CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It took North Carolina only a couple of weeks to tumble from the Top 25 to the bottom of the ACC.
The Tar Heels (10-6, 0-3) have never lost their first four ACC games in any season. To avoid that unwanted place in school history, they have to beat Boston College on Saturday.
With no games since last weekend's loss at No. 2 Syracuse, they've had plenty of time to dwell on their predicament.
Too much time, point guard Marcus Paige said.
"The best way to get that taste out of your mouth is to go out and win a game," Paige said Friday, "and when you haven't had a game, you can't win a game."
The only other time North Carolina started league play 0-3 was in 1996-97 — Dean Smith's final season. That team rebounded well enough to win the ACC tournament and reach the Final Four.
These Tar Heels certainly can't bank on repeating that history — not with the deficiencies they've shown so far.
Though North Carolina is averaging 75.6 points, points have been far tougher to come by in league play.
The Tar Heels haven't cracked 70 against any of three ACC opponents and are coming off a 45-point effort against the Orange that marked their lowest-scoring game in coach Roy Williams' 11 seasons.
Only once in the past decade have the Tar Heels averaged fewer than 76 points — in 2009-10, when they finished 5-11 in the ACC and were relegated to the NIT.
Of course, it might've helped to have P.J. Hairston, who averaged a team-best 14.6 points last year but never saw the court this season because of NCAA violations and earlier this week joined the Texas Legends of the NBA Developmental League.
Hairston was the key figure in 2012-13 when Williams made a midseason switch to a four-guard lineup — a move that provided a scoring spark and helped propel the Tar Heels to a third straight ACC championship game.
There are no such quick fixes this year.
"We don't have that capability of getting more scoring in the lineup right now," Williams said, "because it's just not there."
The scoring woes can be partly blamed on the team's defensive shortcomings, too. It's hard for the Tar Heels to shift into the fast-paced style Williams prefers when the defense struggles to force turnovers or missed shots.
"It's harder to beat teams down the floor when you're taking the ball out of the net," Paige said.
UNC is allowing its ACC opponents to shoot nearly 42 percent and is generating only 12 turnovers per game.
"If you don't score well against a set defense, you better try to run faster," Williams said. "If we get better defensively, then we might get some more (fast) break opportunities. You've still got to figure out how to get better defensively, too.
"I really love pushing the tempo, I really do, and we haven't gotten into that nearly as much as I wanted us to," he added.
The Tar Heels spent the past week re-evaluating what has gone wrong so far, with Williams saying Friday was the final day in a three-day period of self-reflection.
"They're intelligent kids. They know what's going on, and I'm just talking to them about getting better every day," Williams said. "Let's get better today. That's our focus. We're not talking about 0-3."
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap