If you were scratching your head trying to figure out how the same Tar Heel team that lost a pathetic game to Pittsburgh could go up to Blacksburg and gut out a win against Virginia Tech, well, your answer is our Player of the Game.
On Wednesday, the sophomore scored 19 points, but most of them didn’t come until the furious second half comeback that fell short, and for the majority of the game he was a non-factor. Yesterday, he was already at ten points by halftime, on his way to a team-high 21 on the day. He was also the first four of the decisive 9-0 run in the first half that turned a three-point deficit into a six-point lead the Tar Heels wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game.
It really has become that simple for the Tar Heels: if Caleb Love is having a good game early, then you’re likely going to have a good effort for Carolina. Even if they don’t win, they’ll play close. In this case, Love’s play continued on in the second half, though he was stuck on fifteen points until the final minute when the Hokies decided they needed to foul. Fortunately Love always had the ball in his hand when the fouls came, and he hit all six of his free throws to take away any shot the Hokies had for a come back.
Love finished 3-8 from behind the arc, that number coming down with some heaves in the second half, but was 3-4 in two pointers, and most importantly had seven assists and only two turnovers. It was a total effort that was sorely needed as coach Hubert Davis leaned on Caleb to play the vast majority of the game.
Leaky Black also deserves some praise for his play. As Adam Lucas pointed out, his defense on Hunter Cattor was outstanding, and he also scored four quick points on free throws and a drive when it looked like the Hokies might be taking over the game in the first half. It was the effort the Tar Heels needed, and it set up the decisive run a few moments later. His defense also helped keep Virginia Tech from clawing any closer than twelve early in the second half when the Carolina offense couldn’t score.
Brady Manek deserves a long soak in the ice tub as it felt like he never sat down the entire game, and was, as usual, the person who got the scoring started for Carolina. You really have to wonder how much gas he has left in the tank, and for the team as a whole Monday has the potential to be rough.
We’ll see if Caleb can put up another effort like this on Monday, if so, Carolina’s NCAA hopes may not be done after all.