Read Akil’s exhilarating recap of UNC’s 93-86 win over Baylor for the particulars. To quickly summarize if you missed it (and shame on you if you did!), here’s how it went down in WWE terms.
Carolina was essentially Stone Cold Steve Austin and threw Baylor into the turnbuckle, stomped a mudhole in their ass, and was well on their way to giving the Bears a Stunner before pouring some Coors Light down all over themselves. But then Vince, Shane, and Stephanie McMahon (the refs) came out, smashed Carolina in the back of the head with a chair, and tried to drag Baylor’s limp, lifeless body over the Heels for the three-count. Fortunately, UNC was not to be denied, and left Dickies Arena to the sound of broken glass, two middle fingers defiantly raised in the air.
Here are three things learned from a hard-fought victory over #1 seed Baylor.
Manek’s light snuffed out
Read Al’s “player of the game” article on RJ Davis once it publishes later today. It’s a well deserved honor for the New York point guard who was an absolute hero yesterday afternoon.
But when things were going swimmingly in the first 10 minutes of the second half, it looked very much like Brady Manek, balling out of control in front of 40 of his friends and family, was going to run away with the award. Manek was giving Baylor fits. He had 26 points and five rebounds, and didn’t look like he was taxing himself too much on the defensive end. He was well on his way to scoring 40+.
Then the flagrant 2 happened. Perhaps Baylor and Duke fans will disagree, but most talking heads in the sports-sphere agree that the foul was a flagrant 1 at worst, especially when you consider the scissor-kick from Jeremy Sochan that only resulted in a technical foul. That could’ve broken Armando Bacot’s ankle!
The game turned on its head when Manek left the floor. The Heels were rattled, of course, but not only was Manek providing timely scoring, he was calm in possession. As an Iron Five member, he was very familiar with the other starters. When the subs came in, things started getting dicey, and they really could have used Manek’s steady hand. Fortunately, that hand was waiting for the team in the locker room to do this:
Dontrez Styles steps up when he was needed the most
With Manek out, and Bacot hobbled with nonsense fouls from Jeremy Sochan — who kicked out more in this one game than Grayson Allen did during four years at Duke — Hubert Davis was suddenly without two of his Iron Five. Coach Davis needed minutes from someone who could compete with Baylor on the boards. Dontrez Styles answered the call.
Styles played a career-high 25 minutes and scored a career-high nine points. He had three tough rebounds and two crucial steals, when possessions were at a premium. And after Carolina coughed up their 25-point lead in the last 10 minutes of regulation and panic swept across the team, he began the overtime period with this calmly taken and crucial three-pointer:
Styles was able to match Baylor’s athleticism, which probably saved the Heels from being overtaken in the second half. He defended hard and used all four of his pre-disqualification fouls, making the Bears earn points from the line instead of surrendering them at the rim.
The Kinston, NC freshman has not played too many minutes this season, but when his name was called, he answered emphatically. In basketball, the only thing harder than Iron, is Steel. Blue Steel.
Hubert puts out early-season, Roy Williams line-ups
When the Heels were humming along in the second half, it looked like this second round game would end the same way the Marquette game did: subs would get in the game while the starters waved towels over their heads.
That kind of happened, but not the way Davis would have sequenced it. And Brady Manek’s towel was draped over his head, not waved, as he was escorted to the locker room after being ejected.
Having a bomb dropped in your lap would make lesser men/women panic or shut down. Coach Davis went about his business in as competent a manner as you would expect from a much more seasoned coach. He was suddenly without key starter Brady Manek after that horrible flagrant 2 call. He lost Caleb Love after he fouled out with six minutes left. He brought in Styles and Justin McKoy to try and break Baylor’s press that managed to bash Tar Heels all over the court without drawing fouls to salt away the game at the line.
Once Caleb Love fouled out with 6:15 remaining in regulation, Carolina played the final 11:15 with lineups that had never shared the court during the season's first 34+ games:— Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid) March 19, 2022
The final 15 minutes of the game was not vintage Carolina basketball, but it was enough to drag the Heels into the Sweet Sixteen. Baylor expended a ton of energy and fouls to get back within striking distance. Hubert Davis did an admirable job weathering the storm and bringing the game home against all odds.