Halftime Pleasantries Fueled Second-Half Surge
CHAPEL HILL – Perhaps “Kumbaya” could become a halftime thing for North Carolina, given its affect on the Tar Heels in the second half of their 80-73 victory over Wake Forest on Wednesday night.
Nestled in the bowels of the Smith Center sits UNC’s locker room, and what a tune the walls must have heard at halftime with the Tar Heels trailing 33-31 after one of their more lackluster first halves of the season.
Carolina Coach Roy Williams was ticked off. So much so his team did not even come out for the second-half warmup until less than a minute remained on the halftime clock. Only a few players got up a shot before the horn sounded, signaling it was time for the second half to start.
The result? A 12-0 run spurted Carolina to a 45-35 lead, and even though Wake kept it close by hitting a bunch of threes, the Heels (9-5, 4-3 ACC) were in control the rest of the way and secured the victory.
So, what did the Hall of Fame coach say during the intermission?
“Well, what we did is we got together in a circle and held hands and sang Kumbaya. That's what we did at halftime…,” Williams said, obviously joking. “But we talked about the mistakes that we've made, talked about challenging our big guys to get posted up lower to be more effective, be stronger…
“And we talked about the turnovers, so I think the biggest thing in the second half was our lack of turnovers.”
Okay, but there was more.
“He was frustrated with the way we came out, we didn't come out with any effort,” sophomore forward Armando Bacot said before pulling back the curtain some. “But honestly, it was (assistant) coach (Hubert) Davis, he gave us a touching speech at halftime just telling us they shouldn't have to come in every first half asking us why we're not playing with effort.
“And G (Garrison Brooks), he brought us in at the end of halftime in the tunnel and just told us we need to go out and just fight and play hard.”
The payoff was obvious just about everywhere on the court.
In the first half, the Tar Heels attempted too many ill-advised shots, a reason they converted only 38.7 percent from the floor, and they also turned over the ball nine times. They were even outrebounded, grabbing just five of their 19 missed shots. That is why the Heels managed just those 31 points on 37 possessions.
After halftime, however, the Heels went right at Wake’s weakness. The Demon Deacons (3-6, 0-6) entered the game allowing opponents to shoot 54.9 percent inside the arc, so the Heels attempted just one 3-pointer over the final 20 minutes while converting 17 of 30 shots that weren’t threes. Only three turnovers and hitting 54.8 percent from the floor led to an impressive 49 points on 38 possessions.
Defensively, Wake had a parade of threes in one stretch, but otherwise, the Deacs didn’t do much, as the Heels scored 13 points on nine Wake turnovers.
“I felt like we just played harder, that's pretty much it,” junior Leaky Black said, referring to the team’s response to the halftime pleasantries. “Like the talent’s there, everything’s there, we have all the horses, that kind of thing. But it doesn't mean anything if we're not playing hard and playing with a motor…
“So, I think the energy changed a lot.”
And it changed the game, too.