After losing a close one to Virginia on Tuesday, the Tar Heels bounced back with an 80-59 victory over Louisville, notching their first road win of the season. The Heels came out of the gate sluggish, but an 8-0 run to close the half allowed them to build a double digit lead and never look back. With injuries and foul trouble playing factors, Carolina got another solid performance from its bench. Here are three things learned from the Louisville win:
If he suits up, Bacot will dominate
The status of Armando Bacot was very much up in the air coming into this one after injuring his left ankle against Virginia. I think most people, including myself, believed he would at least sit out a game. Alas, Bacot woke up feeling good and was thus inserted into the starting lineup. To the surprise of no one, he dominated.
With just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, Bacot had already secured a double-double. Foul trouble kept him from playing the majority of the second half, but the damage was already done at that point. He finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds in just 25 minutes of action.
Despite his big day, Bacot did not appear to be 100% healthy. It just goes to show how valuable he is by simply being on the floor. Bacot is no stranger to playing through injuries, as he showed during last year’s tournament, and he displayed his toughness once again on Saturday.
D’Marco Dunn is key to this team’s success
One silver lining of the Tar Heels’ recent injury woes has been the expanded use of the bench. With more minutes to go around, we’re getting to see how truly deep this team is and guys are shining with additional opportunities. Last game, Jalen Washington had a coming out party after Bacot went down early in the first half. This time, it was D’Marco Dunn who shined.
Despite not starting, Dunn tied for the third most minutes in this game with 25. He recorded 14 points, 5 rebounds, two steals, and a block while shooting 5-7 from the floor and 2-3 from deep. Dunn played a big role in the Heels’ ability to create live-ball turnovers and turn defense into offense.
I believe Dunn is Carolina’s most well-rounded player coming off the bench. When he wants to, he can be elite on both sides of the ball. Hubert Davis talked about imploring Dunn to get into gear five and stay in gear five, and that’s exactly what he did on Saturday. If Dunn can maintain that aggressiveness, this team is just that much more dangerous.
The frontcourt future is bright
With both Pete Nance and Armando Bacot likely on their way out after this season, the Tar Heels will have questions to answer in the frontcourt next year. However, the recent emergence of Jalen Washington as well as the steady play of Tyler Nickel make those questions a bit less scary.
Last season, Carolina was completely lost if something ever happened to Bacot. Despite the loss, it was encouraging to see the team be competitive with Virginia after Washington stepped in for the injured Bacot. He put up 13 points and six boards in that one and had another solid afternoon versus Louisville with six points and three rebounds. Nickel was limited to garbage time minutes, but he did manage to sink a three.
Both freshmen are exceptionally skilled on the offensive end. They both have a tremendous shooting touch and a knack for scoring. While each has areas that could be improved defensively, they are learning and adapting faster than your average freshmen. For now, Washington and Nickel are mostly there to provide depth. However, I’m confident this duo will eventually become a force to be reckoned with in the ACC.