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Saturday June 10th

Caleb Love's improved play propels UNC past Elon, boosts the Tar Heels' offense

Sophomore guard Caleb Love (2) shoots a free throw at the game against Elon on Dec. 11 at the Dean Dome. UNC won 80-63.
Buy Photos Sophomore guard Caleb Love (2) shoots a free throw at the game against Elon on Dec. 11 at the Dean Dome. UNC won 80-63.

It all started with a beautiful windmill dunk that marked UNC’s first field goal of the night. These two points were just a couple of the 22 scored, including four three-pointers, for sophomore guard Caleb Love in the team’s home win over Elon Saturday.

To Love, his recent success is all about confidence and mental toughness.

“Through each workout, I just gained more and more confidence," he said. "And then in the game, I got the ultimate confidence to shoot.”

Love’s total 22 points ties his season high for the fourth time this year. His shooting success coupled with his improved shot selection and endurance to play nearly the whole game marks him a true team leader, both physically and mentally.

And as Love’s confidence grows, it rubs off on the rest of the team.

“We know what we’re capable of,” sophomore forward Dawson Garcia said. “Just continuing to play the way that we know that we can. The emphasis is just validation.”

But Love isn’t just limiting himself to the offensive end of the court as he’s been preparing to excel on the defensive side of things as well. His night was also marked by three steals and five defensive rebounds, which showed his versatility as a player. Furthermore, it was the Tar Heel defense that kept the Phoenix at bay during the more sloppy parts of the night’s game.

“I feel like I can bring a spark to the defensive end,” Love said. “I feel like I can be the best defender in the ACC.”

Following a disappointing year, Love’s mental strength has developed over the offseason coming into this year. Since his time in college, Love has taken up meditation and spent extra time training outside of required team practices.

“It was just a humbling season last year,” Love said. “So I just came back, like I said, when (head coach Hubert Davis) got the job, I told him that I’m gonna give him my all and I’m gonna be better than I was last year.”

Love credits a large part of his growing confidence and success to Davis, who has more than picked up on Love’s dedication and hard work. Following a conversation between the two at the start of the summer in which Love promised to mature both on and off the court, Davis reported back to his staff in order to convey his belief in his player. 

“I went to the coaches and I said ‘We’ve got a player,’” Davis said. “He’s gonna have a terrific season and I’m very, very proud of him.”

Although the team had sloppy moments Saturday, Love believes this only proves that even on an off day, the team has potential to pull out a win.

Moving into the rest of the season, this mentality will prove essential against more high level teams in more competitive matchups. While his second year of North Carolina basketball is only just beginning, Love has clearly marked himself as a player to watch. 

“I don’t feel like I have a ceiling,” Love said. “I feel like I’m just gonna keep going up. That’s just my confidence level right now.”

@dthsports |

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