North Carolina set a school record for consecutive double-digit victories in the first six weeks of the season. Not only is that streak over, but so is the Tar Heels’ undefeated start.
After suffering their first loss in their conference opener, the third-ranked Tar Heels look to bounce back by continuing their dominance over non-conference opponents as they host College of Charleston on Wednesday night.
North Carolina (13-1) won each of its first 13 games by at least 15 points, a record for the storied program. But that run and the Tar Heel’s undefeated start both came to a stunning end Sunday, when the team shot a season-low 38.4 percent in an 85-78 home loss to ACC rival Boston College.
“Needless to say, it hurts,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose team had a late rally fall short after trailing by as many as 15. “We just never could get over the hump, didn’t get them to turn it over very much. Then we had some guys—including myself—who didn’t have as good of a day that we hoped we’d have.”
Though it’s a disappointing defeat, reigning national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough isn’t worried that its effects will linger.
“We never sat in the locker room and said, ‘Let’s go straight undefeated,’” said Hansbrough, who led the Tar Heels with 21 points Sunday, his eighth consecutive game with at least 20. “That was more people outside the locker room talking about that.
“Now you can put that to rest and bring us back down to reality, and we can all focus on what we need to do better instead of all this hype.”
If their recent history is any indication, the Tar Heels have a good chance of bouncing back. They’ve won 39 straight regular-season games against non-conference foes since an 82-74 loss to Gonzaga on Nov. 22, 2006. North Carolina’s average margin of victory during that streak is 25.3 points.
As impressive as they’ve been during that run, the Tar Heels aren’t taking anything for granted after Sunday’s loss.
“I guess you could say we got comfortable,” junior guard Wayne Ellington said. “We took that hit on the chin. We have to learn from it, grow from it, and bounce back.”
That could make for a rude return to action for Charleston, which has been idle since a 79-75 loss to Davidson on Dec. 29. The Cougars (10-2) scored 10 straight points to pull within two with 51 seconds remaining, but their rally fell short as they suffered their first loss in 10 games.
The Cougars, though, have had some success against the Tar Heels, winning two of the teams’ four all-time meetings. Charleston upset third-ranked and undefeated North Carolina 66-64 on Dec. 5, 1998—still the highest-ranked team the Cougars have ever beaten.
After losing to the Tar Heels in 1999 and 2000, the Cougars won the teams’ last meeting 66-60 on Dec. 21, 2001.
Cougars coach Bobby Cremins is no stranger to North Carolina after coaching ACC rival Georgia Tech from 1982-2000, and is 12-32 lifetime against the Tar Heels.
Charleston, facing its first ranked team this season, is 0-5 against Top 25 opponents since its 1998 win over North Carolina.