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3 Observations: North Carolina 78, Tennessee 73

The No. 20 Vols entered Sunday’s match-up with No. 7 North Carolina looking for arguably the program’s biggest win since they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

But the Vols came up painfully short in the final minutes of the game and let the upset bid slip through their fingers.

North Carolina survived a rocking Thompson-Boling Arena and a gritty effort from the Vols and prevailed 78-73 over Tennessee. It was the first time the Vols had faced a ranked opponent while also being ranked since they beat No. 3 Pittsburgh back on December 11th, 2010 by a score of 83-77 as the No. 11 team in the country.

Tennessee led for 37 minutes and 10 seconds of the game. But they couldn’t hold on to the lead when it mattered most.

Vols led the Tarheels 38-32 at halftime and led almost the entire first half. Tennessee trailed 3-2 within the first two minutes, but that deficit was quickly erased. The Vols led by as much as nine points in the first half when they went up 34-25. But they could never push their lead to double-digits.

And that came back to bite the Vols in the second half. As did their poor shooting in the final 20 minutes of play.

North Carolina controlled the second half, and Tennessee went ice cold from the field. And that’s how the Tarheels were able to survive Tennessee’s upset bid.

Here are our three biggest takeaways from Tennessee’s loss to North Carolina.

Sloppy Second Half

Tennessee had a nine point lead at one point in the first half. And they had a six point edge at halftime as well. But poor shot selections, bad turnovers, and unlucky bounces in the second half doomed the Vols.

The Vols shot just 30.6 percent from the field in the second half and turned the ball over 13 times total in the game. North Carolina used their size to their advantage and out-rebounded Tennessee 44-39. Tennessee went over five minutes without making a field goal at one point in the second half. They missed nine consecutive field goals from the 6:50 mark until they finally made a layup with 1:09 to play. And North Carolina used that stretch to make their comeback.

North Carolina only attempted one free throw in the first half but shot 18 of them in the second half and connected on 13 of them.

Grant Williams had a strong second half, but he was one of the few Vols who did. He finished with a team-high 15 points and added four rebounds. James Daniel III had 14 points and was 4-of-6 from three. Jordan Bowden, Jordan Bone, and Admiral Schofield all scored in double-digits too.

Got Away From Their Game

The Vols came into this game as one of the more efficient teams on offense when it came to getting buckets off assists. But they got away from that in this game.

Tennessee had made about 70 percent of their field goals off assists in their first eight games of the season. But they only had 11 assists on 25 made field goals in this game. North Carolina, meanwhile, had 17 assists on 29 buckets made.

North Carolina also dominated inside. They outscored Tennessee 40-24 in the paint.

Tarheels Still Own Vols

The Tarheels’ victory today marked North Carolina’s fifth straight win over Tennessee. The Vols still haven’t beaten North Carolina in the modern era. Tennessee’s last victory over the Tarheels came in 1949.

Tennessee and North Carolina have played five times since 2000, and the Tarheels have won all five meetings. This was only the second time in series history that both teams were ranked when they played. The only other meeting was in 2006, and No. 2 North Carolina won 101-87 over the No. 22 Vols.

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