By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — It doesn’t seem to matter how much Caleb Love struggles with his shot; his determination to figure out how to win a game for Carolina stays strong, and he has a way of changing some games.
That happened again Tuesday night when he provided the needed spark after Boston College had cut the Tar Heels’ lead to one with six minutes left.
Love scored the next five points and drew a big charge call on Boston College’s Jaeden Zackery as UNC pulled away for a 72–64 victory Tuesday at the Smith Center.
“It was nice that, from an offensive standpoint, he made some shots down the stretch,” said UNC coach Hubert Davis, emphasizing that Love is a basketball player and can affect the game in many ways. “But, to me, I thought the biggest play of the game was the defensive charge he took.”
It wasn’t always pretty, and the Eagles (8–11, 2–6 ACC) hung around longer than expected, but with Pete Nance over his back issues, starting and making 3-pointers, the Tar Heels (13–6, 5–3) figured out a way, thanks to Love’s late spurt.
“Just trying to create that energy for the team and doing what’s best for the team,” Love said. “Just taking the charge, giving my body up for the team. I just want to make winning plays down the stretch and help my team win.”
Armando Bacot tied Billy Cunningham’s career program double-double record with his 60th, earning it in the first half for the second consecutive game on his way to 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“We’re not too concerned about the shooting slump right now,” RJ Davis, who scored 18 points and four 3-pointers, said of Love. “He’s taking great shots.”
And Love rescued the game when it was in peril for the Tar Heels.
After BC cut the lead to 56–55 on a Zackery layup at the end of an 8–0 run, Love had a strong response. He shoved the lead back to six with a step-back 3-pointer and a layup — after Zackery deflected Love’s pass back to him — before drawing the foul on Zackery. Love scored nine of his 16 points in the final 5½ minutes.
“We just got stops, and after we got a stop, we were able to score on the other end,” RJ Davis said. “There was a stretch where we were maybe up one and we were able to really key in on defense and that kind of led to our offense. I feel like once we were disciplined, and we’re good enough to do that, we’ve got to do it all the time from start to finish.”
Love ended a streak of 12 consecutive missed 3-point attempts, which started in the last minute of the Virginia game. There was much relief when that skid ended in the first minute of the second half on his fifth shot from outside the arc.
“It felt good; but it ain’t good enough. I went 2 for 10,” Love said of his shooting from outside the arc. “It is just a mental game because I put too much work in. It just ain’t falling now. It’s going come.”
Coach Davis said that he’s talked with Love about his shooting struggles.
“I talked to him [Monday]. And I talked to him through my own experience,” said Coach Davis, who remembered that his elbows came out a little bit when he struggled and how if he missed 10 attempts, he always thought he’d make the next two.
“When he was shooting the last couple of days, it just seemed just a smidge flat,” Davis said. “I just told him to just think about getting a little more arc. I told him about the importance of continuing to shoot and continuing to shoot good shots. And then I told him about making impact plays in different areas.”
Bacot looked to be nearly back to full health on another night of making history.
Bacot tied Cunningham’s 69-game total from 1962–65 in his 118th game. Only Cunningham (87.0%) and Lennie Rosenbluth (51.3%) have double-doubles in a higher percentage of their games than Bacot (50.8%).
“It means a lot,” Bacot said. “I guess I can credit Cole Anthony, Caleb Love and RJ for all the missed shots they shot so I guess I have to give them credit.”
He pushed his career point total to 1,616, passing Mitch Kupchak (1,611) and Coach Davis (1,615).
“He’s just not a normal player,” Coach Davis said of Bacot. “It’s hard to describe just how valuable and how great he is as as a player, as someone to coach. One of the things as a coaches that you really, really want is when you go to practice and you go to games, you want consistency .. .With Armando, there’s no guesswork. You know exactly what you’re gonna get every practice every game and what he’s doing, statistically, is just unbelievable.”
Bacot had that quickness to zip past defenders inside with one step that didn’t seem to be there against Louisville.
“I’ve been working every day just strengthening and strengthening my ankle, and I’m just feeling better and better every day and getting back to myself,” Bacot said.
Quinten Post, who had a bit of a dust up with Bacot, led BC with 17 points before fouling out.
“I joke a lot on the court, and I was just messing with him, and I guess he got a little mad. But it was all good,” said Bacot, who wouldn’t say what he told Post.
Nance scored a pair of 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the game, but was applying a heating pad on his back midway through the second half before returning to the game.
“I woke up [Tuesday] morning and didn’t feel anything, so I knew that today would kinda be a good day, just as far as the progression of it for me to get back out there,” said Nance, adding that it felt good and he had no issues. “It felt great, knock on wood. It felt good all night, and I was glad, obviously, that I didn’t tweak it again.”
A Leaky Black 3-pointer capped a 10–2 run to give the Heels an 18–10 lead. Carolina led by as many as nine points in the first half before taking a 31–26 halftime lead.
RJ Davis tried to pull Carolina away with 11 of the Tar Heels’ first 21 second-half points. He brought the house down with a corner 3-pointer after pump-faking a defender that brought the house down to push the lead to 10 four minutes after halftime.
“I saw the guy coming out of the corner of my eye, so felt like I had a better chance with me just side-stepping and having a better angle to shoot it,” Davis said. “When it went in, the crowd just went crazy.”
A couple of minutes later, he made another three after a slick crossover dribble.
Zackery added 14 points for the Eagles.
NOTES — Carolina is back at home at 5 p.m. Saturday to face N.C. State (14–4, 4–3), which won at Georgia Tech 78–66 Tuesday for its fourth consecutive victory. … Freshman Jalen Washington rolled his right ankle during a shootaround Tuesday afternoon and didn’t play. … Luke Maye drew huge cheers when shown on the video boards and identified as “Drake Maye’s brother.” Their father Mark was seated between the two, who were then identified as “Beau Maye’s brothers.” … Carolina has won three in a row against Boston College and 15 of the last 16, only losing 71–70 at home on Feb. 1, 2020. … The Tar Heels lead the series 21–6, including 18–5 since the Eagles joined the ACC. … Carolina didn’t allow a 3-pointer for the first time in 33 years, as BC missed all six attempts. Jacksonville on Nov. 27, 1990, was the last opponent to go without a 3-pointer, and that was 1,149 games ago. UNC won that game at the Smith Center 104–61. … Carolina scored 10 3-pointers, only the third time with double-digit 3s this season (15 against The Citadel and 11 vs. Portland). … Black had four steals to give him multiple steals for the sixth consecutive game.
Carolina 72, Boston College 64
UNC lineup combinations
|No. 8 Virginia||9–3||17–4|
|No. 19 Miami||10–4||19–5|
|No. 22 N.C. State||9–4||19–5|
No. 19 Miami 81, Duke 59
North Carolina at Wake Forest, 7 p.m., ESPN
Louisville at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m., ACCN
No. 22 N.C. State at No. 8 Virginia, 9 p.m., ACCN
Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m., RSNs
Boston College at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m., ACCN
Syracuse at Florida State, 7 p.m., ESPNU
Pittsburgh at Florida State, noon, ESPN2 or ESPNU
No. 22 N.C. State at Boston College, noon, RSNs
Clemson at North Carolina, 2 p.m., ESPN2
Virginia Tech at Notre Dame, 2 p.m., RSNs
Duke at No. 8 Virginia, 4 p.m., ESPN
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, 5 p.m., ACCN
Louisville at No. 19 Miami, 7 p.m., ACCN
|28||Friday||W, 101–40||Johnson C. Smith||Home||Exhibition|
|11||Friday||W, 102–86||College of Charleston||Home||2–0|
|20||Sunday||W, 80–64||James Madison||Home||4–0|
|Phil Knight Invitational|
|24||Thursday||W, 89–81||First round: Portland||Portland||5–0|
|27||Sunday||L, 103–101, |
No. 3 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||L, 77–65||No. 18 Indiana||Bloomington, Ind.||5–3|
|4||Sunday||L, 80–72||Virginia Tech||Blacksburg, Va.||5–4, |
|10||Saturday||W, 75–59||Georgia Tech||Home||6–4, |
|13||Tuesday||W, 100–67||The Citadel||Home||7–4|
|CBS Sports Classic|
|17||Saturday||W, 89–84, OT||Ohio State||New York||8–4|
|30||Friday||L, 76–74||Pittsburgh||Pittsburgh||9–5, |
|4||Wednesday||W, 88–79||Wake Forest||Home||10–5, |
|7||Saturday||W, 81–64||Notre Dame||Home||11–5, |
|10||Tuesday||L, 65–58||No. 8 Virginia||Charlottesville||11–6, |
|14||Saturday||W, 80–59||Louisville||Louisville, Ky.||12–6, |
|17||Tuesday||W, 72–64||Boston College||Home||13–6, |
|21||Saturday||W, 80–69||No. 22 N.C. State||Home||14–6, |
|24||Tuesday||W, 72–68||Syracuse||Syracuse, N.Y.||15–6, |
|1||Wednesday||L, 65–64||Pittsburgh||Home||15–7, |
|4||Saturday||L, 63–57||Duke||Durham||15–8, |
|7||Tuesday||7 p.m.||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||ESPN|
|13||Monday||7 p.m.||No. 19 Miami||Home||ESPN|
|19||Sunday||1 p.m.||No. 22 N.C. State||Raleigh||ESPN|
|22||Wednesday||9 p.m.||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||ESPN or ESPN2|
|25||Saturday||6 or 8||No. 8 Virginia||Home||ESPN|
|27||Monday||7 p.m.||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||ESPN|
ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network.
Photo via @UNC_Basketball