CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina’s struggles at the free throw line are proving costly.
The 14th-ranked Tar Heels missed 23 free throws in Wednesday night’s 86-83 loss to Texas, marking the second time this season UNC has missed at least 20 shots from the line in a close home loss.
The Tar Heels made 24 of 47 free throws (51 percent) against the Longhorns, including a 10-for-25 performance in the second half of a game that ended with UNC’s Marcus Paige missing a 3-pointer to tie it at the horn.
UNC missed 26 free throws in an 83-80 loss to Belmont on Nov. 17, and missed 19 in Saturday’s tough win over then-No. 11 Kentucky.
Coach Roy Williams has said several times that his players shoot the ball well in practices, but it isn’t carrying over to games. His patience is wearing thin.
“You have to be tough enough to make shots,” he said. “I’m tired of talking about free throws. You have to be tough enough to step up and make the daggum thing or go play soccer.”
Demarcus Holland scored on a stickback of his own free throw with 4.1 seconds left to help Texas hold on.
Holland finished with 15 points for the Longhorns (10-1), who earned their sixth straight win.
Isaiah Taylor scored 16 points to lead Texas, while Javan Felix added 12 — including two key baskets in the final 2 minutes to answer a tying spurt from the Tar Heels (7-3).
Texas shot 38 percent after halftime and 40 percent for the game, but dominated the boards and scored 21 second-chance points to beat the Tar Heels for the sixth time in seven meetings.
Paige scored 23 points to lead UNC, while senior Leslie McDonald scored 15 in his first game after missing nine due to NCAA eligibility concerns.
North Carolina, which had beaten highly ranked Michigan State, Kentucky and reigning national champion Louisville in the past month despite playing without McDonald and leading scorer P.J. Hairston due to those NCAA issues, trailed by as many as 13 points and spent much of the game fighting uphill.