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UNC knocks off Virginia behind Pete Nance’s big night

You never know what you’re going to get.

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC came painfully close to having enough firepower to knock off Virginia in Charlottesville earlier this season without Pete Nance and with Armando Bacot only playing the first minute of the game. This time, with their squad at full strength, the Tar Heels were able to finish the job and picked up a nice 71-63 victory over the sixth-ranked team in the country.

Nance has struggled since returning from his back injury earlier this year. Tonight, he looked like the Nance that Carolina fans thought they’d be getting when he transferred from Northwestern. He led all scorers with 22 points, including a 4-4 mark from three, and four blocks. RJ Davis, like Nance, also rebounded from some injury woes with a jammed finger plaguing him as of late. He finished the game with a double-double, 16 points and 10 rebounds. Bacot had 11 points and six rebounds with Caleb Love also finishing in double figures with 10 points. Leaky Black added another four blocks to the sheet.

Carolina shot the lights out in the first half, looking nothing like the team that has looked offensively challenged for much of the season. They shot 58% from the field on their way to a 42-26 lead. Eleven of Davis’ points and 14 of Nance’s points came in the first 20 minutes. The team hit nine of their shots from beyond the arc in the first half.

Even though they cooled off after halftime, their sharp shooting in the first half was able to carry them. The Tar Heels made just one three-pointer after halftime, but shot 19 of their 22 free throws. They made 14 of them while Virginia struggled from the line, going 5-11.

The Carolina team that showed up in the first half is truly a team that can compete with almost anyone on any given night. The win over Virginia did give the Heels their long-awaited Quad 1 win, but that alone likely will not be enough to earn them a bid in the NCAA Tournament. You may remember that UNC previously held a Quad 1 win over Ohio State, but the Buckeyes have played themselves out of Quad 1 status since then. Hopefully the same thing doesn’t happen here across the last week of the regular season.

All the games from here are important if this team would like to play beyond the first game or two in Greensboro in March. They’ll have to continue to show up with the intensity they displayed in this game in order to pad their resumé as much as possible this late in the year.

UNC will try to keep the train rolling Monday on the road against Florida State.