Forgive me if parts of this end up making little sense, but it turns out trying to write in the aftermath of arguably the most dramatic game and win in North Carolina Tar Heels basketball history is proving a little difficult.
Last night, UNC pulled off an incredible 81-77 win over Duke in the Final Four, battling back after so many times after it seemed like the Blue Devils were finally taking control. It’s also big for a reason other than advancing to the National Championship Game, but we’ll save that for a later day. Instead, let’s focus on the Tar Heels and talk about our player of the game in the win.
Of course, in a win like that, it doesn’t even need to be said that it takes a team effort to win a battle like that. Not everyone played excellently, but everyone contributed. However, if we have to narrow it down to one person, then you have to look past the person who, once again, became a supernova in the second half and hit the biggest shots of the game.
Caleb Love led all scorers on Saturday night, scoring 28 points, including 22 in the second half. Whenever Carolina needed a bucket, Love seemed to come up with the goods, and as a result, the Heels are going to play for a national championship.
After a mostly quite second half (6 points on 3-8 shooting), Love shook that off and kept on attacking. While he hit three three-pointers in the game, so many of his points can by him getting into the land and hitting a floater or layup. Most of those shots came either when UNC needed a basket to stop a Duke run or to extend the Heels’ lead. However, his biggest shot of the night came from three.
With just over a minute left, two free throws from R.J. Davis put Carolina up one. Down the other end, Duke’s Mark Williams missed both and UNC grabbed the rebound to begin what would be, by far, the biggest possession of the game. After the Heels milked the clock a little bit, Love had the ball with just over 10 second left on the shot clock and around 30 left on the game clock. After getting a screen from Leaky Black, Love went around it, had a bit of separation, and pulled up from three. He did this:
While there was still a lot of time left and several free throws to be made, that ended up being the game-deciding shot. Love also found himself on the line for those free throws and went 3-4 to seal a famous win. Love has gotten a lot of flack over his two years in Chapel Hill, but there can be no doubting him now. In one of the most important games in program history, he’s etched his name in Tar Heel lore forever.
Love was incredible, but let’s give some hat tips to some other. As mentioned, it took a team effort, and one of the keys parts in that was Armando Bacot. While he didn’t have his best scoring night, Bacot finished with 11 points and 21 rebounds. He also looked to maybe be done for the game when he went down with an ankle injury late in the game, but came back and battled through it.
Meanwhile, there’s Davis, who finished with 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. He played a very crucial role in the first half, with 14 of his points coming in the first 20 minutes. That half was key in keeping UNC in striking distance when many others in the rest of the Heels’ lineup got off to a shaky start.
Shoutout to Leaky Black, who had a typical Leaky game, with eight points, nine rebounds, and two assists. He also knocked down a three for the first points of the game, showing that UNC weren’t going to go down easy. Beyond that, he did an incredible job defensively on AJ Griffin. Again.
Brady Manek didn’t have his best shooting night, but hit some key shots and also did an admirable job guarding Paolo Banchero, who ended with 20 points, but only on 8-17 shooting.
No matters what happens tomorrow, we’ll always have Saturday night, and we’ll always have Caleb Love’s incredible performance.