When the North Carolina men’s basketball team really needs a victory, they know to turn to junior Armando Bacot. In UNC’s biggest wins this season, Bacot has been the focal point, attacking the rim and crashing the glass hard to overwhelm opposing paint defenders.
“I personally think he’s ACC Player of the Year,” head coach Hubert Davis said after a big win over Florida State this past weekend.
So when Pittsburgh rolled into Chapel Hill Wednesday, the Panthers knew who to target.
Bacot was essentially a non-factor in the 76-67 loss, hindered by foul trouble and Pittsburgh’s gritty inside defense. The big man put up just seven points and eight rebounds in the loss, and even those numbers overstate the impact he had. The Panthers’ athletic frontcourt made Bacot uncomfortable with the ball in his hands all night. He committed three turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game, all before taking his first field goal attempt.
With the paint locked up, UNC was forced to the perimeter. However, the shots just weren’t falling for all the players that the team depends on for important buckets.
Sophomore guard Caleb Love missed all five of his first half 3-point attempts. Graduate forward Brady Manek — Bacot’s floor-stretching frontcourt partner — missed his last six shots from behind the arc.
“We weren’t finishing around the basket and we weren’t making jump shots.” Love said. “So they kind of took us out of everything.”
With a stagnant offense, UNC limped into halftime trailing 40-23, and was never able to climb out of that hole.
At the heart of Bacot’s uncharacteristic performance was Pittsburgh's John Hugley. Rarely is Bacot outmuscled, but the Panther forward used all the strength in his bulky, 6-9 frame to his advantage. More than once, Hugley forcefully backed down Bacot, positioning himself for an easy bucket under the basket.