The North Carolina men’s basketball team (11-4, 3-1 ACC) defeated Virginia (9-6, 3-2 ACC), 74-58, in a Saturday afternoon ACC bout.
Junior forward Armando Bacot logged the first points of the game after grabbing the offensive rebound from Caleb Love’s missed three-point attempt. Three possessions later, Bacot once again scored down low after grabbing another offensive board. A steal from Love then turned into an early 6-2 lead, as graduate transfer Brady Manek finished the fast break with a slam. Virginia senior guard Kihei Clark then answered with a three to bring the Cavaliers within one point.
Coming out of a timeout five minutes into the first half, Manek drained a catch-and-shoot three-pointer from the corner, then fed Bacot inside to go up 11-9. After another defensive stop for the Tar Heels, sophomore guard RJ Davis threw a full court pass to Manek for another fast break lay-in, but Virginia’s Reece Beekman answered with a three-pointer. By the first timeout at the 11:39 mark, UNC led 15-12.
After being quiet for much of the first half, Love caught a pass at the top of the key and weaved inside for a floater. Later, with just over four minutes remaining in the half, Love hit consecutive shots – a stepback three and a mid-range jumper on a fast break – to put the Tar Heels up 26-20. Love’s barrage continued with a nearly-identical looking stepback three with a minute to go in the half, bringing his point total up to ten. The Tar Heels led by six points at the half, 31-25.
After some back and forth with no baskets, Manek started the second-half scoring with a corner three. Another defensive stop and a Bacot dunk that gave UNC a double-digit lead forced UVA head coach Tony Bennet to call a timeout. The Cavaliers scored four quick points coming out of the break, but UNC promptly responded after Bacot found sophomore guard Anthony Harris in the corner for an open three. Love continued to make big buckets, with his second three-pointer of the second half putting his team up 54-38, UNC’s largest lead of the game.
After Virginia seemed like it might start to claw back from a 19-point deficit, Manek hit his fourth three-pointer of the game and RJ Davis hit two free throws to go up 67-47.
Who stood out?
Bacot, per usual, was a force under the basket with 29 points and 22 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. Manek shot lights out, scoring 19 points and going 5-9 from three.
Love was the spark plug for the North Carolina offense, making big shot after big shot. He added five assists and three rebounds onto his 16 points.
The Cavaliers had balanced scoring with three players – Beekman, Jayden Gardner and Armaan Franklin – in double digits.
When was it decided?
With 4:19 remaining, Manek hit yet another three-pointer to put UNC up 70-47 and essentially stamped the North Carolina victory. The shot was his fifth three-pointer of the game, and UNC’s 11th. UNC would take its starters out with a minute-and-a-half to go and cruise to victory.
Why does it matter?
The UNC offense was firing on all cylinders coming off of a disappointing loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday. Bacot was exceptional in the paint once again, while Love and Manek had a field day from behind the arc. The team’s passing was crisp as well, ending with 19 assists that were balanced across each of its players.
Forward Dawson Garcia and guard Kerwin Walton were once again absent from Saturday’s lineup. Garcia suffered a concussion against Boston College on Jan. 2 and Walton is undergoing COVID-19 protocols. However, it didn’t seem to put much of a dent in the Tar Heels’ performance.
When do they play next?
UNC will have a week off before hosting Georgia Tech at the Dean Smith Center on Saturday, Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. The Tar Heels defeated Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Dec. 5.
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