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Saturday February 4th

UNC men's basketball sneaks away with two-point win after Brady Manek game-winner

UNC junior forward Armando Bacot (5) dunks the ball during a UNC men's basketball game against Duke in the Dean Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Duke won 87-67.
Buy Photos UNC junior forward Armando Bacot (5) dunks the ball during a UNC men's basketball game against Duke in the Dean Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Duke won 87-67.

The North Carolina men’s basketball team (17-7, 9-4 ACC) escaped with a narrow victory over Clemson (12-11, 4-8) on Tuesday after an impressive second half offensive performance. 

What happened?

Clemson got out to a fast start, burying eight points before a bucket from junior forward Armando Bacot opened the scoring for the Tar Heels. The Tigers stayed in control for the first 10 minutes of the game, as UNC knocked down just 3-15 attempts from the field and committed six early turnovers during this stretch. 

Despite getting back into the game a bit over the next five minutes, the Tar Heels continued to look out of sorts. Even with improved play on the defensive end, a lack of flow and cohesion offensively and in the fastbreak kept things from getting too close — and at the 5:00 mark of the first half, UNC still trailed, 21-15. 

A burst of Tar Heel success and Tiger failure on the offensive end put North Carolina in the lead going into the break, but after neither team could achieve consistency in the first 20 minutes, no result was certain. UNC went into the locker room up by five with their first lead of the night, having scored just 30 points. With 15 points, Bacot represented 50 percent of North Carolina’s first half production. 

In the beginning of the second half, both offenses started to click after an ugly opening frame. 

In the first 10 minutes, North Carolina picked up two flagrant fouls. One of which gave Armando his fourth foul, putting the Tar Heels main offensive contributor on the bench for a stretch. By the 10-minute mark, Clemson had more than doubled its first half scoring total and UNC had nearly done the same. Going into the final nine minutes of the contest, the Tar Heels held a slim 59-56 lead. 

The two sides continued to exchange leads throughout the remainder of the half, going into the final minute with Clemson holding a narrow 75-74 lead. Just before the 1:00 mark, Bacot was called for an offensive foul, relegating him to the bench for the remainder of the contest. 

With three seconds remaining on the clock, the score tied at 77, sophomore guard Caleb Love drove to the basket and dumped it off to graduate forward Brady Manek to secure an 11th hour victory. 

UNC walked away with a 79-77 victory. 

Who stood out? 

Bacot carried the Tar Heels through a tumultuous opening frame and led the way in clawing back from an early double-digit deficit. If it weren’t for the junior’s 15 first half points, the final outcome might have looked much different. 

As has often been the case this year, Bacot had to carry a heavy load — and he continued to do so in the second half before his foul trouble, as he finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds.

With Bacot on the bench for the remainder of the half, senior Leaky Black also impressed with his usual defensive contributions and 11 points on 4-5 shooting in the second half.  

When was it decided?

After a back-and-forth second half, with both teams struggling to stop the other, the result was never certain until Love and Manek’s clutch connection and a missed buzzer-beater attempt from Clemson at the other end of the floor. 

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels are 0-7 against Quad 1 teams in the NCAA’s NET rankings. While beating Clemson doesn’t change that fact, the Tigers are the highest rated team in NET that North Carolina has beaten this year. With an NCAA Tournament berth hanging in the balance for the remainder of the season, winning games like this will be instrumental for the Tar Heels’ postseason hopes.

When do they play next?

North Carolina will be back in Chapel Hill on Saturday, Feb. 12 for a 2 p.m. matchup with Florida State. 

@zachycrain

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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