Just as the 100-80 win over NC State on January 29th flattered the Wolfpack, so too is the 84-74 win a bit misleading. Carolina throttled NC State, who were never in position to put the outcome of the game in doubt. Besides shoveling dirt on Kevin Keatts’ grave, UNC did provide some important glimpses into the near future on how the Heels can fall onto the right side of the bubble, and hopefully have a chance of ruining the final stop of Coach K’s farewell tour. Let’s discuss three things learned from yesterday’s romp over NC State.
Bacot plays bully ball
Let’s take a look at this box score line real quick: 36 minutes, 28 points (on 11-13 FG, 6-7 FT, extremely efficient!), 18 rebounds, 5 blocks. In honor of the return of the original “Law & Order” series to NBC, let’s get a gif of Detective Lennie Briscoe, played by the late, great Jerry Orbach:
When Bacot doesn’t have someone with equal or greater size to bang against, the opposing team is looking at a really, really bad day. With Manny Bates out for the season, the Wolfpack didn’t stand a chance, and Carolina looked for Bacot early and often. He scored eight of UNC’s first 11 points.
Bacot’s game was reminiscent of Yokozuna’s performance in the 1993 Royal Rumble, when he eliminated seven superstars to win a title shot at Wrestlemania IX. Tatanka, Earthquake, Owen Hart, and the Macho Man Randy Savage couldn’t deal with Yokozuna’s formidable size and agility, and they were all thrown over the top rope in short order. NC State’s front court had similar issues guarding UNC’s supreme post player, and he showed his full arsenal of moves at PNC Arena, scoring from post-ups, turn around jumpers, runs to the rim, and putbacks.
Bacot will look to duplicate this performance in the middle of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone on Monday night. The Orange will make it difficult for Carolina to feed Bacot on the block, and he doesn’t quite have the foul line face-up game that Brice Johnson and Theo Pinson showed to great effect, but if there’s a 50/50 rebound and nobody puts a body on him, expect Bacot to easily tally another double-double.
Dereon Seabron’s pockets
When Dereon Seabron, NC State’s leading scorer at 18 ppg, got home and emptied his pockets, he took out his keys, wallet, phone, and Leaky Black. That’s how tight the senior swingman was on Seabron during the first half, prior to an unfortunate injury.
Seabron was similarly shackled in the first meeting with UNC, finishing the game with only two points in 23 minutes of action. After the first half yesterday, Seabron was sitting on three points (a basket and a free throw) in 14 minutes, before scoring 8 more points in the second half after Leaky hyper-extended his knee.
Earlier this week, I talked about how Leaky Black’s offense has been gaining traction in recent weeks, but the first half of this game showed where his bread is really buttered; on the defensive end. Carolina led NCSU by 17 at the half, and pushed that lead to 22 by the time Leaky came out injured. Leaky is so important to UNC’s ability to make and sustain runs, even if he isn’t looking to score himself. But now that he does look to score occasionally, he’s able to flex like this:
LEAKY BLACK— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) February 26, 2022
@espn | @RechonBlack pic.twitter.com/Bi2pU6z0O3
It’s such a luxury to be able to take out such a key offensive component the way Leaky does. It’s crucial that he is available on Monday to lock down Buddy Boeheim on Senior Night, and Paolo Banchero on Saturday night.
Puff grabs his opportunity with both hands
Perhaps with an eye towards a quick turnaround game against Syracuse on Monday night, Hubert Davis went to his bench earlier than most nights. This was possible because of how quickly and efficiently Carolina went about beating NC State’s ass. The end result is that Davis may have a ready option in case Leaky isn’t able to go tomorrow night.
Puff Johnson was the first sub in yesterday, spelling Leaky Black seven minutes into the game. Puff had his best game in a Carolina uniform, playing a career-high 29 minutes and scoring a career-high 16 points, including two made three-pointers, and hitting all three free throws when fouled from downtown. Overall, he was 6 for 7 from the FT line, which means he can play end-of-game situations. He also had five tough rebounds in traffic, using his newfound strength to great effect.
Puff is really one of Roy’s boys, as his two highest scoring games have come against NC State. If Leaky isn’t 100%, Puff brings an interesting mix to the fight. Compared to Black, Puff is a net negative defender, but he’s a net positive scorer. He’s a willing scorer. And his combination of three-point stroke and ability to rebound in traffic makes him an intriguing option to attack Syracuse’s zone with.