Behind a second performance that will live in Carolina Basketball history forever, the Tar Heels defeated UCLA 73-66 last night, to advance to the Elite Eight on Sunday. Caleb Love scored 27 of the game-high 30 points, after halftime, making 10-16 shots, including 5-9 from behind the three-point line. Carolina closed the game on a 12-2 run, to put away the Bruins, and advance to their 22nd Elite Eight, where they’ll take on Cinderella story, Saint Peter’s.
It wasn’t always pretty for Carolina, as they trailed 31-28 at the break. Carolina would outscore UCLA 45-35 in the second half, despite only shooting, 41% from the field, and 32% from behind the three-point line. They made up for the poor shooting numbers, by making 10 triples, behind Love’s 6. UNC has now made double digits three-pointers in every game so far of the NCAA Tournament, and that is a big reason why they are still dancing.
One of the big questions entering the game for UCLA was the availability of Jaime Jacquez, who had suffered an ankle injury the week before in a win over Saint Mary’s. Jacquez was able to suit up but was limited to just 10 points, on 5-18 shooting. Jules Bernard lead the Bruins in scoring with 16 points, on 7-11 shooting, as UCLA shot 45% for the game, and 36% from behind the arc.
March gives teams a chance to rewrite the narrative of how the season was going, and that is exactly what this team has done. Those blowout losses at Miami, and Wake Forest, and troubling loss to Pittsburgh all seem like a distant memory, now that Carolina is on the doorstep of the Final Four. This ride has been as fun as any tournament run in recent memory, and if these kids have anything to say about it, it might not be done just yet:
Caleb Love: As sensational a performance we’ve ever seen an individual have in the NCAA Tournament. After changing his shoes at halftime, Love was a completely different player in the final 20 minutes, as he simply took the game over, and willed Carolina to the win. As much as this team has changed the narrative about itself, no player has changed the narrative about himself, quite like Love has, who was feeling the love from Tar Heel Nation after the game ended last night.
Rebounding: Carolina may not have controlled the tempo like they wanted to, but they did control the backboard, outrebounding UCLA, 43-34 for the game, including 15-8 in offensive rebounds. Carolina was able to convert those 15 offensive rebounds into 19 second-chance points.
Assists: Carolina only assisted on 11 of their 27 made baskets, as ball movement wasn’t as well last night as it was in Forth Worth, last weekend. It will need to be much better against Saint Peter’s, a team that likes to press full court and trap out of it, to get teams out of rhythm on offense.
3 Point Shooting: Entering the tournament, we knew it was going to be important that Carolina shot the ball well from deep, and even though they shot only 32% last night, they made enough (10) to make them count. For the tournament, UNC has now made 34 triples to help pace their offensive attack.
Up Next: The Tar Heels will take on Cinderella Saint Peter’s tomorrow evening, at 5:05 PM on CBS, with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
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