Ciera Toomey first marveled at the beauty of the UNC campus when she was 10, traveling home to Pennsylvania from a Pinehurst golf tournament. Toomey thought she’d just play golf for the rest of her life and remembers liking the idea of moving back to North Carolina at some point to take advantage of the terrific golf options and better weather. The No. 3-ranked player in the Class of 2023 committed to North Carolina on Monday night and will indeed head back to the Tar Heel state. But a “life-changing” breakout AAU season with NEPA Elite three years later before her freshman year in high school dramatically changed her focus.
Reggie Bullock couldn’t have had much more contrasting games in the Western Conference semifinals during a week he earned an NBA award. He took 10 shots in both Sunday’s 109–100 Game 3 home loss to the Golden State Warriors and Tuesday’s 119–109 Game 4 home win. He was scoreless on Sunday but scored six 3-pointers and 18 points on Tuesday.
If you’ve watched Carolina’s baseball team emerge from weeks of struggles to finish the regular season with three consecutive ACC series wins and thought that its season trajectory reminds you of the Tar Heels’ men’s basketball team, you aren’t the only one. For Coach Hubert Davis’ basketball team, the low points were the back-to-back road losses to Miami and Wake Forest and the stunning home loss to Pittsburgh. For Coach Scott Forbes’ baseball team, it was losing five consecutive league series before the exam break. They’ve both noticed the similarities. Both rebounded after dealing with early-season criticism of them and their players.
CHAPEL HILL — The expectations are suddenly rocketing up for a Carolina baseball team that is putting it all together at the right time. From Angel Zarate’s first-pitch home run in the first inning, the Tar Heels were in command, combining timely hitting, productive outs, solid defense and good pitching to earn an 11–0 senior-day victory Saturday over Florida State at Boshamer Stadium for their first ACC shutout of the season.
Carolina will face Ohio State on Dec. 17 in Madison Square Garden in next season’s CBS Sports Classic, according to Jeff Goodman of CBS. Kentucky will meet UCLA in the other game in the event’s ninth season.
CHAPEL HILL — Carolina fans will forever remember Caleb Love’s huge 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in Carolina’s Final Four victory over Duke at the Superdome in New Orleans, and now it’s immortalized in the Carolina Basketball Museum. On the half-court in the main part of the museum, there are markers for the biggest shots in program history. Logically, one was added for Love’s 3-pointer over the outstretched left hand of Blue Devils center Mark Williams. That shot was massive as he scored 28 points in beating Duke 81–77 to end Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s career with a loss.
Reggie Bullock scored a career playoff-high 21 points on Friday night but they weren’t enough as the Dallas Mavericks fell behind 2–0 in their Western Conference finals series with the Golden State Warriors. Bullock notched a career playoff-high six 3-pointers in the Mavericks’ 126–117 loss Friday as he put up a 15.4 game score, the second-best of his playoff career. That is topped only by his 15.4 in a 19-point, seven-rebound effort in Game 6 of the series in the last round against the Phoenix Suns.
CHAPEL HILL — If you are going to battle North Carolina’s baseball team, it’s best to do it before the exam break. The Tar Heels, for the second straight season, have gone from a team unlikely to make the NCAA tournament field before exams to earning high marks with the selection committee. After losing five consecutive ACC series before the break, the Tar Heels defeated Florida State 10–4 on Friday night to clinch their third successive league series and put them in a good position for a postseason berth.
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina is back in the women’s lacrosse Final Four but, for the second consecutive season, Stony Brook and its vexing zone defense didn’t make it easy. Just like in last year’s quarterfinals, the undefeated, No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Tar Heels (20–0) had to rally against the Seawolves to keep their season alive. UNC rebounded from the lowest-scoring half of the season (three first-half goals) and used a four-goal second-half run to advance Thursday at Dorrance Field. The Tar Heels’ 8–5 NCAA tournament quarterfinal victory over the No. 7-ranked Seawolves (16–3) was their 33rd consecutive home win.
The latest sign that expectations for Carolina’s men’s basketball season are going to be sky-high is ESPN’s bracket projection for next season.
Such projections in May are, of course, ridiculous, but Joe Lunardi sees the Tar Heels as the No. 1 seed in the East. Under that scenario, UNC would play in Greensboro for the first two rounds and at Madison Square Garden in New York for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight.
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina women’s lacrosse stars have been here before — undefeated, top-ranked, No. 1 seed and in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. The Tar Heels (18–0) are in the same situation as a year ago, facing Stony Brook at Dorrance Field with a Final Four berth on the line. But five-time All-America attacker Jamie Ortega says that they are in a different place as they prepare to play the No. 8-ranked Seawolves (16–2) at 7:30 Thursday night (ESPNU).
For the first time in his career, Reggie Bullock will play in a conference finals series, which means that Cameron Johnson will be denied a second consecutive trip to the Western Conference finals. In one of the most improbable beatdowns in the history of NBA Game 7s, the visiting Dallas Mavericks rolled to a 123–90 victory over the Phoenix Suns, who had the best regular-season record in the league, to win the series 4–3.
CHAPEL HILL — What does domination look like? That was on display as North Carolina’s top-ranked and No. 1-seed women’s lacrosse team overwhelmed No. 15-ranked Virginia in the second round of the NCAA tournament. After falling behind in their last two ACC Tournament games, the unbeaten Tar Heels, who got a first-round bye, took charge early Sunday and left little doubt. Carolina scored the game’s first 13 goals and the last 11, dominating draws early in a 24–2 victory at Dorrance Field behind senior attacker Jamie Ortega’s four goals and five assists. That was the most goals in an NCAA tournament game in program history.