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UNC struggles to find consistency in close road loss to Notre Dame

Junior forward Armando Bacot (5) dunks the ball at the game against Elon on Dec. 11, 2021. The Tar Heels won 80-63.

Twenty-one points and 17 rebounds: the stat line for junior center Armando Bacot in UNC's 78-73 loss Wednesday night against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

Every one of those points and rebounds though? Just blots of ink in the box score that can’t make up for the feeling of losing.

Getting a double-double in the first half? Didn't matter.

Getting a career-high 17 rebounds? Didn't matter.

What mattered most for UNC on Wednesday was winning the game.

“I would trade every point and every rebound to win the game,” Bacot said. “I just want to win, and it was good on a stat sheet, but I didn’t do good enough either. There was times I broke down defensively and times I wasn’t my best either and you can’t have that.”

Three words that head coach Hubert Davis always tells his team they need to have are energy, effort and toughness.

For the majority of the first half, though, the only player that seemed to embody these words was Bacot. In the first half, he had 16 of UNC’s 35 points, as well as 11 boards, registering his 10th double-double of the year. Meanwhile, the six other players that registered minutes shot 36 percent from the field as well as a combined 19 points.

But the second half was a completely different story.

Bacot registered just five points, grabbing six more rebounds. The rest of the team, though, picked up their production with players like sophomore guard Caleb Love putting the ball in the basket. After just scoring two points in the first half, Love scored 13 points. In addition, three other players (excluding Bacot) scored five or more points in the second half.

Simply put, the effort from the Tar Heels to win their fourth straight road game to start the season for the first time since 2007-08 season was finally there. 

However, it was too little too late as the inconsistent play finally got to UNC’s most consistent player.

Bacot effectively sealed the game for Notre Dame by fouling the Notre Dame shooter behind the three-point line, giving the Irish the opportunity to go up five points with under a minute to go. This, as well as a missed layup by UNC proved too much to overcome and the Tar Heels dropped their first ACC game of the year.

“This is a bad loss on our part, and we take full responsibility,” Love said. “Going forward, we can’t let it happen again. We keep saying we can’t let it happen again, can’t let it happen again but we have to change and if we want to get to that Final Four run and National Championship run, then we have to change.”

So how is North Carolina going to end this conversation of why they aren’t coming out with energy, effort and toughness? 

The answer isn’t exactly straightforward.

“The (energy, effort and toughness) are showing up, but maybe I need to say it more,” Davis said. “They are showing up, but we have to do it consistently all the time … I don’t know the answer, I’m just frustrated.”

Now, as UNC heads further into ACC play with a game against the defensively rigid Virginia Cavaliers on the horizon, one question remains: how are the Tar Heels going to overcome this theme of inconsistency to win?

Because winning the game? It matters.


@dthsports |

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