So it came to pass, as the Hokies beat Carolina on their third try. The vaunted Iron Five were running on fumes, and even though RJ Davis, Caleb Love, and Brady Manek all scored 10 points each, they were extremely inefficient doing so.
As a team, UNC shot 36.7% from the field. Davis shot 20%, Love 17.6%, and Manek 40% (but went 0-5 from 3-point range). Folks, that won’t get it done against NC State, much less against a Virginia Tech team fighting to get off the bubble.
Armando Bacot had yet another double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds (5 offensive!) while shooting 90% from the field. Bacot’s rebounds last night put his season into historically elite company:
Armando Bacot just became only the second Tar Heel to record 400 rebounds in a season (joining Brice Johnson, who had 416 in 2016).— Carolina Basketball Stats & Info (@UNCMBBStats) March 12, 2022
More impressive than his raw numbers and shooting percentage was how he was able to stack points when Virginia Tech was playing really solid team defense to deny Bacot the ball in spots where he likes to operate.
Bacot was denied clean entry pass looks by the Hokies straight out of the gates. When he was able to get post position on Keve Aluma, at least two Virginia Tech defenders were shaded into the paint to help spring double-teams. Bacot could not drop step or spin as a defender was already in the spot that he wanted to turn into. Charge booby-traps were all over the paint.
In the first half, Bacot had a couple of errant passes out of the double-team to the wing, one of which was way too high to Caleb Love and ended up going out of bounds for a turnover. In the second half, Carolina made some adjustments, squeezing Brady Manek down into the paint from the 3-point line. On one double-team, Bacot passed from the block to Manek for an easy jumper from the foul line.
Bacot also managed to accumulate zero first half fouls in the midst of some of the worst ACC officiating you can get on national television. Jay Bilas, as evenhanded an analyst as you’ll find, called it “hand-to-hand combat.” Bacot managed to get five fouls in the second half, one in the flagrant-one category.
With the NCAA Tournament nearly in sight, it will be imperative that Armando Bacot continues the good work that he showed in this game. He is among the best rebounders in the country, and in most match-ups, should be able to dominate in the post.
Let’s hope Carolina’s bracket has favorable matchups. The Tar Heels that just beat Duke and Virginia are perfectly capable of making a run. Last night’s team could go home in the first round.