Carolina looks dominant again in pounding BC, and hopes to keep that going against Virginia

By R.L. Bynum

GREENSBORO — North Carolina has shown flashes of the team that many expected this season, and Wednesday was one of those nights.

The question is whether the No. 7-seed Tar Heels can follow up their 85–61 win over Boston College in the second round of the ACC Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum with more of the same. They’ll need it Thursday night against No. 2-seed Virginia to make a run to the championship.

The 3-point shots were falling, with few turnovers and plenty of inside points. It’s all a recipe for plenty of success if Carolina (20–12) can replicate that.

“I thought everybody did a really good job of sharing the basketball,” said UNC coach Hubert Davis, who wants his players to react within a half-second after they get the ball. “One of the things that we always talk about is to have a point-five mentality, so as soon as you catch the ball, either you’re shooting it, you’re passing it or driving it. And I really think all the guys did a really good job of doing that tonight.”

There were some anxious moments midway through the first half when Armando Bacot hurt his left ankle, which he injured during the Final Four. He went directly to the dressing room. After the ankle was retaped, he started the second half, but his gait looked slightly off.

“I didn’t want to leave it out there with them to have a chance to come back,” Bacot told ESPN. “So, I told the coaches, I told [athletic trainer] Doug [Halverson], I told [strength coach] Jonas [Sahratian], I’ll give them a good four to six minutes to just give us a bump, and then, we ended up coming out, getting a good enough lead to where I could sit out.”

Bacot came out 5½ minutes into the second half to rest that ankle, finishing with 10 points and six rebounds.

“He was hobbling a little bit in the second half, and then I asked him, I said, ‘Are you okay?’ and he said, ‘No, I feel really good.’ Once I took him out, then it was done,” Coach Davis said.

“Armando just now leaving the locker room said he felt really good and that he’s probably already back at the hotel getting treatment,” Davis said. “I’ve never seen anybody sustain ankle sprains and be able to come back like he can. He didn’t think it was as bad as the one obviously in the Final Four and also when he hurt it at Virginia.”

Carolina led by 27 points at 58–31, its largest lead against an ACC opponent this season (the previous was 25 against Clemson). It was the second-largest lead of the season (36 vs. The Citadel).

With plenty of open perimeter shots, Caleb Love (22 points, 9 of 20 from the floor, 3 of 8 from 3-point range) and RJ Davis (18 points, 7 of 12, 4 of 6) combined to shoot 16 for 32 (50%) from the floor and 10 for 21 from 3-point range (47.6%). That opened the inside, where the Tar Heels outscored the Eagles 36–28 in a margin that only got close late in the game.

Carolina shot 54.8% from the floor, the second-best this season behind the 60.3% shooting against College of Charleston, and 41.7% from outside the arc.

“We just wanted to play inside out,” Love said. “We have a load as far as Armando in the paint and he draws a lot of attention, so he creates opportunities for us to get easy buckets, as far as cutting and open threes. We just play inside out, drive, kick and dump-offs, and then obviously playing through Armando.”


Love scored on an explosive drive five minutes into the game. He followed that up with a 3-pointer as part of a 16–2 run. RJ Davis’ jumper doubled the score on BC at 28–14, and a Dontrez Styles 3-pointer shoved the lead to 19 with 6:02 left in the first half. BC cut into the lead with a 9–2 run but Carolina led 43–29 at halftime.

“One of the things that we talked about from an offensive standpoint is we wanted to attack the basket through [the] post and penetration and also offensive rebounding,” Coach Davis said. “When we do that first, when we go inside and out, just from an offensive standpoint, I just think it flows much better as opposed to outside in.”

Pete Nance, who had 10 points and four blocks, said that the team had a different mentality during the game.

“Coach Davis talked about how we need to just make a little bit of a change within ourselves,” Nance said. “And I think all year long, we’ve let teams kind of climb back into games a little bit, and I think it was good for our confidence to kind of maintain that lead throughout the second half and keep them at distance.”

BC rallied to make a game of it in Chapel Hill on Jan. 17 before the Heels pulled out a closer-than-expected 72–64 win. UNC all but put the game away, though, with a 12–2 run to start the second half, as a Love 3-pointer pushed the Heels’ lead to 24 by the first second-half media timeout.

Carolina got 23 points from reserves, the most since they scored 25 vs. Clemson on Feb. 11.

“I thought it was great,” Nance said. “The guys coming off the bench did a really great job. The scoring was great, but I thought they played with great energy and great intensity.”

Makai Ashton-Langford led BC (16–17) with 16 points, with Jaeden Zackery adding 15 and Quinten Post 13.

NOTES — Carolina split its two regular-season games with Virginia, with the home teams winning both games. The Cavaliers won 65–58 on Jan. 10 in a game that Bacot left with an ankle injury in the first two minutes. The Tar Heels won 71–63 on Feb. 25 in their only victory that still stands as a Quad 1 victory. … Carolina has won 11 of the last 12 ACC Tournament meetings with Virginia, including a 63–43 win in last season’s quarterfinals in Brooklyn. … Carolina has won 20 games for the 63rd time overall and second straight season under head coach Davis. … The Tar Heels are 12-2 this season when scoring 80 or more. … UNC is 128–39 in Greensboro and 120–35 in the Greensboro Coliseum, where the Tar Heels won ACC titles in 1967, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1997 and 1998. … UNC won its fourth straight game against BC and leads the series 22–6. The Tar Heels are 2–1 against BC in the ACC Tournament, losing 85–82 in Greensboro in 2006 and winning 81–63 in Greensboro in 2015. … Bacot has joined Sam Perkins as the only two Tar Heels to compile 1,800 points, 1,000 rebounds and 150 blocked shots. … It was Love’s 11th game with at least 20 points this season. … The Tar Heels shot at least 50% for the first time since shooting 51.7% vs. Wake Forest on Jan. 4 and are 5–0 when they do that. … UNC is 5–0 this season when RJ Davis scores at least four 3-pointers. He passed Bobby Jones, Vince Carter and Garrison Brooks for 52nd in UNC scoring with 1,280 points. … Carolina tied Duke at 105 ACC Tournament wins. … This is the first time there has been a North Carolina school in each quarterfinal since 2004 when Maryland on the title.

UNC 85, BC 61

UNC lineup combinations


ACC Tournament

Greensboro Coliseum

Tuesday’s first round
No. 13 Georgia Tech 61, No. 12 Florida State (9–23) 60
No. 10 Boston College 80, No. 15 Louisville (2–19) 62
No. 11 Virginia Tech 67, No. 14 Notre Dame (11–21) 64
Wednesday’s second round
No. 9 Wake Forest 77, No. 8 Syracuse (17–15) 74
No. 5 Pittsburgh 89, Georgia Tech (15–18) 81
No. 7 North Carolina 85, Boston College (16–17) 61
No. 6 N.C. State 97, Virginia Tech (19–14) 77
Thursday’s quarterfinals
No. 1 Miami 74, Wake Forest (19–14) 72
No. 4 Duke 96, Pittsburgh (22–11) 69
No. 2 Virginia 68, North Carolina (20–13) 59
No. 3 Clemson 80, N.C. State (23–10) 54
Friday’s semifinals
Duke 85, Miami (25–7) 78
Virginia 76, Clemson (23–10) 56
Saturday’s championship
Duke (26–8) 59, vs. Virginia (25–7) 49

(current ranking)
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
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:
Iowa State
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
No. 1 Alabama
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 21 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
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
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 14 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57No. 12 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7TuesdayL, 92–85Wake ForestWinston-Salem15–9,
7–6 ACC
11SaturdayW, 91–71ClemsonHome 16–9,
8–6 ACC
13MondayL, 80–72No. 16 MiamiHome16–10,
8–7 ACC
19SundayL, 77–69N.C. StateRaleigh16–11,
8–8 ACC
22WednesdayW, 63–59Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.17–11,
9–8 ACC
25SaturdayW, 71–63No. 14 VirginiaHome18–11,
10–8 ACC
27MondayW, 77–66Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.19–11,
11–8 ACC
4SaturdayL, 62–57No. 12 DukeHome19–12,
11–9 ACC
ACC tournament
8WednesdayW, 85–61Boston CollegeGreensboro20–12
9ThursdayL, 68–59No. 14 Virginia Greensboro20–13

Photo courtesy of the ACC


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