This was a tough game to watch, largely. The Tar Heels escaped South Bend with a 63-59 victory but it was about as ugly as college basketball games get. Sure, it was nice to see a Roy Williams-esque rebounding performance (against a team that ranks 339th in rebounds per game), but there wasn’t much else to love about this one. The defense was mostly solid, but got away with some missed open looks from the Irish. Offensively, there were simply too many misses around the rim, and to make matters worse, Carolina shot 2-23 (8.7%) from beyond the arc.
The Heels’ offensive trio of Armando Bacot, Caleb Love, and RJ Davis actually played pretty well from an efficiency standpoint. Collectively, they shot 17-36 (47.2%) from the field, but the team only recorded eight total assists. All three made plays to help Carolina pull away down the stretch but due to his work on the glass in extending possessions, the player of the game goes to Armando Bacot.
Bacot went 7-15 from the field with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He came out sluggish in the first half (as did everyone), failing to record a bucket until the 9:12 mark. However, Bacot played with purpose and fight during the second stanza. He worked like crazy to carve out space around the basket, and it paid dividends for the Heels in the form of putbacks and entry feeds leading to buckets. Despite the team’s tournament odds dwindling to near-nothing, Bacot is not about to throw in the towel, and he showed it.
Speaking of entry feeds, Pete Nance also deserves a lot of credit for his role in Carolina’s high-low action. Despite another below-average shooting night (3-12 from the field), Nance remained committed to delivering the ball to Bacot in a position to score, and wound up with five of the team’s eight assists as a result. He also recorded 10 rebounds and went 5-5 from the free throw line.
Overall, I don’t think the Tar Heels were especially lacking in urgency or effort. It was more so the lack of attention to detail and execution that continues to be a problem for this group. They missed a solid amount of open shots and, while many of those came down to the focus of the shooter, too many in this game were as a result of shaky passes. At one point, RJ Davis picked up a ball that was tossed directly to the tip of his shoe and hoisted a three that was never going in. Whether it’s passing, cutting, setting screens, shooting, etc., everything must be done with precision in order for this team to be successful. The margin for error has evaporated.
The Tar Heels will now look ahead to Virginia this Saturday in what is sure to be another excruciating watch.