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UNC vs. Wake Forest: Three Things Learned

Despite facing some unexpected (and expected) adversity, the Heels found a way to shut down the Deacs.

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Tar Heels found themselves in a dog fight with Wake Forest for the better part of last night’s game, but impressive performances from Armando Bacot, Seth Trimble, and RJ Davis helped lead them to an 88-79 win over the Deacs. If you were to only look at the team stats for both teams, it’d be hard to believe that things went in UNC’s favor by the time the final buzzer sounded — Wake Forest beat the Heels in rebounding, three-point shooting percentage, second-chance points, and bench points. However, UNC scored 32 points off of turnovers, which ultimately ended up being the difference-maker in the game.

Let’s go ahead and discuss three things we learned from this game, starting with the one glaring negative just to get it out of the way.

Caleb Love has too long of a leash

While it’s clear that Caleb Love is a critical part of this team and that they are way better when he is playing well, the Heels have had quite a time navigating when he is playing poorly. It’s not that he is simply missing shots — he was 3-15 from the field and 1-7 from deep — but it is the fact that it feels like plays stop flowing when he has too much command of the basketball. Last night against Wake it felt especially exaggerated because of just how bad his shooting was, and he tried shooting through the pain up until the final buzzer. There were people on Twitter screaming for Hubert Davis to bench Love, but UNC’s head coach stuck by his junior point guard to the end.

Perhaps the most brutal thing about Love’s performance last night was that he pretty much shut down for a portion of the game. There were a few plays where he wasn’t involved in the play on offense, and on defense he was lazy on closeouts likely because of how frustrated he was. For all of people’s critiques of Roy Williams, the one thing that nobody can roast him for is not sitting players that clearly needed to be sat. Hubert Davis needs to know when his guys need to go to the bench to reset so that they can go back in and be more of a help to the team than a hinderance. Thankfully RJ Davis and Seth Trimble were able to hold their own in the midst of this, which brings us to our next topic.

Seth Trimble is starting to become an important part of this team

Alright, so saying “starting to” is a bit disingenuous, but the point still remains that Trimble had a career game against Wake Forest, which has been building up for a few weeks now. He finished his night with 11 points off 4-4 shooting, and he also had two rebounds and just one turnover.

What impressed me the most about Trimble’s performance was his toughness — he had a couple of really tough finishes at the rim, and he teamed up with Bacot for a give-and-go play in the second half that made my jaw drop. It’s becoming more and more clear just how intelligent, aggressive, and mature his game is, and I’m sure Hubert Davis is only going to use him more and more as the season progresses.

RJ Davis had a second half to remember

The usual suspects on the perimeter had a tough time shooting the basketball in the first half, though they were bailed out by Leaky Black’s surprising performance. While we mentioned Love already, RJ Davis went 1-3 in that timeframe, and went into the locker room with five points. If things didn’t improve in the second half, it was likely that Wake Forest was going to find a way to runaway with the game. Thankfully the New York product stepped up.

Davis came out after halftime and added 22 points to his total, hit four three-pointers, and dished out a pair of assists. He was perhaps the deadliest we’ve seen him this season so far on offense, and he was a difference-maker on defense. It’s also worth noting that Davis surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career, making him the 81st Tar Heel to do so. Let’s hope he is up for the challenge of repeating his excellent performance, because next up is Notre Dame this Saturday at the Dean Dome.