Caleb Love was the savior UNC needed as they out-scored UCLA by ten points in the second half to advance to the Elite Eight. Carolina closed the game on a 12-2 run to end the Bruins’ season.
Love led the way with 30 points, the majority of them coming in the second half. He had four assists and just one turnover. Three other starters were in double figures with Armando Bacot recording another double-double with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Brady Manek finished with 13 points and RJ Davis had 12 points.
The starters were, once again, called on to play very long minutes against UCLA. Love played all 40 minutes with Leaky Black just behind him on the court for 39 minutes and 38 minutes for Manek. Carolina just got two points from their bench, but neither team’s bench played much of a role in the scoring.
After a lackluster first half in which the Heels scored just 28 points, Love took over in the second half. UNC needed every bit of it as UCLA was able to consistently make their shots. To the Tar Heels’ credit, they kept the Bruins within arms reach in order to make a late surge. Carolina shot 47% from the field after halftime and made six three-pointers. UCLA made just five threes in the game, which made a big difference in such a close game.
It was a dogfight game, much like UNC’s gutsy win over Baylor, and maybe the one before prepared them better for this one. Unlike the last one where Carolina was desperately trying to hold onto a lead they held most of the game, this was a game where the Tar Heels found themselves behind for all but just over eight minutes of the 40 in the game.
It has been amazing to see how the Tar Heels have gotten strong performances from players up and down the roster throughout the tournament. When Love is on, we have all seen how impressive he can be, and tonight was a great time for Good Caleb to show up. For a team that was left for dead back in January, they have certainly come a long way.
UNC will now have to battle Cinderella for a spot in the Final Four when they take on Saint Peter’s on Sunday.