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Heel Tough Blog: Ohio State Recap

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

The San Diego Union-Tribune

In dramatic, come-from-behind fashion, Carolina erased a 44-35 halftime deficit, to top #23 Ohio State 89-84 in overtime at Madison Square Garden. Pete Nance forced the extra session, as he buried a turnaround jumper at the horn, to even the score at 79 all. In the extra 5 minutes, Carolina wouldn’t be denied, outscoring the Buckeyes 10-5, to give them the final margin of victory.

It was a game of runs today, as Carolina held an 11-6 early lead in the first half, but an extended 28-9, Buckeyes run, allowed Ohio State to build a 34-20 lead in the ladder parts of the first half. With a 44-35 deficit at intermission, the Heels would start the second half on a 10-2 spurt, to back it a 46-45 game, before the under-16 timeout in the second half. Ohio State would build back up a 60-50 lead with 10 minutes left in the game, and that’s when Carolina would deploy a full-court press that would spark the run that would force overtime.

It wasn’t the prettiest basketball Carolina has played, as they show just 44% from the field, and an even worse 21% from behind the three-point line, but Carolina’s stars were stars tonight when the team needed them the most. Armando Bacot was the best player on the floor today, he had another double-double, as he totaled 28 points (season-high), and 15 rebounds. Caleb Love scored 22 points, on 8-20 shooting, but did hand out 7 assists. Finally, R.J. Davis, made tough plays down the stretch, scoring 21 points, on 6-13 shooting, while grabbing 8 rebounds, and handing out 4 assists.

On the flip side, UNC did as well as they could, slowing down Zed Key, as he had only 11 points and 4 rebounds. More importantly, he was called for a travel, with the score 87-84 in favor of UNC, and after R.J. Davis knocked down two foul shots, the game was all but over. Brice Sensabuagh scored a career-high 22 points, while Bruce Thornton (17), and Justice Suring (16), added double figures scoring, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a scrappy Carolina squad today.

Hubert Davis has had some signature wins and moments in only his second season on the job in Chapel Hill, but this one has to be up there with the likes of beating Duke twice last season, the wins over Baylor and UCLA in the NCAA Tournament, among others. Today was really emotional for Davis, as he made his first trip back to MSG, since retiring from the NBA back in 2004. The challenge entering today’s game was to build off of the last two wins, and while it wasn’t a complete game from UNC, it does appear that this team, is starting to trend in the right direction:

  1. Rebounding: After once losing the battle of the boards, 15-6, Carolina came all the way back to win the rebounding battle, 48-42. Carolina grabbed 32 defensive rebounds today, which is 12 more than Ohio State allows on average. The Heels grabbed 16 offensive rebounds and converted those into 14 second-chance points. Meanwhile, Ohio State did grab 14 offensive rebounds, but only managed 9 second-chance points. Carolina toughened in the second half, and that’s a big reason why they won the game.

  2. Hubert Davis: In his return to Madison Square Garden, his coaching was at a premium today. The decision to go to the full-court press completely changed the game and sparked the comeback. Then, with his team trailing 79-77 with 2.0, Davis displayed why Roy Williams trusted him to lead this program. Hubert drew up a set, that got the ball to mid-court, while only 0.8 seconds, before calling another timeout. From there, he drew up a set, that got Pete Nance isolated at one of his favorite spots, and Nance was tough enough to make it.

  3. Free Throws: Carolina continues to make more foul shots than they are allowing their opponents to attempt. UNC was 19-27 from the foul line (70%), but Ohio State was only 7-14 (50%). A staple of Carolina Basketball dating back to when Coach Smith was on the sidelines was making more foul shots than their opponents attempted, and this team is certainly living at just that.

  4. Points in the Paint: Against Power 5 competition this season, this is an area that Carolina has struggled in, but today they won the battle 44-38. Carolina’s offense is still at its best when they are attacking the rim, and that was evident once again today. On the other, this team is doing a better job at keeping teams out of the lane, a sign that this team is improving at both ends of the court.

  5. Assists: The improved ball movement carried over today, as Carolina assisted on 20 of its 32 made baskets. That’s three straight games where the team assisted on over 50% of its made baskets, and it’s not a coincidence that they’ve seen better results on that end of the floor.

Up Next: Carolina is back in action on Wednesday when they take on Michigan in Charlotte, NC in the inaugural Jumpman Invitational.

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