After losing big games in blowout fashion last week to Miami and Wake Forest, the Tar Heels got back on track by finishing an undefeated week with a dominant 100-80 win against N.C. State on Saturday.
Each of the wins came against teams with records at or below .500. But starting sophomore guards RJ Davis and Caleb Love getting back on track, less reliance on junior forward Armando Bacot for offensive production and stout defense indicate the Tar Heels are playing some of their best basketball heading into a critical week with matchups on the road against Louisville and at home against Duke.
The Tar Heels were led by their guard play against the Wolfpack, as both Love and Davis set the pace for the offensive explosion.
Love finished a strong week of scoring with a team-high 21 points on 6-16 shooting from the field and 4-6 shooting from three-point range — many of those threes being contested, off-the dribble makes. Meanwhile, Davis scored 17 points on an efficient 6-8 shooting from the field and 3-4 shooting from three-point range to conclude his impressive week of scoring.
The guards were also getting others involved offensively. Love recorded a game-high five assists while Davis contributed four assists.
When Davis and Love are scoring and facilitating, the Tar Heels are a much more difficult team to beat.
“We were all sharing the ball, and when we share the ball, we get open looks for all of our teammates,” Love said. “That’s our best basketball, when we’re sharing the ball.”
Not only do Davis and Loves’ scoring and facilitating help UNC by getting others involved, but it also helps by lessening the teams’ dependence on Bacot’s offensive production. Before this week, Bacot led the team in scoring in four of its six conference games.
Love is now tied with Bacot in that category, and Davis continues to score at an efficient clip. When Love and Davis score and facilitate the way they did this week, it alleviates the offensive burden from Bacot and enables him to play better on both ends, as exhibited by his six-block performance against the Wolfpack.
“We’re hard to beat when we’re shooting the ball like that,” Bacot said. “It was a lot of fun to see the guards hit shots and see everybody hitting shots.”
While Bacot played stout defense, he wasn’t the only Tar Heel helping stifle the N.C. State offense. As the primary defender on Dereon Seabron — the ACC’s third-leading scorer — senior wing Leaky Black played suffocating defense by limiting Seabron to just two points on 1-6 shooting.
If the Tar Heels’ stifling defense and Davis and Love's efficient scoring and facilitating from this game can carry over into next week, the Tar Heels will have a good shot at defeating Louisville and Duke.
They’ll need to carry these performances over, as Black will have his hands full on the perimeter with Duke’s Paolo Banchero, the ACC’s fifth-leading scorer and a projected top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft .
Davis and Love will also need to carry over their strong scoring and facilitating, as Duke scorers an ACC-best 82 points per game while Louisville holds its opponents to 67 points per game.
The Tar Heels will prove whether they can carry over and build upon their performances from this week on Tuesday on the road against Louisville and next Saturday at home against Duke.
“I thought our team did play with a lot of energy and passion and toughness,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “My hope is that it carries over. My hope is that it builds.”
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