By R.L. Bynum
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Without a fully healthy Armando Bacot and continued backcourt shooting struggles, Carolina has played itself into unfamiliar territory.
Already with a right-ankle issue, Bacot tweaked his right shoulder and collarbone in the first three minutes, then got in foul trouble. Even with those challenges, Bacot gamely put up another double-double, but it wasn’t enough on a night Indiana outscored Carolina inside by 26 points.
Pete Nance made huge contributions in stretches, but another poor perimeter shooting night extended Carolina’s losing streak to three, the longest since an eight-game February losing streak in 2019–20.
No. 10 Indiana (7–0), before a raucous Assembly Hall crowd, was too much for the Tar Heels (5–3), pulling away early in the second half on its way to a 77–65 victory Wednesday night over No. 18 UNC in the final ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“I was dealing with the ankle and my shoulder, too; I couldn’t add any resistance,” Bacot said. “All I could use was my lower body. I couldn’t bump, I couldn’t arm-bar. Just didn’t feel good; still in pain.”
He wasn’t sure when he hurt his shoulder, saying that he thought it came when he and a defender were “banging into each other.”
Bacot, who missed a dunk and had three shots blocked, finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Nance had 15 and 12 rebounds. But Caleb Love (13 points) and RJ Davis (11) combined to go 3 of 9 from the 3-point range (1 of 6 in the second half).
Bacot hurt the same right ankle that hindered him in the Final Four, but that was on the outside of the ankle and this one on the inside part. Like in New Orleans, he didn’t have his usual explosiveness.
“It was unfortunate, but you’ve got to live with it,” Bacot said. “I like to work on the left block, and I really couldn’t get my bumps and create any separation. And then, in the post defense, I couldn’t arm-bar. It created too much tension, so it hindered me in that way.”
Bacot said that athletic trainer Doug Halverson worked with him for hours to get him ready for the game, but his teammates could tell he was having a tough time.
“He fought really hard and battled through,” Nance said. “You could see that he was in a lot of pain. So just him fighting like that was huge, and he gave everything he had.”
Bacot playing through issues that would have sidelined many players was no surprise to RJ Davis.
“It’s definitely difficult,” Davis said. “One thing about Armando, he’s a warrior, and he’s going to go out there and play through the pain, and that’s something that you always want and need. It was difficult to watch.”
Playing without Bacot at full strength was a big reason Indiana dominated so much around the basket. But the other was Trace Jackson-Davis, who had 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and showed why he was an AP Preseason All-American along with Bacot.
UNC coach Hubert Davis said there were a lot of issues that led to Carolina losing, but Jackson-Davis was the main one.
“They have a player that they can run the offense through who can generate points for them on every possession, and, as of right now, we don’t have that,” said Davis, who said he hasn’t had a full practice for a week and a half. “We don’t have that in the post. Not only can he score, but he’s also a good passer.”
Coach Davis bemoaned what he called repeated “pick-sixes” when turnovers became easy Hoosiers buckets. Indiana had a 17–4 advantage on points off turnovers.
“One of the things is not necessarily turning the ball over a lot, but when we turn the ball over, it was a pick-six almost every time,” Davis said.
The most damaging example came after Love’s free throw with 6:39 left to cut the lead to 59–52. Trey Galloway swiped the ball away from RJ Davis and scored a driving layup, and the Tar Heels never got closer than seven points again.
“That was the biggest of all of them,” Coach Davis said. “And then we came down, shot a contested two. I think they got the rebound, and then it was 11. We were right there. I told them at the next timeout, let’s, at worst, have it a two-possession game. We were right there.”
Love’s banked-in 3-pointer from the left wing and RJ Davis’ straight-away 3-pointer were the only field goals out of UNC’s first 16 attempts of the game, including five missed layup attempts. Although Indiana shot 50% through the first eight minutes, the Hoosiers only led 12–8 because of three turnovers.
Nance scored 11 consecutive points over a two-minute first-half stretch to equal his high in Assembly Hall and give UNC its first lead of the game. He followed a pair of free throws with a nice post move, a 3-pointer, a jumper and two more free throws with 7:41 left to give UNC a 22–21 edge.
Indiana responded with an 11–2 run that Galloway capped by converting two RJ Davis turnovers into layups, putting the Hoosiers up 32–24 with 3:27 to go in the first half.
Nance’s jumper with 8:25 left during his run of points was UNC’s last first-half field goal until a Bacot layup and a D’Marco Dunn 3-pointer in the last 1:35, as Indiana led 35–29 at halftime.
Hubert Davis called a timeout after Indiana started the second half with a 9–2 run, with UNC shooting 1 of 7.
NOTES — Carolina begins ACC play at 3 p.m. Sunday at Virginia Tech (ACC Network). The Hokies (7–1) won their ACC-Big Ten Challenge game Monday at home against Minnesota 67–57. Virginia Tech’s lone loss was 77–75 at College of Charleston, which lost in Chapel Hill to Carolina 102–86 on Nov. 11. … The ACC won the Challenge 8–6. The ACC finished with a 13–8–3 advantage in the event, with ACC teams posting a 152–127 record.…Carolina finishes the Challenge 11–13, including 2–8 on the road 1–4 against Indiana. … UNC fell to 2–3 at Assembly Hall and 2–5 in Bloomington. … The biggest Indiana win was in the 1981 NCAA final in Philadelphia.
No. 10 Indiana 77, No. 18 UNC 65
UNC lineup combinations
|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. 1 Alabama
|ACC/Big Ten Challenge|
|30||Wednesday||L, 77–65||No. 21 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. 14 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||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||No. 12 Duke||Durham||15–8, |
|7||Tuesday||L, 92–85||Wake Forest||Winston-Salem||15–9, |
|11||Saturday||W, 91–71||Clemson||Home|| 16–9, |
|13||Monday||L, 80–72||No. 16 Miami||Home||16–10, |
|19||Sunday||L, 77–69||N.C. State||Raleigh||16–11, |
|22||Wednesday||W, 63–59||Notre Dame||South Bend, Ind.||17–11, |
|25||Saturday||W, 71–63||No. 14 Virginia||Home||18–11, |
|27||Monday||W, 77–66||Florida State||Tallahassee, Fla.||19–11, |
|4||Saturday||L, 62–57||No. 12 Duke||Home||19–12,|
|8||Wednesday||W, 85–61||Boston College||Greensboro||20–12|
|9||Thursday||L, 68–59||No. 14 Virginia||Greensboro||20–13|
Photo via @UNC_Basketball