In a rivalry rematch on Saturday, the North Carolina men's basketball team (10-5, 5-3 ACC) avoided a season sweep against N.C. State (6-5, 2-4 ACC) with an 86-76 win. Sophomore forward Armando Bacot paced UNC with 17 points, while first-year Day'Ron Sharpe had 16 and guard Caleb Love had 15.
Five minutes and change into the game, the Tar Heels held a 10-9 lead, thanks mostly to strong starts from Love and Bacot (four points apiece). Love got the scoring started with a blow-by layup inside, then followed up with another tough finish, marking one of his more assertive and efficient openings of the season.
Later, three consecutive Bacot buckets inside put North Carolina at 20 points and 10-18 shooting for the game. Eighteen of those UNC points came in the paint, a typical Roy Williams recipe for success; N.C. State kept pace, however, with a bevy of jumpers and isolation buckets. With 9:43 until halftime, the UNC lead was just two points.
A 21-13 stretch to close the period, however, — highlighted by a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Anthony Harris and a Sharpe put-back dunk — gave the Tar Heels a 43-33 lead at the break. To that point, Bacot and Sharpe both had 12 points to pace North Carolina, with Love adding eight points on 4-8 shooting. On the other side, Wolfpack guard Devon Daniels sat at 11 points.
Following the under-16 timeout, first-year guard R.J. Davis, who hadn't scored to that point, made his presence known by going on an 8-0 run all by his lonesome. His exclamation-point 3-pointer put the UNC lead at 14 with 13:36 to go.
It wasn't until the 4:55 mark that the Wolfpack cut the deficit to single-digits, courtesy of a pair of Thomas Allen free throws. Seconds later, a Braxton Beverly triple made it a 72-66 game. But UNC's response, a 3-pointer from first-year guard Kerwin Walton on the ensuing possession, helped ensure that there would be no comeback.
Who stood out?
Bacot (17) and Sharpe (16) combined for 33 points and 18 rebounds, dominating the Wolfpack frontcourt on the inside. Love added 15 points, while two other Tar Heels, Harris and Davis, notched 10 points apiece.
When was it decided?
Walton's late triple, followed by made free throws from a handful of other Tar Heels and layups from Sharpe and Harris, salted away the rivalry win.
Why does it matter?
With the victory, the Tar Heels avoided being swept by the Wolfpack for the first time since the 2002-03 season. UNC's win is its fifth in the last sixth games, extending an improved stretch of play despite a number of close finishes as of late.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will hit the road to face the Pittsburgh Panthers on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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