With the stunning loss to the Belmont Bruins, the North Carolina Tar Heels officially need P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald back as soon as possible, or they could be in very big trouble.
The 83-80 loss is a tough one to swallow for the Tar Heels. J.J. Mann, who scored a career-high 28 points for the Bruins, came up with a clutch three-point jumper with 14 seconds left to put Belmont up 81-80. With the Tar Heels unable to score at the end, it was over.
There were some very big concerns from the loss. The most noticeable one was turnovers, as the Tar Heels made just 22 of their 48 shots from the charity stripe, which is only 45.8 percent. They committed 13 total turnovers and had just 11 assists, not to mention the fact that they only made two of their seven three-pointers.
Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, there is no specific timetable for the return of McDonald or Hairston. Had they been able to play in this one, not only would the Tar Heels have likely won, those concerning statistics wouldn't have been as bad as they were.
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The free-throw troubles were a big concern, and both Hairston and McDonald are pretty good from the line. Last season, Hairston made 77.9 percent of his shots from the charity stripe, while McDonald made 79.5 percent of his.
The perimeter offense has been a big concern as well. This season, the Tar Heels have made just 10 of 30 three-pointers, and that's the biggest area where the two suspended players could have helped. The two made a combined 131 shots from behind the arc last season, with Hairston shooting 39.6 percent from long range.
Both players had specific roles on the team last season, and those roles have had to be picked up by different players that aren't as ideal options.
Hairston was the team's leading scorer last season, averaging 14.6 points per game. That role has now been taken over by James Michael McAdoo, while Marcus Paige has made some solid plays as well. But the concern is that those appear to be the only two reliable options, and they could certainly use a more effective long-range scorer to complement the other guys.
Meanwhile, McDonald was supposed to be an ideal sixth man coming off of the bench. That's clearly a big need for the Tar Heels, as they only had 20 points from just two bench players on Sunday night. There's a lack of depth at the guard position, and McDonald could give the starters the rest that they need.
A loss to a team like Belmont does not bode well for North Carolina. If the Tar Heels can't get either player back anytime soon, it could be a very bleak year in Chapel Hill.