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UNC vs. Wake Forest: Player of the Game - Armando Bacot

Carolina dropped its third in a row, and missing Armando Bacot for long stretches was a killer.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Wake Forest William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

What a strange end to a horrible game.

Wake Forest was blasting UNC last night by as many as 26 points in the second half when Caleb Love finally awoke from his Sleeping Beauty slumber (he scored just two points on 0-9 shooting from the field in the first half). His three-point shot came alive in garbage time when the Heels started dragging Wake Forest through the mud, ending the game with 24 points on 4-9 shooting from the perimeter.

It’s nice, but it was a too little too late.

I’m afraid it’s a familiar tune from me for Player of the Game, our increasingly frustrated big man Armando Bacot.

In Carolina’s horrible first half, Bacot led the team with 13 points and eight rebounds—no other player had more than two points. The team missed all five of their three-pointers, and although Wake didn’t double-team or trap that much, opting to start 7-footer Davion Bradford, it was congested in the paint. Bacot’s offense was the only thing that worked.

Another sign of how important Bacot is to the team was what happened when he sat at the end of the first half after picking up his second foul. Carolina brought Jalen Washington on and ran some pick and roll action for him diving to the rim. Twice Washington fumbled entry passes, leading to turnovers. UNC’s front court without Bacot was ugly.

One area where Bacot has suffered has been no-calls in the paint. Kevin Keatts must be awfully pleased with himself. After whining about Carolina’s foul disparity during NC State’s 80-69 loss in Chapel Hill, Bacot cannot buy a foul. He’s getting brutalized whenever he turns around and is often bumped in the air while rebounding. It’s no small coincidence that this three-game slide has seen UNC’s foul advantage shrink dramatically.

Bacot had several moments in the game where he was demonstrably frustrated. As a human being, I can understand and empathize, but from a basketball stand point, he needs to bury that deep inside to keep the team moving forward. It doesn’t get any easier with Clemson visiting Chapel Hill on Saturday afternoon.