First off, trying to actually take anything out of that game is almost a fool’s errand.
It was a game of two completely different halves. It had a nearly scoreless Armando Bacot. It also was a game that swung back on a Leaky Black dunk that is arguably the best of the year. There was also such a difference in three-point shooting that it’s tough to know which way is up.
That said, it is one thing for sure: a road ACC win.
So, even in this bizzare game, let’s try to pick out some things that we may have actually learned from the UNC 77-66 win in Tallahassee last night.
Playing without Armando has paid dividends
The game took an awkward turn early when Armando Bacot picked up two quick fouls before the first media timeout. It caused him to only see the floor for eight minutes of the half, and of those eight a good chunk came when he already had two fouls. Thus, Carolina was once again forced to play without Armando Bacot, like they had multiple times earlier in the season.
The fact that this wasn’t totally new turned out to help Carolina, as FSU had to play them more one-on-one instead of packing it down low. With space, Carolina attempted EIGHTEEN three-pointers, and pretty much all of them were wide open. It was so successful that coach Hubert Davis ended up keeping Bacot on the bench for a good chunk of the second half, too.
The strategy ultimately worked early in the second half as Carolina blunted an early FSU run, but then mistakes started to pile up and Bacot had to come back in as FSU chipped an 18-point halftime deficit down to four. But, with Bacot back in, Carolina was able to use the open space that FSU gave them. First an RJ Davis drive that really quieted down the runaway train that the game had become, and then with a Leaky Black dunk we’ll get to in a second.
Considering how ineffective Carolina had looked without Bacot earlier this season and knowing that it’s a distinct possibility that he could be in foul trouble again at any time, it was good that the Tar Heels shook off their issues of missing him from earlier in the season and played confidently for a good part of the game. Hopefully this success will pay off down the road if needed.
Carolina held a late lead against a run
Would there have been shame at losing to this FSU team? Yes, as they still haven’t hit double digit wins on the year. That said, considering this FSU squad had come back from 25 down against Miami just two days ago, coming back from 18 down to an arguably worse Carolina squad wouldn’t have seemed that difficult for them.
Add to that the fact that Carolina has had multiple games this year where they had a reasonably good lead late and then everything fell apart, and you end up with a positive to see this team respond to adversity. Florida State actually had multiple runs in the second half to whittle down the lead, and eventually Carolina would not only find a way to stop it, but build it back up. FSU cut it to 13 before the first media timeout, before Carolina got it back to 18 at the second break. Carolina kept it in that range for a while, up by as much as 16 with 6:24 to go.
That’s when things started to go sideways, and FSU went on their final push, going on a 13-2 run over the next three minutes before RJ hit a jumper to build it back to six. Carolina gave up a quick layup and then Leaky nailed his dunk, and that ended it.
By the time RJ hit his basket Tallahassee was loud, as the crowd sensed another comeback like they had on Saturday. Instead, the team responded, and it wasn’t close after that. After that dunk, FSU would only score four more points, and the Tar Heels got to head back to Chapel Hill with another ACC road win. It was good to see them respond, and maybe it’s a good sign of things to come.
Leaky Black can dunk
One of the most frustrating things about watching Leaky Black play is that he will typically jump for a layup instead of just dunking the ball. That move will lead to either a clean block or a miss that maybe results in a foul. It made you wonder if he actually could go up and dunk the ball, for all of the good he can do.
Last night he showed, yeah, he can dunk
GET UP!!! @LeakyBlack— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) February 28, 2023
The dunk helped punctuate a really efficient night for the grad student: 18 points on 6-8 shooting, 3-4 from behind the arc, nine rebounds, three assists, and a block. The play was made here because of his three point shooting, FSU had to take his shot seriously, and he was able to get his defender in the air, drive past him, see the wide open space and instead of pull up for a mid-range just slam home a ton of frustration.
His reaction made the dunk, too, as Black is not the first guy you’d think of putting some extra mustard at the end of a play. His play has really turned a corner lately, and it really can’t come at a better time for the Tar Heels. If Carolina hopes to replicate last season’s success, they’ll need this to keep going from Leaky.