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UNC vs. Duke: Players of the Game - Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram

Carolina’s frontcourt duo put on an absolute clinic.

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

After a frustrating loss at Georgia Tech, the Tar Heels responded in a major way on Saturday as they took down Duke, 93-84. The final score may not reflect it, but it was a pretty dominating performance from start to finish. With just over 19 minutes remaining in the first half, Carolina took a 4-2 advantage on an RJ Davis transition floater, and they never looked back. The Blue Devils did not lead the rest of the game and after halftime, seven points was as close as they could cut it.

While we typically hand out this award to just one player, this was not a typical showing. For the first time since 1998 when the program was headlined by the electric duo of Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison, two Carolina teammates recorded 20-point double-doubles. Thus, your players of the game are Armando Bacot and Harrison Ingram.

Ingram put together just an incredibly complete performance, making his presence felt on seemingly every play on both sides of the ball. He finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and four steals on 8-12 shooting (5-9 from deep). As impressive as they are, the stats still don’t tell the whole story.

From an energy standpoint, Ingram gave everything you could have asked, and then some. Whether it was diving for loose balls, communicating defensively, securing a boxout, the dude was just active every second he was on the floor. Although he missed a few of his first shots, he made momentum plays elsewhere that fed both the crowd and his confidence, allowing him to ultimately enter a state of unconsciousness.

There was a particular offensive rebound/loose ball situation with just over six minutes left that perfectly encapsulated Ingram’s night. After a missed Cormac Ryan floater with three Blue Devils waiting under the rim, Ingram somehow managed to tip the ball away, dove on the floor to corral it, and flung it back out to Elliot Cadeau for an extra possession that ended, consequently, in a Ryan made three. Ingram made these types of plays throughout to help stymie any potential Duke runs.

On the other hand, Bacot’s all-around performance was just as impressive. Defensively, he was tasked with slowing down the Blue Devils’ leading scorer, Kyle Filipowski (17.5 ppg), who went for 22 points but needed 17 shots to do it. Offensively, the Tar Heels played almost completely through Bacot for the first time in a while, and he delivered throughout the entire game.

Apparently some fans have a hard time understanding the game beyond the numbers as Bacot has weirdly caught flack for his dip in offensive production. His role is very clearly different on this year’s team as a direct result of the influx in scoring options, which should make fans happy, but I digress. With the attention he continues to draw, Bacot has done so many good things in regards to screening/sealing to free up his teammates for easy buckets. All of this being said, Carolina is historically at its best when Bacot is aggressive, and the results from Saturday make it hard to argue.

Bacot finished with 25 points, ten rebounds, and five assists as Duke simply had no answer for him. It didn’t really matter when or how the double team was brought about, Bacot did an excellent job of being patient, reading the defense, and making the right decision. More often than not, that meant attacking Duke’s physically outmatched frontcourt. At other times, he was able to pass over the top of the double and generate wide open looks for others.

It was nice to see Bacot truly dominate the paint on both ends like we’re accustomed to seeing. Hubert Davis said he wants to play through Bacot more than they have been, so could this be a resurgence of sorts? I don’t know, but what I do know is that this team finds ways to win regardless of the circumstances, and Armando Bacot has and will continue to be a massive part of that.