Former Virginia Cavalier Curtis Staples led the way for the California based team with 31 points including nine three pointers in just 20 minutes of action. Richie Frahm, formerly of Gonzaga, hit for 21 and Adrian Peterson scored 16 of his 18 in the second half for the winners.
"It was a very humbling game," UNC head coach Matt Doherty said postgame. "We're very inexperienced and we have to grow up quickly ... and I'm very confident that we will."
In a bright spot for the Heels, senior Kris Lang scored 34 points on 14-23 shooting from the field and grabbed eight rebounds. Lang, without senior Jason Capel on the floor, was the Heels go to man in the contest and enjoyed the opportunity to display his offensive skills while not forgetting the cause of the Tar Heels blowout defeat.
"It was a fun night for me to get that many shots," Lang said following the game, "I've never gotten that many shots in my career, even in high school or junior high. But, I am trying to focus on our team on the defensive end."
Following a first half that saw the Heels break out to an early 14-3 lead only to see EA Sports go on a 25-4 midway in the first half and lead 44-43 at the break, the Tar Heel defense broke down often against the older, wiser EA team.
"This team that came out there (EA) was an older and wiser team and they set two or three screens and our men didn't shadow, they just went behind the screens," said Lang about the defense, "Their big man saw that and they just rolled into them and had the open three. Tonight, they were hitting them."
They sure did. EA hit 18-30 from three-point land for the game including 11-16 in the second stanza.
Meanwhile, the Heels shot themselves out of the game in every facet. For the day, Carolina managed just 37.5% from the field including 6-33 behind the arc (1-12 in the second half). The charity strip was unkind as well, especially in the second half as the Heels managed to make just eight of 20 after the break.
Though it is doubtful that having Capel on the floor for Carolina would have altered the outcome, the Tar Heel team sorely lacked his leadership and ability.
"The man can shoot, pass and rebound and we missed all three of those things out there tonight," Lang said of Capel's absence, "And, he's a great leader on the court. He shows a lot of emotion and that is something we feed off of. We missed him out there but we knew he wasn't going to be out there and we have to stick together and play hard."
Capel sat out the contest with a sore hamstring and according to Coach Doherty, has not practiced in the past four days.
For the Tar Heel freshmen trio of Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel and Melvin Scott, the game was very much an introduction to the world of college basketball. Williams, starting along side Will Johnson and Kris Lang on the front line, finished 2-10 from the field (0-6 from three) and 0-5 from the foul line. Manuel was 0-8 overall and 0-5 behind the arc. Scott was 0-4 (0-3 from three) and had three turnovers.
Scott, whom many observers expected to play more, managed just eleven minutes of action behind starting point guard Adam Boone and back up Jonathan Holmes.
"I think there is a fine line between Adam, Jon and Melvin," Doherty said of the point guards, "I think Adam has earned the right to start right now and Jon's earned the right to back him up. Melvin needs to have the opportunity to play because Melvin's a talented kid. It wouldn't be smart on my part to keep him on the bench because he need some minutes to gain that experience.
"His first jump shot hit the back of the basket. Again, he's a great shooter. He needs the minutes."
But despite their jitters and poor shooting, they displayed the hustle and effort that should define this edition of the Tar Heels.
Williams and Manuel were a constant force on the offensive glass with Williams snagging six offensive rebounds and Manuel, three. Williams also tallied two blocks in 26 minutes.
In the end, it was a tough defeat for the young Tar Heels, but only the beginning in a journey that will likely end in early spring featuring a team that will hardly resemble the one that walked on the court tonight. Losing to any team, much less an EA Sports All Star team that was pounded by NC State just Saturday night is not acceptable for this Carolina team or its senior leader.
"It's not acceptable at all in the fans' eyes and definitely not in our eyes," said Lang, "We have to keep our head up and not get down on ourselves. We tried to go out there and earn some respect and we didn't do that. That's fine. We are still going to go out and play hard every night and people can think what they want of us. We are going to get better with each day."
"This is a group that needs to be nurtured a little bit," Doherty said when asked about his approach to this team, "You can't yell at them and things like that all the time…If there was lack of effort, yes, I would be mad. If there is lack of execution on plays that we should know, I'll be disappointed. If there is lack of execution on things that are new to everybody, that's something that is on me. Some of the open threes that (EA Sports) got, are on me because those are defenses we are trying to work on."
"We took some lumps out there," Coach Doherty said, "But, this team is going to get better. I promise you."
There's little doubt the Heels will have to in order to stand up to a tough non-conference schedule and the brutal ACC field.