UNC takes the ugly route to second consecutive victory

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — After absorbing a pair of blowout losses, Carolina is more interested in wins than style points. That’s good because, for the second time in three days, the Tar Heels won an ugly-looking game but gained valuable momentum in the process.

UNC (14–6, 6–3 ACC) has gone three consecutive halves with scoring droughts of more than five minutes but managed to score enough Wednesday to knock off Boston College 58–47, thanks to holding the Eagles scoreless for the last 7:13.

The Tar Heels again had to battle through rough stretches, just as they did against Virginia Tech on Monday. The 29.1% shooting was the lowest in program history in a victory, eclipsing the previous mark of 30.3% in the Tar Heels’ national championship 1957 season against William & Mary.

It was the first win in six games for UNC when scoring fewer than 70 points and the first time in 22 games it has won when scoring fewer than 60 points. The Tar Heels scored their fewest points in a win since a 54–51 victory at Virginia on Feb. 25, 2011.

The Tar Heels’ escape from ugliness came at the free-throw line, where they made 20 of 25 shots from the line while BC (8–11, 3–6) only attempted eight free throws.

“Tonight, I felt like we were a little tired,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said after his team’s third game in five days. He still only played eight players, and only got eight bench points.

“As good as we are shooting, there’s going to be times throughout the year where you aren’t shooting the ball well and you’re not finishing around the basket,” Davis said. “And so, you’re gonna have to get stops, you’re gonna have to rely on the defensive end.”

UNC held the Eagles to 16 second-half points, the lowest opponent total since Northern Iowa scored 16 in the second half on Dec. 21, 2016.  It was the Tar Heels 11th straight win when holding an opponent to fewer than 70 points. 

“I thought what we did best defensively was pressure the ball,” Davis said. “The other thing is that we weren’t affected by any screens. We got under screens. We didn’t allow screens to be an excuse to not be able to guard our guy.”

Davis admitted that not all of BC’s offensive struggles can be credited to his defense on a night that the Eagles went 1 of 16 from 3-point range.

“I felt like they were missing as opposed to us stopping them,” Davis said. “But towards the end when we needed to stop, we got to stops. And when we needed a basket, we made a basket.”

But Carolina’s dip in shooting is alarming.

The Tar Heels have shot under 40% from the floor for the seven of the last eight halves (32% in the first half and 26.7% in the second half) after doing that only five times in the first 16 games. After going 6 of 20 on layup attempts against the Hokies, UNC was 8 of 16 against BC.

“You know, just the basketball gods,” said Caleb Love, who led UNC with 16 points, trying to explain the team’s offensive struggles heading into Saturday’s home game against N.C. State. “We all work out real hard and we work on our game and we’ve just got to keep trusting and believing that shots are gonna fall, keep our confidence high. Coming into Saturday, we’re gonna be fired up. You just got to come in, put this game behind us and be ready to play on Saturday.”

Armando Bacot, who got his right hand and thumb taped in the first half but took the tape off in the second half, continued to struggle to make field goals.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but one of the things is you can always do something to help the team, and that is something that Armando has done at the highest level,” Coach Davis said.

Bacot, who was held to six points and is 2 of 22 since making his first six shots against the Hokies on Monday, was out on the court after the game putting up shots and practicing inside moves.

RJ Davis scored 13 and Leaky Black added eight.

“As long as we get a win, honestly, there’s gonna be some ugly games,” Black said after scoring 3-pointers in consecutive games for the first this season and had five assists against no turnovers. “Obviously, we know we’ve got to get better moving forward but I’m just glad we got the win.”

Black joined James Worthy, George Lynch, David Noel and Danny Green as the only Tar Heels with at least 400 rebounds, 200 assists, 100 steals and 50 blocks for their careers after blocking three shots against BC.

BC used a 6–0 run to take an early 11–8 lead before Love’s 3-pointer started a 13–2 run that included six points and a 3-pointer from Kerwin Walton. RJ Davis’ transition layup capped a 9–0 run to put UNC up 21–13 with 8:49 left in the first half. By the time Love scored UNC’s next field goal on a drive nearly 5½ minutes later, the edge was 27–21.

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The Eagles ended the first half with an 8–2 run to trim UNC’s lead to 33–31 by halftime.

A Manek dunk with 14:16 left ended a 5:02 scoring drought and started a 7–4 run. RJ Davis’ 3-pointer pushed the lead to 46–39.

A Brevin Galloway layup capped a 7–0 BC run that chopped UNC’s lead to 50–47 with 7:13 left. Love’s driving bucket with 4:24 left ended a scoring drought of more than four minutes, and then Black’s layup made it 54–47.

On a night when offense was hard to find for both teams, that all but put the game away.

Quinten Post paced Boston College with 10 points.

The Tar Heels are back at home Saturday to face N.C. State at 2 p.m. (ACC Network) before heading to Louisville at 8 p.m. (ACC Network) Tuesday. The Wolfpack (10–11, 3–7) lost at Notre Dame 73–65 on Wednesday night. The Cardinals (11–9, 5–5), who just fired Chris Mack as coach, play at home Saturday against Duke.

UNC 58, BC 47

UNC season statistics

UNC 100, N.C. State 80

DateScore, record/
day, time, TV
LocationOpponent
(current rank)
November (4–2)
583–55 exhibition winHomeElizabeth City State
983–67 win, 1–0HomeLoyola Maryland
1294–87 win, 2–0HomeBrown
1694–83 win, 3–0RoadCollege of Charleston
2093–84 loss, 3–1Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 6 Purdue
2189–72 loss, 3–2Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 18 Tennessee
2372–53 win, 4–2HomeUNC Asheville
December (5–1, 1-0 ACC)
172–51 win, 5–2HomeX — Michigan
579–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACCRoadGeorgia Tech
1180–63 win, 7–2HomeElon
1474–61 win, 8–2HomeFurman
1898–69 loss, 8–3Las VegasZ — No. 12 Kentucky
2170–50 win, 9–3HomeAppalachian State
January (5–3, 5–3 ACC)
291–65 win, 10–3, 2-0 ACCRoadBoston College
578–73 loss, 10–4, 2-1 ACCRoadNotre Dame
874–58 win, 11–4, 3–1 ACCHomeVirginia
1588–65 win, 12–4, 4–1 ACCHomeGeorgia Tech
1885–57 loss, 12–5, 4–2 ACCRoadMiami
2298–76 loss, 12–6, 4–3 ACCRoadWake Forest
2478–68 win, 13–6, 5–3 ACCHomeVirginia Tech
2658–47 win, 14–6, 6–3 ACCHomeBoston College
29Saturday, 2, ACCNHomeN.C. State
February
1Tuesday, 8, ACC NetworkRoadLouisville
5Saturday, 6, ESPNHomeNo. 9 Duke
8Tuesday, 6, ACC NetworkRoadClemson
12Saturday, 2, ESPN or ESPN2HomeFlorida State
16Wednesday, 8, ACCNHomePittsburgh
19Saturday, 4, ESPN or ESPN2RoadVirginia Tech
21Monday, 7, ESPNHomeLouisville
26Saturday, 2 or 4, ESPN or ESPN2RoadN.C. State
28Monday, 7, ESPNHomeSyracuse
March
5Saturday, 6, ESPNRoadNo. 9 Duke
8–
12
ACC TournamentBrooklyn

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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