It wasn’t as easy, or as pretty as last night’s win over Notre Dame, but a second surge led by Armando Bacot and R.J. Davis, advanced Carolina to the semifinals to take on Florida State tomorrow night. Virginia Tech didn’t look like a team coming off a COVID pause, as they came out and hit Carolina in the mouth from the early onset. Their constant screening action gave Carolina fits, allowing for open looks either at the rim, or behind the three point line. That allowed them to open up a 3 point lead at the half. A big reason why they led, in addition to their offensive success, was that they kept the Tar Heels off the offensive glass. A night after grabbing 25 offensive rebounds, UNC had just 2 at the break, a big point of emphasis for Roy Williams going into the locker room.
In the second half, Carolina played with a spirit we haven’t seen this season. They answered every Virginia Tech run, and kept punching back, before eventually wearing down the smaller Hokies. After a rather quiet first half, Armando Bacot scored 10 straight points, as UNC seized control of the game. In addition to the powering play of Bacot, R.J. Davis played with the level of toughness you’d expect from a guard from New York. The rookie scored a career high 19 points, and his level of intensity permeated throughout the entire team. With Kerwin Walton and Caleb Love having off nights from the perimeter, Davis stepped up and sank 4 triples, to give a much needed lift.
This Carolina team is growing up before our eyes, having won 3 straight games dating back to the regular season. After limping to a 5-4 finish in the final 9 regular season games, the Tar Heels are putting it all together, at the most important time of the season. Here’s how the advanced to tomorrow night’s semifinals:
Turnovers: After committing 8 turnovers in the first half, Carolina had just 3 in the second stanza. Virginia Tech plays a very aggressive style of man to man defense, that made life hard on the inexperienced guards in the first half. But the youngsters responded with a mature effort, and allowed the offense to be in more of a rhythm, thus allowing them to win.
Fast Break Points: This team hasn’t had the normal success you expect from a UNC team in the open floor, but tonight they got out and ran, and scored easy baskets in the open floor. UNC outscored Virginia Tech 20-6 in transition, and that fueled their 49 second half points.
Bench Points: It’s usually Day’Ron Sharpe or Walker Kessler providing a lift off the bench, but tonight it was freshman R.J. Davis. His 19 points are a career high, and the Tar Heels needed everyone. Every time it felt like they needed to make a play, Davis was tough enough to step up, and make one. Overall, UNC outscored 36-8 in bench points
Perimeter Shooting: While the team needs Kerwin Walton to find his rhythm again, it’s nice seeing other guys stepping up, and making shots. Davis connected on 4-7 three pointers. While Leaky Black hit a couple from behind the arc, and Caleb Love and Anthony Harris each made one triple. Overall, Carolina was 8-21 from distance tonight, they’ll need a similar performance tomorrow night.
Rebounding: The nation’s best rebounding team, was held in check in the first half, but got to the glass in the second half, which is why they were able to come back. Carolina outrebounded the smaller Hokies, 43-32, including 15-7 on the offensive boards. Those 15 offensive rebounds were converted into 17 points, as their best offense continues to be off a missed shot.
Roy Williams: With tonight’s win, Williams has passed Bob Knight on the all time wins list. Williams is now third on the all time wins list, trailing Coach K and Jim Boeheim.
Up Next: Carolina will take on Florida State in a rubber match tomorrow night, with a spot in the ACC Tournament final on the line. Tip is scheduled for 9 pm on either ESPN or ESPN2.