Tar Heels looking to change the narrative after another loss

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — After North Carolina dropped an ugly game to Georgia Tech on Saturday, coach Roy Williams said this was “the least gifted” team he’s had. If the Tar Heels were going to use the comments for motivation, it didn’t last Wednesday. They blew a 14-point lead, dropped their second straight, seventh in the last 10, and fell to Pitt for the first time ever at home, 73-65. It was Pitt’s first ACC road win in more than two years.

“People will say what they say about us,” senior Brandon Robinson said. “But we’re going to come out and compete. It’s not like we don’t care, and we’re giving up. We’re going to try to make a change.”

Still, Williams didn’t back down from his comments and suggested that, indeed, UNC played with little energy in the second half as a large lead slipped away amid cascading turnovers and a suddenly electric Pitt offensive explosion.

Williams said his assessment of UNC’s talent was “the truth” and suggested the media was sensationalizing an honest evaluation.

“I just made a statement. If you disagree, that’s your prerogative, but I think if you look at it, you’d probably agree,” Williams said. “To me, that’s the most ridiculous thing to get attention. It’s like me wearing lucky socks or something. You’ve got to play the damn game.”

Inside the locker room, players said they didn’t exactly disagree with Williams’ take either.

North Carolina’s Brandon Robinson drives against Pitt’s Ryan Murphy Wednesday night as Pitt won its first ACC road game in two years, dropping the Tar Heels to 8-7 on the season. Grant Halverson/Getty Images

“When I saw it, I felt like it was kind of true, honestly,” freshman Armando Bacot said. “I don’t think Coach means no harm by it. He still believes in us. But he’s just keeping it real.”

Bacot, UNC’s lone McDonalds All-American with Cole Anthony still recovering from knee surgery, was 6-of-11 for 15 points and nine boards, a nice step up after some recent struggles in which he said he was “fighting the voice in my head.”

“We’re struggling right now and we’re not talented enough for me to do that,” Bacot said. “I knew that wasn’t me, and I had to turn it around.”

But even the strong performances left Williams frustrated. Garrison Brooks finished with a team-high 21 points, but a late turnover was at the forefront of Williams’ mind. Williams said the team had practiced well in recent days, but the performance Wednesday was, at times, lethargic. He said the team even added two new offensive schemes this week, to no avail.

“Could you tell it?” Williams asked rhetorically. “I couldn’t. We played just as dang bad as we did before.”

Robinson said the team remains confident and is still focused on making — and winning — the NCAA tournament. At this point, however, UNC is just 8-7, and Williams’ assessment of the talent on the floor looks like a stinging projection of those tournament hopes.

“He’s been around a lot of great teams, and that’s his opinion,” Robinson said. “I don’t want that to be our narrative.”

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