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UNC vs. Louisville: Three Things Learned

Things got physical once again, but the Heels stayed poised and swept the Cardinals.

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Just two days after taking down Virginia Tech on the road, the Tar Heels came back home and beat Louisville for the second time this season. It was a close game for most of the night, but the Heels went on a 6-0 run in the final couple of minutes to put away the pesky Cardinals. The Heels now improve to 20-8 for the season, and Louisville falls to 12-15.

Let’s take a look at a few things from this game, and then we can all get some rest before this Saturday’s game against NC State in Raleigh. We’re not going to get into bench minutes at this point, because it feels like nothing is changing. I will, however, point out one thing: Caleb Love and Armando Bacot played 40 and 39 minutes respectively. Alright, let’s move on.

Bacot’s bittersweet performance

Let’s start with the good news: Armando Bacot had yet another double-double in last night’s game, finishing with a stat line of 12 points, 15 rebounds, and an assist. He was his usual stellar self in the first half, draining five of his six field goal attempts, and also pulled down eight rebounds. It looked as though things were going to keep going in the second half, and that this game would maybe tilt heavily in UNC’s favor, but that never happened.

In the final 20 minutes of the game, Bacot was a non-factor on offense. The overall summary as to why is turnovers, but the blame can be shared between multiple people. Bacot was losing the ball, Louisville was forcing turnovers, and Caleb Love and Brady Manek threw some bad passes. The Cardinals deserve credit for what they had control of, but overall UNC did a really poor job of finding Bacot in the post. It’s nothing to be largely concerned about, but it speaks to how the dynamic of the game changed throughout, and why all of the other Heels had to step up in crunch time.

Avoiding the trap

As many of you may recall, the last game between UNC and Louisville got extremely physical in the second half, and it let to a good amount of chaos in the final minutes. There were some pretty aggressive fouls, though whether they were called or not is a whole other story. Armando Bacot may or may not have gotten away with a key foul near the end of the game, but ultimately the Heels escaped the Yum! Center with an overtime win.

The story more or less was the same last night in the Dean Dome, as Louisville ratcheted up their physicality in the second half and made the Heels earn every basket. Bodies were hitting the floor, shots were getting blocked, and there was a review on a play where it looked as though RJ Davis got pushed in the back, though it ended up being ruled a common foul. Despite how physical the game got, UNC for the most part stayed poised enough to avoid major foul trouble. The biggest surprise was Bacot, who only had two fouls for the entire game. The Heels are learning how important it is for them to play clean, disciplined basketball, especially since Hubert Davis is playing such a tight rotation.

There’s another level to RJ Davis’ game

RJ Davis has always been a pretty good defender, which shouldn’t be much of a secret. Despite being 5’11, he’s usually been able to hold his own against most guards in the country, though elite talent seems to be his and Love’s kryptonite. Last night, however, was perhaps one of his best defensive performances from an aggression perspective, and ultimately it helped the Tar Heels pull off the victory.

Davis finished the game with three steals, mostly by interrupting passing lanes. All three of his steals led to points on the other end, with four of those points coming from Davis himself. I’ve been really impressed with how well Davis has been playing lately, with the one exception being his performance against Pitt. He has earned some rest after playing 67 minutes in three days, but then again, so have his fellow starters.