We knew beating Wake Forest wasn’t going to be easy for Carolina, and that proved to be true as the Demon Deacons would never go away, but the Heels would eventually prevail 88-78, to earn their 10th win of the season, and improve to 2-2 in the ACC. Wake held a 38-37 lead at the half, and the only reason the game was that close, was because of Leaky Black’s 14 first-half points, on his way to a career-best 18 points tonight in the win. In the second half, R.J. Davis scored 22 of his season-high 27 points, as Carolina outscored Wake 51-41 over the final 20 minutes. For the game, Carolina shot an efficient 52% from the field, including going 9-24 from behind the arc. Conversely Wake shot 49% from the floor, and they were 10-21 from behind the arc, as they put four players in double figures scoring. So what was the difference? Turnovers. UNC committed 9 turnovers, and Wake converted those into 8 points. On the flip side, Wake turned it over 15 times, and Carolina scored 32 points off of those miscues, fueling their offensive performance.
Armando Bacot fell one rebound short of a double-double, but he did register 21 points, making it the fourth straight game that he has scored 20 points or more. The depth of the team was tested tonight as Pete Nance left the game in the first two minutes, as he was dealing with a sore back. This forced Justin McKoy onto the court, where he played 17 minutes and scored 2 points. Seth Trimble also played 22 minutes off the bench, scoring a career-high 11 points, on 4-4 shooting, but it was his defense that turned the game in Carolina’s favor.
One of the concerns entering tonight’s game was how would Carolina respond after a disappointing loss at Pittsburgh last Friday. The loss was so frustrating it forced Armando Bacot to call out his teammates, and question their commitment to winning. This game had major implications on Wake Forest’s NCAA Tournament hopes, and after a hard-fought 30 minutes or so, Carolina finally separated itself from its Big Four foe.
Make no mistake, this was a big-time win against a solid ACC opponent, that has wins over Duke and Virginia Tech. Carolina now sits at 2-2 in an ACC that has been turned upside down by the likes of Pittsburgh, NC State, and Clemson. Here’s what to take away from the win over Wake Forest:
Career Best Performances: Leaky Black has emerged as a reliable offensive weapon when utilized the correct way, and tonight, he was dared to take perimeter shots, and he made them pay. Black was 3-5 from behind the arc, and 6-8 from the floor overall. After forcing defenders to respect his outside shot, Black attacked the basket, and at one point, converted back to back to shots while getting fouled. On the other hand. Trimble’s 11 points displayed the type of offensive player he’s going to be, as he continues to develop into a high-profile ACC player.
Points Off Turnovers: If Carolina did not force the Deacs into miscues, it would’ve reflected poorly on this team’s defensive mindset. 15 turnovers and 32 points off those turnovers, and we’ll have to have that conversation some other day. Those points fueled Carolina to its best offensive performance against a Power 5 team this season.
Three Guard Lineup: Despite Caleb Love’s struggles tonight, Hubert Davis stood by his struggling guard, and in the process, may have found a new lineup to go to on a nightly basis. UNC was trailing 56-52 when Davis went to the lineup and would go on to outscore the Demon Deacons 36-23 the rest of the way. A big reason why was the aforementioned performance of Seth Trimble, but it was R.J. Davis scoring a season-high 27 points on 9-14 shooting. Hopefully, this was the game that gets Davis’s season going in the right direction.
Free Throw Shooting: Carolina continues to be a quality free throw shooting team, as they were 19-24 from the charity stripe, which averages out to 79%. On the flip side, Wake was just 13-20, and that six-point difference played a major role in the closing minutes of the game.
Up Next: Carolina is back in action on Saturday morning when they host Notre Dame at 11:30 AM on ESPN2.