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Heel Tough Blog: Virginia Tech Recap

Updated: Feb 17

University of North Carolina Athletics

After losing at Syracuse on Tuesday, Carolina needed to respond at home against Virginia Tech, to avoid a fourth loss in six games. Behind a big second half from Armando Bacot, Carolina did just that, on their way to a comfortable 96-81 win in the Smith Center, to improve Carolina’s record to 20-6, and 12-3 in the ACC. Bacot led the way with a 25-point, 12-rebound double-double, the 81st of his Tar Heel career, and he scored 19 points in the second half, where he went 8-11 from the floor, and 3-3 from the foul line. R.J. Davis added 20 points, on his most efficient shooting game in almost a month, going 6-13 from the field, and 3-8 from behind the three-point line. Furthermore, Cormacy Ryan (16), and Harrison Ingram (12) also scored in double figures, for a Carolina offense that was in attack mode from the opening tip. Carolina shot 51% from the field, even though they were just 7-21 from behind the arc. With Bacot the focal point, UNC scored 54 points in the paint, living at the rim all game long. 

Despite giving up 81 points, Carolina’s defense looked the part, holding Virginia Tech to 42% shooting, and 27% from behind the three-point line. In the second half, the Hokies were 1-12 from distance, virtually making it impossible for them to get in position to pull the upset. Their veteran backcourt of Hunter Cattoor and Sean Pedulla combined for 21 points, and they were 6-23 from the field, and 1-10 from three. Carolina only forced 6 Virginia Tech turnovers, but they scored 13 points off of them, as they were able to get out in transition, and score in the open floor. 

There was no denying that there had been a noticeable dip in production and effort, with Carolina being 2-3 in their last 5 games, highlighted by that home win over Duke. Earlier today, the NCAA Tournament unveiled a preview of the bracket for this year’s tournament, with Selection Sunday just a month away. Carolina was positioned on the two-line and was considered the best two-seed in the field. Earning a #1 seed isn’t out of the question, but it all depends on how Carolina closes the regular season, and of course what they do in the ACC Tournament. Today was a reminder that even though they haven’t played their best basketball as of late, when they do play to their potential, they are as good as any team not just in the ACC, but in all of college basketball. 

  1. Bacot Dominates Second Half: After a quiet first half for his standards, Bacot exploded for 19 second-half points, shooting 8-11 from the field, and 3-3 from the foul line, on his way to another double-double. Virtually every time that Bacot touched the ball in the second, it resulted in either a bucket for him, a foul, or a bucket for an open teammate, benefitting from a double team. This team plays its best when Bacot is the focal point on offense and establishes a presence on the glass. That’s exactly what happened today, and Mike Young’s team had no answers for the best big man in the ACC. Today marked the third time this season, and the seventh time in his UNC career, that Bacot totaled at least 25 points and 10 rebounds.

  2. Cormac Ryan Rounding Into Form: Don’t look know, but it appears as if Ryan has found his outside shot, after going 4-9 from deep at Syracuse on Tuesday, today Ryan was 4-7 from deep, on his way to 16 points. It’s not a secret that Carolina needs Ryan to shoot the ball the way he did during his time at Notre Dame, and after a slow start to the season, he appears to be finding his stroke from deep, and it couldn’t come at a better time in the season. 

  3. Rebounding: Virginia Tech is among the worst rebounding teams in all of college basketball, and they looked the part today, as Carolina dominated the glass, 43-31, including 14-8 on the offensive glass. Harrison Ingram returned to his rebounding way, grabbing a game-high 17 rebounds, to go along with Bacot’s 12. UNC was able to turn those 14 offensive rebounds into 17 second-chance points, to help Carolina to their best offensive showing in two weeks. 

  4. Points in the Paint: After starting the game seeking to find offense from the perimeter, Carolina shifted towards attacking inside, and found much better results. Of their 96 points, 54 came in the painted area, as Virginia Tech had no answer for Bacot on the block, and couldn’t keep the guards out of the lane. It’s not a surprise that when Carolina plays inside-out, they get the offensive results that they seek. On the flip side, Virginia Tech scored 36 of their 81 points in the paint, with Poteat and Kidd able to finish around the rim with Bacot and Washington in foul trouble at various times during the game. 

  5. Free Throws: After shooting just 11 foul shots on Tuesday, Hubert Davis made it a point of emphasis for his team to get back to the foul line, where they lead the league in made free throws. His players certainly received the message, getting to the charity stripe 23 times, converting on 19 of them, for an efficient 83% day at the line. 

Up Next: The Tar Heels don’t have a midweek game this week, and won’t be in action until next Saturday, when they travel to Virginia, where first place in the ACC will be on the line. That game is set to tip at 4 PM on ESPN. 

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