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January 11, 2009

Tar Heels still without ACC win after loss at Wake

WINSTON-SALEM -- Two weeks ago, North Carolina looked unbeatable. Now the Tar Heels are wondering when they're going to get their first ACC win of the season.

Third-ranked Carolina was denied its first league win for the second time in two tries, this one a 92-89 loss to No. 4 Wake Forest at Joel Coliseum.

"I'm stunned," UNC point guard Ty Lawson said. "I'm a competitor. I love to win. It's hurting right now. We've got to change something."

The loss snapped UNC's 15-game road winning streak, which included a perfect 8-0 road mark in ACC play last season.

The young Demon Deacons, meanwhile, remained unbeaten this season behind Jeff Teague's stellar 34-point performance.

And because of the way the ACC schedule plays out, the Tar Heels (14-2, 0-2 in the ACC) won't get another crack at Wake (14-0, 1-0) this year.

"It's just frustrating," UNC forward Tyler Hansbrough said. "Obviously we're mad right now about some things. We'd much rather win these games, but we'll learn some things."

What the Tar Heels learned in this one was that it's hard to win when everybody is having a bad night offensively. The lone exception to UNC's shooting woes was Danny Green, who led the Tar Heels with 22 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

The rest of the starting five had a night to forget, combining to shoot 14 for 50.

"It's just one of those days," Green said. "Hopefully you don't have a day where one guy is hitting and nobody else is, but we did. We're not living in a fairy-tale world. Sometimes we're clicking. Sometimes we're not."

The Tar Heels shot 35 percent in the game, including a 28.2-percent clip in the second half.

But it wasn't just that shots weren't falling.

The Carolina offense had twice as many turnovers (18) as assists (nine) and was mainly in the game because of its ability to out-rebound a Wake Forest team that has a lot of size and has been great on the glass this season.

"I never felt like we were going to make a shot," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "We just didn't make shots, turned it over too much, and the better team won the game."

It was an extremely physical game, with the teams combining for 55 fouls. Green was one of three players, joining Wake's Al-Farouq Aminu and James Johnson, to foul out of the game, and six other players finished the game with four fouls.

Wake Forest's size and physicality made for a tough night underneath for Hansbrough, who scored 17 points but was just 3 for 12 from the floor.

The reigning National Player of the Year didn't score a basket after the 8:16 mark of the first half.

"They swarmed me," Hansbrough said. "They played physical, but that's the way the game's played sometimes."

Hansbrough's counterpart for Wake, Chas McFarland, had far more success, scoring 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

But the real star for the Deacs was Teague, who scored on any defender UNC threw at him, including Lawson, Bobby Frasor and Wayne Ellington.

In a game like this one, against a potent scorer like Teague, was when the Tar Heels really miss the defensive ability of Marcus Ginyard, who sat out for the second straight game.

"Marcus can bother people smaller than him, he can bother people bigger than him," Frasor said. "Marcus really would have been a big advantage to have."

Even without Ginyard, the Tar Heels still have arguably the most talented team in the nation.

That hasn't changed just because they're 0-2 in ACC play, but they know they need to turn it around before the league they were supposed to run away with runs away from them.

"It's early on in the season," Hansbrough said. "We understand that. I'm not gonna sit here and say the whole season's dead. It's early."


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