Dean Smith always said it’s hard to beat a time 3 times in one season, and last night Carolina learned that the hard way, as they fell in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament, 72-59 to Virginia Tech. For the second straight day, Carolina was playing against a team that was fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, and the Hokies played with more edge, and desperation in the win, as they won their third game in as many days. UNC put four players in doubles figures scoring led by Armando Bacot’s 19 points, on 9-10 shooting, but for the game, they shot just 37% from the field and an abysmal 12% from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Tech shot 44% from the field, including 40% from behind the three-point line, as they will play for their first-ever ACC Championship tonight against Duke.
There were two significant moments that changed last night’s game. The first was when Leaky Black picked up his second foul with less than 9 minutes in the first half. Up until that point, the Hokies were shooting 25% from the field, but they would finish the half 8-12, taking a 32-26 lead at the break. Coming out of halftime, Tech started on a 9-0 run, pushing their lead to 15, and it would never get closer than 11.
While Carolina didn’t make it to the final, the trip to Brooklyn was still successful, as they validated last Saturday’s win at Duke. This team doesn’t have the depth necessary to win three games in three days, so if that was your expectation, it was rather unreasonable.
Leaky’s Absence: It’s been known all season long, how valuable Leaky Black is to this team defensively. The game changed in the favor of Virginia Tech when he picked up his second foul in the first half, and Carolina wasn’t able to get them out of their rhythm the last 28 minutes of the game. As we head to the NCAA Tournament, you can add Black to the list of Bacot and Manek, as players that Carolina can’t afford to sit on the bench for extended minutes.
3 Point Shooting: In their two games in Brooklyn, Carolina was just 9-49 from behind the arc, showing signs of a tired team, that has been making their push to the Big Dance. Last night specifically, Carolina was only 3-26, as Caleb Love was 2-10 from behind the arc. On the flip side, they weren’t able to keep Tech from getting quality looks from deep, as they shot 9-20.
Bench Points: Carolina’s lack of bench production was highlighted again last night, as the Hokies bench outscored their bench, 30-6. Mike Young’s squad got 20 points from Darius Maddox off the pine, to lead their reserves. Puff Johnson played 18 minutes off the bench, scored 3 points on 1-4 shooting.
Armando Bacot: Bacot recorded his 25th double-double of the season, extending his UNC regular-season record. He also moved into second place for rebounds in a single season, surpassing Tyler Hansbrough, as he now only trails Brice Johnson’s 416 rebounds during his record-breaking season in 2015-16.
Up Next: Carolina will now await their NCAA Tournament foe, which they will learn tomorrow evening during the Selection Show on CBS starting at 6 PM. As of this moment, UNC is slated to face Creighton in an 8/9 matchup in the East Region, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.