With under five minutes left to play, the North Carolina men’s basketball team was at risk of letting another winnable game get away. Virginia Tech had been able to cut a once 12-point lead down to five and the re-energized Hokie fans had the Cassell Coliseum rocking.
With the UNC lead now seven, Virginia Tech forward Keve Aluma grabbed a rebound off a missed Tar Heel shot, and looked to pass it to an open teammate as a way to get the game back within two possessions. But the redshirt senior never saw senior forward Leaky Black snatch the ball right off his hands. Right after the steal, sophomore guard RJ Davis found a cutting Brady Manek, allowing the graduate transfer forward to slam in the open dunk.
The momentum suddenly shifted back onto North Carolina’s side, which they maintained for the duration of the game. The Tar Heels were able to hold on to a 65-57 victory — thanks to one of their better defensive performances of the season.
“We knew they wanted to ruin our season and our backs were against the wall,” Bacot said. “So, we had no choice but to come in and win.”
After the buzzer sounded, sophomore guard Caleb Love stared at the Hokie student section behind the basket.
“Let me hear you,” Love said as he walked off the court.
The sophomore guard had his own big steal earlier in the matchup. After the Tar Heels took their second lead of the game, with five minutes remaining before the half, Love poked the ball free. He passed it across the court, which set Davis up for an open 3-pointer.
The play fueled UNC to create an 8-point cushion going into the half.
“This was his (Love’s) best game as a Carolina basketball player,” head coach Hubert Davis said.