By R.L. Bynum
The validation that Coach Hubert Davis has talked about of following up one big win with another one has been difficult this season, and road wins have been even harder.
The Tar Heels took care of both by sharing the ball (18 of 31 field goals assisted), shooting well (43.7%), and getting the productive combination of the inside punch from Armando Bacot and perimeter shooting from Brady Manek.
It was anything but easy Tuesday night in Louisville when it looked like it might when UNC led by 10 with 12:35 left in regulation. There were crazy plays, two Cardinals technical fouls in overtime and fans throwing objects on the floor.
But, thanks to Manek carrying UNC (16–6, 8–3 ACC) for much of the second half and Caleb Love coming to life late, the Tar Heels pulled out an amazing 90–83 overtime victory for their fourth consecutive victory to go 10 games over .500 for the first time in three years.
“I think being in these situations and being successful in these situations are a great learning experience for our guys,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “For a lot of them, they’ve never been in this situation before, especially on the road. So, to be able to be in these moments and be able to execute on both ends of the floor and to experience success, I think it’s a great learning experience for our guys.”
Carolina showed some resiliency that has been missing much of the season.
“This is definitely one of the craziest ones I’ve been in for sure,” Manek said. “It was an intense game but it was a fun game.”
The win came despite 15 3-pointers from Louisville (11–11, 5–7), which was its season-high and the most against the Tar Heels this season (Notre Dame and Miami had 13 3s). It was the first time the Tar Heels have gone without a fast-break point since their 79–77 double-overtime loss at Virginia Tech on Jan. 22, 2020.
“It’s a great learning experience for our guys, things that we did well that, moving forward, we’re in that situation, we’ve got to continue to do,” Coach Davis said. “And there were some things that we cannot do, and that we have to stay away from forever in late clock situations.”
Despite foul trouble, Bacot collected 19 points and 22 rebounds and Manek had 24 points, four assists and six rebounds. RJ Davis pitched in 18 points and four 3-pointers and Love scored 14 of his 16 points after halftime.
“It was a crazy atmosphere,” Bacot said. “It was probably one of the most intense games I ever played in, especially towards the end. That was huge. We definitely grew a lot as a team today.”
A corner 3-pointer by Leaky Black off of a Bacot assist gave UNC the lead for good with 2:10 left in overtime. Jae’Lyn Withers’ technical foul for shoving Bacot on the play in which he fouled out with 1:10 left led to a pair of Love free throws to push the lead to 86–81 with 1:10 left.
“It was a physical game. We were trying to get boards,” Bacot said. “I know a lot of the times, I may nick somebody up by accident. But I just had to respond, and we got the technical. It was a huge change in the game and I’ll take it.”
Bacot said he wasn’t surprised that call went his way.
“He fully extended,” said Bacot, who called Tuesday’s game the second-most physical this season behind the Kentucky game. “It was a two-hand push. I’m not surprised about it. I didn’t know what would happen, but I’ll take it.”
Two Noah Locke free throws with 59 seconds left cut it to three. But after Matt Cross missed a 3-point attempt with 19 seconds left, interim Louisville coach Mike Pegues got whistled for a technical foul. That led to two free Love free throws and one from Bacot with 17 seconds to put the game away.
It was UNC’s first overtime victory since topping Miami 88–85 at home on Feb. 19, 2019.
Now it’s on to one of the Heels’ biggest tests of the season as No. 9 Duke (18–3, 8–2) heads to Chapel Hill to renew the best rivalry in sports at 6 p.m. Saturday (ESPN). The Blue Devils won 57–43 Monday in an ugly-looking game at Notre Dame.
Black, who suddenly is a perimeter threat, scored 13 points and three 3-pointers, both season highs, for his sixth career game with multiple 3s and second this season.
“I feel like it’s a matter of confidence,” Black said. “Playing on this level, I feel like everybody’s a good ball player, and the guys who stand out have the most confidence. When you’ve been at the bottom of the bottom like I have, with the media and all that stuff, you can’t play any worse. I’ve been low sometimes but, these last few games, I’ve just been trying to stay confident.”
Black says he’s dealt with “bad anxiety,” which he didn’t realize until a therapist diagnosed it last summer. But he says Jackie Manuel, UNC’s director of player and team development, prays with him before every game. One of the photos that cycles through at the top of Manuel’s bio page is of Black and Manuel praying.
“He said he’s seeing himself in me and he went through the same thing,” Black said of Manuel, who was also known more for his defense. “And every day, he’s just been just praying with me and getting me relaxed, meditation and stuff like that, and it’s really been helping a lot.”
Coach Davis praised his team’s ability to put four wins together after the demoralizing back-to-back losses at Miami and at Wake Forest.
“We’re just really proud of the guys,” Davis said. “The biggest thing for us after those two losses is to stop it and to change for the next four games. I just think that’s really good.”
The Tar Heels have struggled most of the season when Love isn’t shooting well but they had more than enough scoring balance among the starters to overcome his 3 of 18 night from the floor (and even a missed dunk attempt). All five starters scored in double figures for the second time this season (also against Virginia.)
“I feel like when my shot not falling, just get downhill, get some layups or get fouled or, obviously, get my teammates open,” Love said. “Starting the second half, that’s what I did.”
Bacot and Manek helped the Tar Heels keep pace against Louisville in the first 10 minutes when the Cardinals made four of their first six 3-point attempts.
Louisville jumped to a seven-point lead at 14–7 with 14:50 left. Manek’s second 3-pointer gave UNC a 20–18 lead with 10:09 left to cap an 8–0 run.
RJ Davis’ step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer gave UNC a 36–35 halftime lead despite seven Cardinals 3-pointers. It was only the second halftime lead in seven road games this season for the Tar Heels, who led Boston College 49–20 after the first half on Jan. 2.
Black took a pass from a driving Love, and his corner 3-pointer capped a 9–0 run to give UNC a 45–37 lead in the first 4½ minutes of the second half. A Davis alley-oop pass for a Bacot dunk shoved the lead to 55–45 lead with 12:35 left.
But by the time Carolina scored again on a Manek 3-pointer more than four minutes later, that was a blip in a 15–3 Louisville run that put the Cardinals ahead 60–58.
After Love tied it on two free throws and a baseline drive, RJ Davis’ 3-pointer capped a 7–0 UNC run to give the Tar Heels a 71–68 lead with 2:29 left in regulation. Two El Ellis free throws gave Louisville a one-point lead, before Bacot’s 3-point play on a dunk with 49 seconds left to put UNC up 74–72.
Ellis’ stole the ball from Love and scored on a layup to tie it with 15 seconds left. They went to overtime when Withers blocked an Davis shot on a drive with two seconds left.
“Obviously, I didn’t see him,” Love said of that steal. “We were trying to run the clock out and I didn’t want to go in and shoot a shot over a big man. Just trying to dribble it out and I didn’t see the man, so he came and got me.”
Ellis led Louisville with 25 points and five 3-pointers, with Matt Cross adding 13 points and three 3-pointers and Withers pitching in 12 points and two 3-pointers.
UNC 90, Louisville 83, OT
UNC season statistics
day, time, TV
|5||83–55 exhibition win||Home||Elizabeth City State|
|9||83–67 win, 1–0||Home||Loyola Maryland|
|12||94–87 win, 2–0||Home||Brown|
|16||94–83 win, 3–0||Road||College of Charleston|
|20||93–84 loss, 3–1||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 4 Purdue|
|21||89–72 loss, 3–2||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 22 Tennessee|
|23||72–53 win, 4–2||Home||UNC Asheville|
|December (5–1, 1-0 ACC)|
|1||72–51 win, 5–2||Home||X — Michigan|
|5||79–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACC||Road||Georgia Tech|
|11||80–63 win, 7–2 ACC||Home||Elon|
|14||74–61 win, 8–2 ACC||Home||Furman|
|18||98–69 loss, 8–3 ACC||Las Vegas||Z — No. 5 Kentucky|
|21||70–50 win, 9–3 ACC||Home||Appalachian State|
|January (6–3, 6–3 ACC)|
|2||91–65 win, 10–3, 2-0 ACC||Road||Boston College|
|5||78–73 loss, 10–4, 2-1 ACC||Road||Notre Dame|
|8||74–58 win, 11–4, 3–1 ACC||Home||Virginia|
|15||88–65 win, 12–4, 4–1 ACC||Home||Georgia Tech|
|18||85–57 loss, 12–5, 4–2 ACC||Road||Miami|
|22||98–76 loss, 12–6, 4–3 ACC||Road||Wake Forest|
|24||78–68 win, 13–6, 5–3 ACC||Home||Virginia Tech|
|26||58–47 win, 14–6, 6–3 ACC||Home||Boston College|
|29||100–80 win, 15–6, 7–3 ACC||Home||N.C. State|
|February (1–0, 1–0 ACC)|
|1||90–83 OT win, 16–6, 8–3 ACC||Road||Louisville|
|5||Saturday, 6, ESPN||Home||No. 9 Duke|
|8||Tuesday, 6, ACCN||Road||Clemson|
|12||Saturday, 2, ESPN or ESPN2||Home||Florida State|
|16||Wednesday, 8, ACCN||Home||Pittsburgh|
|19||Saturday, 4, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||Virginia Tech|
|21||Monday, 7, ESPN||Home||Louisville|
|26||Saturday, 2 or 4, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||N.C. State|
|28||Monday, 7, ESPN||Home||Syracuse|
|5||Saturday, 6, ESPN||Road||No. 9 Duke|