The first sign of trouble for Texas came on its first possession. Things didn't get much better for the Longhorns against No. 5 North Carolina.
The Longhorns settled for 3-point shots and got very little offense inside the arc in Wednesday night's 82-63 loss to the Tar Heels. Coach Rick Barnes said Texas ran the wrong play on its first possession and showed little discipline on the offensive end the rest of the game.
"We didn't put any pressure on them at all," Barnes said. "We were just settling for 3s. We shot 25 3s and had nothing in the mid-range game because we just didn't execute."
Texas shot 35 percent, including 9 of 25 from 3-point range. But frontcourt players Jonathan Holmes, Alexis Wangmene, Clint Chapman and Jaylen Bond combined for 24 points on 10-for-26 shooting and managed eight defensive rebounds among them, a figure matched by North Carolina 7-footer Tyler Zeller in less than one-third of the time.
Making matters worse, the Tar Heels kept grabbing rebounds off those missed shots and raced up the court for transition baskets that charged up the home crowd and put the Longhorns in a big deficit.
"Not to take anything away from North Carolina," Barnes said, "but we never gave ourselves a chance from the beginning."
For North Carolina, Harrison Barnes scored a season-high 26 points while John Henson added 14. The Tar Heels (11-2) won their fifth straight and avenged last season's last-second loss to the Longhorns.
North Carolina went on a 13-1 run to build a double-digit lead midway through the first half and never looked back, turning a 39-23 halftime lead into a 24-point margin late in the game.
Barnes was coming off consecutive nine-point performances, but the sophomore looked far more active and assertive against the Longhorns by attacking the rim or posting up on shorter defenders. He made 9 of 15 shots and finished with 10 rebounds, part of UNC's 49-34 advantage on the glass.
J'Covan Brown was one of three players with 16 points for Texas (9-3), which shot just 35 percent and never recovered from a slow start.
It was a far more focused performance by North Carolina after looking flat and disinterested during Monday night's 50-point win against Nicholls State. The Tar Heels showed just enough spark in the second half of that one to talk coach Roy Williams out of an early morning practice the next day, while Williams said he didn't do a good job of getting his team ready to play.
The Tar Heels looked ready this time around — perhaps partly due to what happened in last year's meeting.
The Longhorns had beaten North Carolina in each of the previous two Decembers. Last year, Cory Joseph hit a turnaround jumper with 1.4 seconds left to help Texas win 78-76 in Greensboro, about an hour west of Chapel Hill. Two years ago, the Longhorns won 103-90 in Cowboys Stadium.
In fact, Texas had won the past four meetings dating to 1995, including a 78-75 win over the Tar Heels in the second round of the 2004 NCAA tournament to end Williams' first season with his alma mater.
The game also marked the return of Rick Barnes, a North Carolina native who rankled fans in the Smith Center during four visits as Clemson's head coach from 1995-98.
But there just wasn't the same kind of spice from those days, which included Barnes jokingly threatening to shed his suit jacket and enter the game because he had just four players left late in an incredibly physical matchup in 1998. Instead, there was only North Carolina running off a flurry of highlight-reel plays midway through the first half to charge up the crowd and take control.