UNC's Joel Berry: 'It's time to bounce back.'

UNC point guard Joel Berry talks with reporters following the Tar Heels' loss to Duke.
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UNC point guard Joel Berry talks with reporters following the Tar Heels' loss to Duke.

North Carolina

UNC's Joel Berry struggles, takes blame for loss to Duke

March 04, 2018 12:21 AM


There are no do-overs between Duke and North Carolina.

As much as Joel Berry would like to, he can’t get Saturday’s 74-64 loss at Duke back. The senior guard was hyper-critical of his own performance in the Tar Heels’ second loss of the week.

“I played scared as hell and that’s just not me,” Berry said. “I’m a confident dude. I just didn’t out there and play my game tonight.”

Berry finished with six points in 36 minutes and finished 0-7 from the 3-point line. The loss dropped the Tar Heels (22-9, 11-7 ACC) to the No. 6 seed in the ACC tournament. They will have to play on Wednesday in Brooklyn against either Syracuse or Wake Forest in the late game.

After leading by 10 at the half, and only giving up 25 points, UNC had its sights on the No. 2 seed and double-bye. That didn’t happen after Duke’s second-half outburst and Berry’s struggles.

He wasn’t the only UNC player to go cold — the Heels were 3 of 14 from the 3-point line in the second half — but Berry, the team’s leading scorer, gets the most attention.

"When I’m not hitting shots or making the plays I usually make, I feel like I’m just not in the game," Berry said.

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) moves in against UNC Joel Berry II (2) in the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium In Durham, N.C. Saturday, March 3, 2018.
Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

The only other time in what has been a stellar senior ACC season for Berry that he finished with six points was the home loss to N.C. State on Jan. 27. That’s the only other ACC game he didn’t make a 3-pointer and didn’t score in double-digits.

Saturday’s downturn came after Berry nearly willed UNC to a dramatic comeback win over Miami on Tuesday with a season-high 31 points. UNC coach Roy Williams looked at the Duke box score and saw Berry’s shooting performance, 3-11 overall.

“Needless to say that’s not Joel Berry,” Williams said.

No, it wasn't. Berry didn’t think so, either. It has been an emotional week. Berry and Williams were both moved to tears after the 91-88 loss to Miami on Tuesday in the final home game for Berry and senior Theo Pinson.

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North Carolina coach Roy Williams joked about aliens after his team’s poor performance in the second half of Saturday’s 74-64 loss at Duke.


Williams dismissed the thought that Berry was still suffering from any lingering affects from the Miami loss.

“I don’t think so,” Williams said. “I just think (Duke was) very aware of him. “They closed out on him out of their zone.”

Berry did have a team-high five assists, not that he was looking for a bright spot. It was the fourth time this season Berry scored less than 10 points. The first was his first game back from a hand injury. He was 1-11 against Bucknell on Nov. 15 and finished with eight points. That’s the only game UNC won without Berry scoring at his usual level.


He had seven points in a loss to Michigan State on Nov. 26 and the matching sixes in ACC losses to the Wolfpack and Blue Devils. Berry understands he has to be good for this UNC team to be good. Sometimes he puts too much on his own shoulders.

“It’s tough because I’m so hard on myself,” Berry said. “Sometimes I’ve got to let that go and just go out there and play.”

As Pinson noted, Berry has a history of following up a poor performance with an outburst. He had 29 points after the Bucknell game and 27 points after the N.C. State loss.

“The thing about it is, I’m scared for the next team,” Pinson said.

A bounce-back win would suffice for Berry. He can’t get a do-over but he does get new chance in the postseason.

“We just have to move on from it and go back and get better,” Berry said. “It’s just as simple as that.”