top-ranked North Carolina's 71-67 loss Saturday afternoon to Northern Iowa.

"I was very disappointed in me," he said of his coaching effort. "We acted like a team that had not been coached very well. We had a sizable lead and let it slip away."

North Carolina's built a 50-34 lead after Brice Johnson's short jumper in the lane with 17:10 remaining in the game. It appeared that the Tar Heels would leave a sold-out McLeod Center with a victory.

But the Tar Heels couldn't put away Northern Iowa.

"They started making some shots," Williams said of the Panthers. "Then we come down and shoot an airball. The coach at North Carolina has to do a better job than he did today.

"We made a lot of mistakes, didn't get what we wanted. Hopefully it will be something we will learn from."

After the Tar Heels went up 16, the Panthers hit three-straight 3-point baskets and their confidence was flowing, backed by the crowd of 7,018 screaming fans.

The Carolina defense, which held the hosts to 35.7 percent shooting in the first half, forcing six turnovers, was nowhere near as strong in the second half. UNI shot 48.3 percent and didn't turn it over once in the final 20 minutes.

Senior guard Wes Washpun was the catalyst for UNI's comeback. He used his quickness to repeatedly get to the rim to either score, or dish off to the Panthers' lethal outside shooters on several high pick-and-roll plays.

He finished with 21 points, eight assists and just two turnovers.

"I thought he was pretty darn good to start with," Williams said of Washpun. "The head coach at North Carolina has done a terrible job of working on the defense on the screen on the ball because we never could get it stopped.

Carolina sophomore Justin Jackson said Washpun was so tough because of his supporting cast.

"I think it was really because of his teammates," said Jackson, who led the Tar Heel offense with a career-high 25 points. "We didn't want to help at all off their shooters."

The game was tied at 63 after a short shot from Jackson in the lane with 3:15 left. On UNI's next possession, Washpun drove and found Matt Bohannon for an open 3. After a Carolina miss, Washpun worked the shot clock down and scored with 2:09 left, upping the lead to 68-63. The Tar Heels never got closer than three the rest of the way

Jackson said the defensive execution and intensity simply wasn't there in the second half for North Carolina.

"I think it may have been staying with the principles we had for this game," Jackson said in regards to the second-half swoon. "We got away from what we said before the game in the second half. That hurt us quite a bit.

"From here on out we just have to stay to what we say we want to do in a game. We weren't talking as much. Our rotations weren't as good. They got a lot of wide-open shots in the second half. That was our main thing, to get to shooters. That hurt us a lot."

Williams said the next step for the Tar Heels is practice Sunday in preparation for Monday's game in Kansas City against Northwestern in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.

"Northern Iowa was better than North Carolina today," he said. "We're going to practice (Sunday) and bust our ass to try and get better," he said.

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