After what was one of the wildest endings to a UNC game that I have ever seen, the Tar Heels escaped the Yum! Center with a 90-83 victory against the Louisville Cardinals, and will go into their game against Duke Saturday on a high note. If you happened to miss the action…just know that it was highly competitive, highly frustrating, and by the time the final buzzer sounded, extremely messy. Never have I seen such bizarre officiating in my life, and even more bizarre was the fact that it went in the Tar Heels’ favor. I suppose everyone gets at least one.
Anyways, let’s go ahead and discuss three things we learned from last night’s win.
Caleb Love is self-destructive when he’s frustrated
This goes without saying, but frustration is pretty common in the game of basketball. Sometimes the refs aren’t on your side (as we witnessed), sometimes players have weird mental lapses on defense, and as was the case with Caleb Love…the ball doesn’t go into the hoop. Frustration hit Love extremely hard, which is evident in his 3-18 shooting night. The problem, however, wasn’t necessarily the shooting itself, but how he responded to adversity.
As Love’s frustration grew throughout the night, his body language morphed into something we’ve all seen before, and that’s when everything somehow got worse. It was painful seeing him force shots at the rim, passing up open teammates, and trying to play iso at the top of the key. His hero ball ways resurrected from the dead at the worst possible moment in the second half, and if I’m being blunt, is the reason the game went into overtime. Thankfully, just about every other Tar Heel on the floor covered up his mistakes, and the overtime shenanigans only helped matters. There’s not a whole lot else to say except this: Love needs to learn to play under control when the ball isn’t going into the hoop, because next time UNC may not get so lucky.
Alright, who slipped the “secret stuff” into Leaky Black’s water bottle? The senior from Concord has been playing some really good basketball as of late, and even more surprisingly is what he’s been able to do from the perimeter. He made all three of his three-point attempts last night, and looked as comfortable as he’s ever looked doing it. We’ve long said that when Black shoots the ball in rhythm and doesn’t overthink it, his shots usually have a high chance of going in. He’s finally cracked the code, and it’s paying off in a big way.
Taking a look at the numbers, Black has now made seven of his last 11 three-point attempts. During that time, he has also been highly efficient from the field overall, making 11 of his 16 attempts. Add in the fact that he’s still stuffing the stats sheet with rebounds and assists, and suddenly the Tar Heels have a wing that can get the job done when they need it the most. Will teams eventually catch on and defend him better? Almost certainly, but it’ll be hard to be super aggressive guarding him when Brady Manek, RJ Davis, and Caleb Love are roaming the perimeter as well. If Black can keep this up, this team is going to be very hard to take down for the rest of the season.
Let’s talk about that ending
Alright, so this isn’t necessarily anything that we learned, but we really need to talk about how last night’s game ended. Things had been chippy between the Heels and the Cardinals all night long, with most of the chippiness coming from Armando Bacot, Sydney Curry, and Jae’Lyn Withers. Bacot and Withers ended up finishing regulation with four fouls each, and so both guys had to be careful down the stretch and try to not foul out. In the opening minutes of overtime, things were okay, but then things took a drastic turn.
With 1:11 left in the game, Louisville’s Matt Cross had his shot blocked at the rim by Brady Manek. Cross managed to pull down his own rebound, but Bacot grabbed the ball and forced a jump ball as Cross fell to the ground. Withers took exception to Bacot “knocking his teammate to the ground” (he did not), and pushed Bacot out of the way. A mini scuffle ensued, and ultimately the refs charged Withers with his fifth foul via a technical. The Yum! Center was furious, and fans started throwing stuff onto the court. Caleb Love knocked down the two free throws, and life moved on…until Sydney Curry fouled Bacot with 17 seconds left in the game. The two players got tied up, and Bacot seemingly committed the foul on Curry despite the ref’s final ruling. Louisville interim head coach Mike Pegues was furious, and slammed down on the scorer’s table, earning himself a technical foul. Armando Bacot knocked down one of his two free throws, and that was all she wrote.
I have to say, I’ve watched a lot of Carolina basketball, and I don’t remember the last time the ending of a game was this chaotic. Really the chaos started late in the second half when both teams were struggling putting the ball in the basket, but what happened in overtime was the true highlight. I’m not afraid to admit it: UNC got away with a few calls, and I don’t blame the Cardinals and their fans for being frustrated. However, losing your composure can be extremely costly, which is ironic because Love’s lack of composure almost lost the game for the Heels. It’s amazing how things come back around full circle.