Whew, what a weird and dumb basketball game that was. It went down right to a crazy final couple seconds, but North Carolina came away with a 72-68 over Syracuse Tuesday night. For a while, it seemed like UNC was going to come away with a solid win, final margin wise. Then, it seemed like they might have to back into a tight victory. After that, it seemed like a win was completely off the cards. They did manage to get the W in the end, but it did require a crazy last couple plays.
Picking a player of the game for that mess is a little difficult as a result. There are a couple statlines that seem pretty decent on the surface, but a lot of them have caveats. In the end, I’m personally going to pick the player had one of those statlines, and whose abcence seemed the most notable when he wasn’t on the floor.
It wasn’t the prettiest night for Armando Bacot finished the game with 18 points, after an 8-15 night from the floor. He added to that eight rebounds and also four assists as part of the high/low game that UNC often uses to deal with Syracuse’s zone. He also finished +6 in plus/minus, behind only Tyler Nickel’s weird +12.
While he was in for parts of Syracuse’s run, Bacot dealt with foul trouble during the portion where the game went from “close, but still trending towards a win” to “close, but looking like a loss.” The offense looked especially less fluid in their attempts to breakdown the zone while Bacot was out, scoring just two points before he was finally brought back in for the stretch run. No, this won’t go down as his finest game. Yes, there are players that arguably made key-er plays in the final moments. However, as he does so often, Bacot has arguably the most complete game.
Pete Nance led the way in points for UNC, finishing with 21 on 6-17 shooting, 1-2 from three, knocking down 8-10 free throws. He also grinded out all 40 minutes of the game. I opted against him because he missed just a few too many bunnies, that could’ve put away the game much earlier. However, he did come up huge when it mattered, scoring the three points that took the Tar Heels from down one to up two with 19 seconds left.
Caleb Love also had one of his best games in a while, scoring 15 points on 4-7 shooting. He came out quick, knocking down three first half three-pointers, and then also knocked down the free throws right at the end to put away the game.
Also, shoutout to RJ Davis. He only finished with only nine points, but came away from the game bloodied after drawing the offensive flagrant foul on Syracuse’s last real shot at winning the game.
Honestly, picking one for player of the game is a choose your own adventure, which is fitting considering that game was an adventure.