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Front court players step up for UNC men's basketball in road win over Boston College

UNC graduate forward Brady Manek (45) shoots the ball during a home game at the Dean Smith Center against Furman on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021.

Coming into today’s UNC men's basketball matchup against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, a “battle on the boards” storyline between junior center Armando Bacot and the Eagles’ James Karnik was created.

Bacot is third in the ACC in field goal percentage, and averaged 17.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in his prior 3 games. On the other hand, in his first ACC game of the season, Karnik dropped a career-high 17 points and 13 rebounds on Notre Dame. 

Many fans were excited to see the two centers duke it out. And with help from graduate forward Brady Manek, Bacot and UNC prevailed. 

“We’re a team with a lot of depth,” Bacot said. “We have a lot of players in a lot of different positions. Having that next man up mentality was huge for us.” 

After sophmore transfer big man Dawson Garcia went down in the opening minutes of the game with a head injury, the Tar Heels were left without their starting forward. But Manek was ready.

Manek was substituted in, and North Carolina went on an early 16-2 run that was key to their ultimate 91-65 win over the Eagles.

With his presence behind the arc, the Tar Heels were able to alleviate the defensive pressure the Eagles were placing on Bacot — as they doubled and sometimes triple-teamed him. Manek hit back-to-back three-pointers with less than nine minutes left in the first half, which resulted in the Eagles being forced to space out more on the floor, opening up the paint for Bacot.

“I think we just played hard,” Manek said. “We were making shots and in that first half we stopped them on defense. We hit them first and we had a good time.”

The front-court duo of Manek and Bacot was instrumental in building an early lead over the Eagles and ultimately securing the win in today’s game. In the first half, they combined for 23 points, outscoring Boston College’s halftime total of 20 as a team.

“Armando and Brady, they have really good chemistry,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “To have a guy like Brady Manek come off the bench is pretty cool. His ability out there on the floor, not only to make shots but to pass, rebound, his toughness and effort on the defensive end, it’s really nice out there on the floor.”

By the end of the game, Manek and Bacot combined for 35 points and 18 rebounds. Bacot finished with his ninth double-double on the season, and his fourth in a row, with 18 points on six-for-nine shooting from the field. Manek totaled 17 points and seven rebounds.

After the game, Davis shared that he did not have an update on Garcia, but said that he experienced headaches that got progressively worse throughout the first half. If a concussion diagnosis is tentative for Garcia, Manek will have to expect more minutes in upcoming games and will have to continue to build upon his performance in today’s matchup.

Ultimately, Karnik ended the game with seven points to Bacot’s 18. The "battle on the boards" between the two centers also turned in UNC’s favor, as Karnik totaled five rebounds to Bacot’s 11. In Manek’s matchup with Boston College’s starting forward, Quinten Post, he notched 17 points to his three, though Post out-rebounded Manek nine to seven.

Davis remarked that rebounding is one area of improvement the team can make moving forward from their well-rounded performance against Boston College. 

“We were in really good rhythm on the offensive end, we were sharing the basketball and had a good versatility of attacking the basket,” Davis said. “We were also good defensively. The only thing I would say in the first half is we gave them nine offensive rebounds, and that’s something we can’t do."

@DTHSports |

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Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.