It wasn’t pretty, but the Tar Heels earned a much-needed 79-77 win over Clemson, to improve their record to 17-7, and 9-4 in the ACC. Brady Manek hit a layup with 3.1 seconds left to give Carolina their final lead of the game. All 5 starters scored in double figures, as Carolina shot 50% from the field in the win. Armando Bacot led the team with 24 points, and 10 rebounds, to record his 18th double-double this season, which ranks second nationally. Bacot did all that damage in 32 minutes, before fouling out in the final stages of the second half.
Tonight was more about Carolina not letting Saturday’s disappointment, carry over into tonight, and to start, it looked like it had. The Heels had scored just 13 points, at the under 8 media timeout, and had committed 7 turnovers. They would erase a 19-13 deficit, to take a 30-25 halftime lead. In the second half, they exploded for 49 points and shot over 60% from the field, to gut out a win.
Don’t look now, but a team that we didn’t trust to go on the road just a few weeks ago, has recorded back-to-back wins away from Chapel Hill, both in different ways, that will carry over as the season moves along. They’ll need to continue to find ways to win games on the road if they want to make the NCAA Tournament, and tonight they kept their hopes alive:
Armando Bacot: Mando established himself as the best player on the floor, and Clemson didn’t have an answer for him. He scored his 24 points, on 8-10 shooting from both the field, and the foul line, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Carolina is at its best when they play through him on offense. For that to be the case, he needs to stay out of foul trouble, and not commit silly fouls, like the flagrant that had him on the bench for extended minutes in the second half. As of now, Bacot has kept his name in the running for ACC Player of the Year.
Leaky Black: Leaky provided the first six points of the second half for the Tar Heels, as he scored all 11 in the second stanza. Over the last couple of weeks, Leaky is starting to provide offense for UNC, and it’s opening up the floor for his teammates. Black has now made a triple in 4 of the last 5 games and is shooting 50% from the field in ACC games this season.
Caleb Love: After a rough outing on Saturday, Love still struggled tonight, scoring just 10 points, on 4-12 shooting. But in the final minutes, he made an important three-point basket and handed out the assist for Brady Manek’s game-winning layup. Carolina learning to win when Love isn’t at his best will be invaluable the longer the season gets, but ultimately the ceiling of this team is dependent on his play on both ends of the floor.
Timeouts: Hubert Davis didn’t use one when his team fell behind 8-0, and that proved to be the right decision. That allowed him to use one right before the end of the first half, which set up a bucket to extend the lead to 5. That meant he had three timeouts for the final 20 minutes, which he used up set up the play for Manek’s game-winning layup, and set his defense on Clemson’s final possession.
Up Next: Carolina is back at home on Saturday, as they’ll host Florida State at 2 PM on ESPN.
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