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Heel Tough Blog: Virginia Tech Recap

The San Diego Union-Tribune

Following Wednesday’s loss to Pittsburgh, the pressure was on Carolina to respond in a big way today, to get a signature win on the road, and improve their chances of playing in the NCAA Tournament. They did just that, beating Virginia Tech in a hostile Cassell Coliseum, 65-57. Caleb Love paced UNC with a game-high 21 points, on 6-12 shooting, and he handed out 7 assists, to complete one of his best performances of the season. Carolina had four players in double figures scoring, as they shot 45% from the field in the win. Defensively, Carolina held the second-best three-point shooting team in college basketball, to only 5-26 from behind the arc. Tech only had two players in double figures, as UNC turned in one of, if not their best defensive performance on the road this season.

Carolina used a 22-8 run to end the first half, to take a 38-30 lead at the break. During the second half, UNC went over seven minutes without a made basket, but their lead only shrunk from 12 to 5, as Carolina stayed locked in defensively, despite struggling to score the basketball. The Heels were also able to overcome committing 15 turnovers tonight, and putting VT in the bonus with 11 minutes left in the game. They made up for those struggles, by outsourcing the Hokies 13-0 in the fast break, as they found multiple ways to generate offense, in a day where that was hard to come by.

It took until February 19th, but the Tar Heels finally have a Quad 1 win to their name and are keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. For a team, we didn’t trust to win away from the Smith Center back in January, they have now won three games in a row on the road, in all different ways, with this one being the most important one:

  1. Caleb Love: Basketball is a team game, but it’s obvious how different this team is when Caleb Love is playing at a high level. Today he was sensational, scoring 21 points, and handing out 7 assists. In the first half, Love scored 10 points, on 4-5 shooting, handed out 5 dimes, and was plus 11 in his 18 minutes. He really set the tone for the team and was seen chirping with the Virginia Tech student section, as the game was coming to a close. He’s the difference-maker for this team.

  2. Defense: Carolina looked completely lost at times the other night, allowing Pitt to shoot over 50% from the field, and behind the arc. Tonight they limited the Hokies to 38% from the field and just 19% from bonus territory. While the Hokies missed good looks at times, Carolina’s energy was there from the start, and it carried over into the second half when the team survived a prolonged scoring drought, but their defense carried them to a win.

  3. Armando Bacot: Mando had zero points at halftime, but bounced back to score 12 points in the second stanza. He also grabbed 15 rebounds, earning him his 20th double-double of the season. The record for a single season is 23 set by Brice Johnson, back in 2015-16.

  4. Rotation: All 5 starters played as many as 32 minutes, as Hubert Davis opted for an 8 man rotation, with no reserve playing more than 7 minutes. With Carolina back in action on Monday night, it’ll be interesting to see their energy level, but at this point in the season, with a lot on the line, Davis is going to play the players he trusts the most.

Up Next: Carolina returns to the court on Monday night, when they host Louisville in the second to last home game of the season. The game will start at 7 PM on ESPN.

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