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UNC drops fourth straight in ACC opener against Virginia Tech

The Tar Heels lost their fourth straight game, but they showed a lot of fight late.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Virginia Tech Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

A struggling UNC team playing on the road in a tough ACC environment was already a lot to ask, but missing Armando Bacot made the ask even greater. Bacot’s shoulder prevented him from playing at all in Carolina’s 72-80 loss to the Hokies Sunday afternoon, but his team managed to show a good amount of heart late in the second half. Unfortunately, they’d dug themselves such a significant hole that they couldn’t climb completely out.

Justyn Mutts absolutely torched the Tar Heels, out-scoring them for a good part of the second half all by himself. He scored 27 points on 12-16 shooting from the field. The Hokies shot 52% from the field in the first half to take a ten-point lead to the locker room. Things got even worse for the Tar Heels in the second half before they picked themselves up off the mat late. Carolina managed to make it a one-possession game at 64-67 before they started having to battle the clock. They shot 56% from the field in the second half.

Caleb Love, RJ Davis, and Pete Nance each had 18 points in the game. Despite the fact that UNC turned the ball over five times in the first five minutes of the game, they managed to limit themselves to just five the rest of the way. The Hokies were able to take advantage of Bacot’s absence on the boards, winning the rebound battle 39-25. UNC had just four offensive rebounds all game. Virginia Tech was also able to easily best UNC in points in the paint, 42-32, where the lack of Bacot was also evident.

Giving credit where it is due, UNC did find something in the second half to help them make the game competitive late. Virginia Tech had a 57-39 lead before Carolina surged to get within three points. There was an intensity there that has just been hard to find so far this season. It’s that kind of effort that has been missing, and it’s that kind of effort that the team will need to get themselves out of the rut they currently find themselves in.

The team has obviously been up against several factors outside of their control. In addition to Bacot’s injury, D’Marco Dunn broke his left hand yesterday in practice, they had to travel to the west coast to play three games in four days, had a pit stop in Bloomington before returning to Chapel Hill for the kids to almost immediately dive into finals. It’s been a whirlwind stretch for the team, and it is amplified when they desperately need time to regroup from the losses. They’ll finally get it this week, thankfully.

UNC will be back in action on Saturday when Georgia Tech visits the Smith Center.