Hubert Davis, Love say Heels’ defense will get better once they trust each other

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — There has been a lot missing in recent games on the defensive end for North Carolina, as opponents scored with ease too often.

Coach Hubert Davis said trust is the key element his team is missing on defense. Once that develops, he expects his Tar Heels will be able to make it tougher on opposing offenses.

If they help on defense, Davis said that the players must trust that their teammates will also help.

“I think that’s been the biggest thing defensively,” Davis said. “Throughout the game, you’re gonna get beat, and you’ve got to trust that your teammate is going to be there, and that consistently hasn’t been happening.”

When he pointed that out in practice this week, there was a bit of an aha moment.

“So, we just talked about that, and I felt like when I said that, all of them looked up and looked at me, and I think it resonated with them,” Davis said. “And my hope is it can play out in [Saturday’s] game, too.”

The Tar Heels (5–4, 0–1 ACC) will try to end a four-game losing streak at 3:15 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) against Georgia Tech (6–3) in the Yellow Jackets’ ACC opener.

Junior guard Caleb Love said that the coaching staff had emphasized trust all week, and admitted that it was fair to say that it was lacking on defense.

“I feel like we’ve been just worried about our man too much, not letting our man score,” Love said. “It’s a team game, and we’ve got to play team defense.”

Love said the need for trust goes beyond defense.

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“On the offensive end, trusting that we are gonna make the right play,” Love said. “If I penetrate and I see somebody help, trust my teammate and pass him the ball and let him make the shot. That just trickles down throughout the whole team. So, he’s been emphasizing that throughout the whole week. And we’ve definitely been taking steps forward.”

Those steps have been easier to make now that the team is no longer traveling and can get in some full practices for Davis and the coaching staff to try to fix the issues that have led to the recent struggles. He said it’s been great to get back to practicing and emphasizing the discipline and details they need to be consistent on both ends of the court.

“I think the only way that you can build those habits is in practice,” Davis said. “Prior to this week, we haven’t had an opportunity to practice, and so this week has been great. It’s been nice to be at home. It’s been nice to get back to practice and reinforce the things that I think put us in a position to be successful on both ends of the floor. And it’s just been good to be able to do that on consecutive days in the midst of exams.”

Joining that practice Thursday on a limited basis was Armando Bacot, who missed the Virginia Tech game with a shoulder injury, more specifically, an AC (acromioclavicular) sprain. Davis expected Bacot’s reps to go up in Friday’s practice.

“There’s a chance that he could play [Saturday],” Davis said. “It just depends how he feels, but he is trending in the right direction. I’m going under the assumption that he will play, but it depends on how he feels.”

Davis said that Bacot had no structural damage and that he’s just dealing with soreness. Davis said it’s like an ankle sprain in terms of healing.

Davis said it’s also possible that freshman Jalen Washington could make his college debut on Saturday after a slow recovery from a right ACL tear suffered in summer of 2021.

“He has been full-go in practice this entire week,” Davis said. “I think the biggest thing for him is conditioning. But, in terms of basketball, he’s ready to go, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Jalen goes in game tomorrow afternoon.”

Davis said that D’Marco Dunn should be able to return by the end of the month. Dunn broke his left hand at the end of Saturday’s practice when he ran into walk-on Beau May.

NOTES — The Tar Heels’ four losses — against Iowa State, Alabama, Indiana and Virginia Tech — have come against teams with a combined record of 31–5. The Cyclones, though, lost 75–56 Thursday at Iowa State. … Carolina’s schedule is the third-toughest among major conference schools, behind only Michigan State and Oregon. … UNC is third in the country and leads the ACC in free throws made per game (19.9), eighth in the country and tops in the ACC in attempts per game at (26.4) but 48th in the country and fifth in the ACC in free-throw percentage (75.2%). … UNC is 248th out of 352 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.93 with 97 assists and against 104 turnovers). The only ACC team with a lower ratio is Louisville (0–8), which is 352nd at 0.42. … Love is 18th in the country and leads the ACC in field-goal attempts at 148 but is 297th in the country and 15th in the league in field-goal percentage at 41.2%. … Georgia Tech has won its last two games, including a 79–77 home win Dec. 6 over rival Georgia. … UNC leads the series with the Yellow Jackets 71–27, including 31–6 in Chapel Hill and 26–5 in the Smith Center. … Carolina swept Georgia Tech last season and has won 11 of the last 14 and 18 of the last 20 in the Smith Center. … This is UNC’s first home game since the 80–64 win Nov. 20 over James Madison. … Referees for the game will be Roger Ayers, Bert Smith and Kipp Kissinger. Kissinger was on the crew that worked UNC’s NCAA tournament game last season against Baylor. … On the ESPN call of the game will be Dave O’Brien, the lead television play-by-play voice of the Boston Red Sox, and former Virginia player Cory Alexander.

UNC statistics


DateMonth/dayTime/scoreOpponent/event
(current ranking)
LocationTV/record
October
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
November
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
No. 11
Iowa State
Portland5–1
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
Consolation:
No. 3 Alabama
Portland5–2
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 18 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
December
4SundayL, 80–72 Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.5–4,
0–1 ACC
10SaturdayW, 75–59Georgia TechHome6–4,
1–1 ACC
13TuesdayW, 100–67The CitadelHome7–4
CBS Sports Classic
17SaturdayW, 89–84, OTOhio StateNew York8–4
Jumpman Invitational
21WednesdayW, 80–76MichiganCharlotte9–4
30 Friday L, 76–74PittsburghPittsburgh9–5,
1–2 ACC
January
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 8 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69No. 22 N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
February
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7Tuesday7 p.m.Wake ForestWinston-SalemESPN
11Saturday2 p.m.ClemsonHome ESPN2
13Monday7 p.m.No. 19 MiamiHomeESPN
19Sunday1 p.m.No. 22 N.C. StateRaleighESPN
22Wednesday9 p.m.Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.ESPN or ESPN2
25Saturday6 or 8No. 8 VirginiaHomeESPN
27Monday7 p.m.Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.ESPN
March
4Saturday6:30DukeHomeESPN
ACC Tournament
7–11Tuesday-SaturdayTBATBAGreensboroTBA
If tickets for home games are available, you can purchase them here.
ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network.

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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