With around five minutes remaining on the game clock, the North Carolina men’s basketball team was stuck in a back-and-forth battle with Virginia Tech.
Sophomore guard Caleb Love drove into the paint as the Tar Heels only led by four points. His layup sailed past the rim and into the waiting arms of graduate forward Brady Manek for an emphatic dunk, causing the fans at the Dean Smith Center to erupt.
And suddenly, it was just another Manek Monday — with the snippet from the well-known song by The Bangles encapsulating the kind of effect he had in the final minutes of the game.
A few plays later, the graduate transfer drilled a three-point shot to give his team some much-needed breathing room to hold a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a 78-68 victory.
But before his late game heroics, he faced some early struggles.
After scoring just three points on 1-3 shooting in the first half, Manek was visually frustrated on the court as he failed to affect the game in the way he wanted to.
At one point, he let out a scream after missing a close layup attempt.
“I was struggling there,” Manek said. “I was mad at myself.”
Head coach Hubert Davis saw his frustration and knew he had to get to him before it was too late.
“He wants to play well, but he really wants to come through for his team and when he feels like he’s not coming through, which is never, he gets upset with himself,” Davis said. “Sometimes he gets so upset that at times it's difficult for him to go to the next shot and next possession.
During a second half huddle, Davis went to Manek and told him to remember a conversation they had a few days earlier.
“You are the most experienced player on our team,” Davis had told Manek. “Our guys are looking at you. They’re looking for your reaction. They’re looking for how you deal with things. They’re looking for wisdom and discernment from you because you’ve been there before. We need you.”
Soon after the huddle, he made that dunk, and immediately flipped the switch, which sparked a late 8-0 UNC run to take control of the game.
“We had our backs against the wall last week so we really needed this win a lot,” senior wing Leaky Black said.
After getting blown out by two ACC foes, the Tar Heels needed Monday’s win to get back on track for an NCAA Tournament bid. It didn’t come easy early on as both teams went on small runs.
Each time it seemed like UNC was going to pull away, the Hokies found an answer to keep the game close. Separation didn’t come until the final minutes – when Manek delivered for his teammates, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the second half.
By recovering from a sloppy start and channeling in the words Davis said to him, Manek helped save his team from creating an even tougher hill to climb as it looks ahead to the rest of ACC play.
“It was one of those things you can’t describe,” Manek said. “It had everything to do with the game, the crowd and my teammates. It was a good feeling to have especially after not doing much for anybody in the first 35 minutes.”
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