Carolina basketball ended their four-game losing streak against Georgia Tech after returning home from Portland, Bloomington, and Blacksburg, and getting a week to practice. What a difference that week made! UNC looked fresh, focused, and ran with the ball for once!
Now without the burden of preseason expectations weighing down their shoulders (and in Armando Bacot’s case, an injured shoulder), the Tar Heels can focus on improving game by game and discovering their Ultra Ego form.
The Citadel is next on the docket, and the Bulldogs should be a good run-out before the Heels head up to New York to take on Ohio State in the most famous arena in the world. Citadel is 5-4 on the season and has lost all of their games to superior opposition, including a 24-point loss to common opponent College of Charleston.
Here are three things to watch as Carolina takes on The Citadel in their last out-of-conference home game of the season.
Leaky Black continues to do Leaky things, namely not scoring a whole lot and keeping an opponent’s top scorer in lockdown. Citadel’s top scorer and rebounder is Stephen Clark, a 6’8” forward who averages 16.3 ppg and 6.8 rpg. He’s from Charlotte, so you know he’s a prime candidate to drop 30 points on 8-10 shooting from downtown once he sets foot in the Dean Dome.
Back-door cut!— The Citadel Basketball (@CitadelHoops) December 3, 2022
Clark with the back-door cut and ol' fashioned 3-pt play.#TogetherWeAttack pic.twitter.com/ZRh22tMtHo
If Leaky can disrupt Clark, The Citadel has one other volume scorer, 6’3” senior guard Austin Ash. Caleb Love and Seth Trimble will have to work hard and maintain situational awareness to keep him quiet as well.
If those two players are kept from going for career highs, the Bulldogs don’t have the size to matchup with Bacot and Nance (Citadel runs a four-guard lineup, and their tallest rotation player only stands 6’9”. If the Heels rebound the way they did against Georgia Tech, and Leaky locks down Clark, this should be a Blue Steel Christmas.
Caleb and RJ need to shoot... and hit!
Speaking of rebounding, since Carolina has a stated frontline advantage against the Citadel, tomorrow would be a great time for RJ Davis and Caleb Love to start putting up some quality three-point shots. Both have chucked a variety of ill-advised three-pointers, but just aren’t hitting like they were at the end of last season.
From downtown, Love is shooting 25.4% while RJ is a little better at 27.3%. That dog won’t hunt in ACC play, never mind in March. It will help both junior guards to see some quality shots go down in the Dean Dome before they pack their bags for games against Ohio State and Michigan in two NBA arenas.
Now that Carolina is getting their offense un-constipated with fast break baskets and points off turnovers, the next step is to have some threes go down (remember when UNC used to hit double-digit treys in a game?), and then watch Bacot cook forwards with space down low when help defenders have to hold tight to Love and Davis.
Jalen Washington minutes
What a treat to see Jalen Washington close out the Georgia Tech game with a bucket!
Jalen’s first points as a Tar Heel #CarolinaFamily pic.twitter.com/IF5ichdRTC— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) December 11, 2022
Washington’s integration has to be managed carefully, since he’s coming back from ACL surgery. But the sooner he can feel comfortable on the court, the sooner he can spell Bacot and Nance, and even provide some Manek-style play, if reports of his jump shooting prowess are to be believed.
Hubert Davis has a Goldilocks situation on his hands, needing to get his management juuuust right. Bacot has gotten banged up over the last couple of weeks, so bringing in more post support to either reduce his minutes or God forbid replace him in the lineup for portions of the season will be critical for the season’s success.