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Wake Forest’s court-rushing rout sends UNC into reality-check mode

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WINSTON-SALEM — It was with a straightforward resignation that North Carolina coach Hubert Davis boiled down his team’s latest fiasco to the essentials.

After Wake Forest wrecked the Tar Heels 98-76 in Atlantic Coast Conference basketball Saturday night, Davis said, in issuing a reality-check assessment or perhaps sending a message, the Demon Deacons were powered by the best players on the court at Joel Coliseum in Jake LaRavia, Alondes Williams and Daivien Williamson.

“And it wasn’t even close,” Davis said. “We didn’t have anybody that could guard LaRavia. He controlled the entire game. He punched us in the mouth at the beginning of the game. And Alondes and Daivien, they could get into the paint at any time they wanted to.”

That became one way of explaining another North Carolina catastrophe away from home. The Tar Heels suffered a second blowout loss in the space of five nights to end an awful week, which also included Friday’s news that Anthony Harris, an energy source and defensive presence off the bench, will be unavailable for the remainder of the season.

North Carolina arrived here with the chance to claim a quality win on the road that would’ve helped its NCAA Tournament credentials, and was met by a Wake Forest buzzsaw. This beatdown, after the 85-57 mauling at Miami on Tuesday night, marked the first time in 20 years the Tar Heels have been defeated by 20 or more points in back-to-back ACC games.

LaRavia poured in a career-high 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Williams, the ACC’s leading scorer, delivered 23 points and six rebounds. Williamson supplied 19 points. The Demon Deacons (16-4 overall, 6-3 ACC), running and clicking, reached a dominating gear that produced the program’s best scoring output against North Carolina in a regulation game since 1965.

Brady Manek’s 22 points and RJ Davis’s 18 points topped the Tar Heels (12-6, 4-3), who were coming off their worst ACC loss in 10 years. Armando Bacot added 12 points and 12 rebounds for his ninth straight double-double, but struggled to 4-for-12 shooting from the field. Manek fouled out with nearly 5½ minutes remaining in the game.

“It’s hard to say what’s going on when we’re losing by that much and down by that much and can’t get our way back in,” Manek said. “It’s hard to say what’s going on. They definitely played harder. They were making shots.”

More: Brady Manek saw flashes of Alondes Williams’ star potential as Oklahoma teammates

More: Hubert Davis eyes more chances for UNC supporting cast with Anthony Harris out for season

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Where does reeling North Carolina go from here? The immediate answer is Monday night’s matchup against Virginia Tech in Chapel Hill, a short turnaround that’s part of a busy stretch on the schedule.

If ever a fitting visual illustrated the scene that unfolded here — or unraveled, in North Carolina’s case — there were the Tar Heels, filing through the postgame handshake line moments after the final horn.

It was a tight situation to navigate. Wake Forest’s student fans, pouring onto the floor, had commenced a court-storming celebration. As the Demon Deacons shook hands, players dropped from the line one by one and joined the joyous mob, while North Carolina players and coaches were left to turn around and wade back in the direction from which they came, shuffling along pressed against each other and the sideline. There was no other room to maneuver with the celebration growing and expanding.

“The energy, effort and toughness wasn’t where it needs to be, but it was much better than at Miami,” Hubert Davis said. “But LaRavia, Williamson and Williams, the gap in terms of the talent of those three, versus anybody on our team, was huge. And so the energy and effort and toughness does have to be better, but (Saturday night) those players were dramatically better than any one of ours.”

This report will be updated with more information and comments.

Adam Smith is a sports reporter for the Burlington Times-News and USA TODAY Network. You can reach him by email at asmith@thetimesnews.com or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.

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This article originally appeared on Times-News: UNC basketball: Wake Forest’s blowout win worsens Tar Heels’ troubles

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