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UNC Basketball vs. Alabama: Player of the Game - Caleb Love

It wasn’t the most efficient night, but Caleb Love left it all on the line in an Ironman match.

Phil Knight Invitational - North Carolina v Portland Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Carolina’s tough 103-101 loss to Alabama in quadruple overtime was a battle of attrition. The Crimson Tide and Tar Heels both were punch drunk by the end of it, and everyone, including Roy Williams, just wanted to go home.

But the teams had to soldier on until the bitter end. No player embodied that ethos more so than Caleb Love.

The junior guard had what can be considered a “vintage” Caleb Love performance. High scoring (Love had a career-high 34 points) from an inefficient day shooting (13-36 from the field, 3-11 from downtown). Love was reliable from the free throw line, knocking down all five of his attempts, which mattered tremendously, considering the fine margins of the game.

Love also flirted with a double-double, grabbing nine rebounds, which was crucial to Carolina’s bid to keep pace with Alabama (the Tide won the battle of the boards 58-54, but that was with Bacot limping noticeably and unable to do much more than reach for rebounds late in the second half and all throughout overtime. Overtimes.)

In regulation, Caleb Love continued to show maturation to his game, not falling in love with his outside shot (which largely wasn’t there last night) and getting into the paint. His floater has become a weapon, and he went to it often, making him look like a shorter, stronger Justin Jackson.

Love’s success going to the rim is emblematic of UNC’s overall guidance from Hubert Davis, and the Heels are showing the fruits of that endeavor; last night Carolina had 24 fast break points! While we should not confuse Hubert Davis’ second team with a classic Roy Williams squad, they do look like running more than they did in year one.

Caleb may feel down about his shot to end the first overtime period, a good move to create space from Mark Sears for a step-back three, but it was short, like most of the team’s shots in overtime.

Tar Heel fans will feel frustrated and/or disappointed in the loss to Alabama, there’s no reason not to be. But one bright spot is that Caleb Love showed he can affect the game in a different way from how he did at the end of last year. Once he puts both both pieces of his game together, he’ll dominate games like he did against UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen.