One constant force that has been there pretty much every night this season for the North Carolina men’s basketball team is junior forward Armando Bacot.
Coming into the weekend matchup against Georgia Tech, Bacot was averaging a double-double for the season — even recording the statline in six straight games. And on Saturday night, the Richmond, Va. native picked up right where he left off.
In the Tar Heels’ 88-65 blowout victory over the Yellow Jackets, Bacot added another exciting chapter to his stellar campaign, tying his career-high total of points with 29 while adding 12 rebounds.
On a night where the shots were falling for North Carolina, he was able to do his thing once again.
The Tar Heels’ nine three pointers helped open up space down low to create opportunities for the team's big men, which is a big part of why Bacot has had so much success this season.
“The way we are shooting the ball is just freeing me up even more and allowing me to get more one-on-one plays and I have just been playing even harder than I’ve already been playing,” Bacot said. “Obviously, that’s what has been helping me the most.”
When Bacot first arrived to Chapel Hill, the type of tenacity he has been displaying was not always there. But this year, he has risen to the occasion more consistently.
As a consensus five-star recruit coming out of IMG Academy, Bacot sometimes relied too heavily on his talent in his first two collegiate seasons, and head coach Hubert Davis said his consistent motor has made all the difference this year.
“Because he’s so gifted, at times he doesn’t go 100 percent,” Davis said. “I think the major difference this year compared to the other years is that his energy and effort is 100 percent every time down the floor.”
On Saturday night, Bacot became the first player since Tyler Hansbrough in 2007-2008 to score 29 or more points in consecutive games. Just like the former fan-favorite, Bacot has established himself as one of the best big men in the country and he seems to be getting better every night.
In today’s college basketball world, it is less common to see a talented player like Bacot stick around at a program for multiple seasons, but his decision to withdraw from the 2021 NBA Draft and return for another ride seems to be paying dividends.
The maturity and leadership of Bacot — along with the other upperclassmen — will be key for the Tar Heels going forward. There are still a lot of games left to play, and with the conference schedule ramping up and a wide open ACC, North Carolina has an opportunity to establish itself as a top team.
Through the ups and downs, Bacot has fought hard to get to this level, and he has drowned out a lot of his previous deficiencies this season.
“He’s been so good lately I honestly forgot how it was in previous years,” senior wing Leaky Black said. “He’s matured so much and I’m just so happy for him. I really want to see him thrive at the next level and I’m really happy for him.”
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