In another defensive battle, the North Carolina men’s basketball team (24-9, 15-6) lost to Virginia Tech (22-12, 12-9) 72-59, eliminating the Tar Heels from the ACC Tournament.
Much like Thursday’s game against Virginia, points were hard to come by for both teams.
North Carolina didn’t score until the 17:40 mark, with a second-chance layup from junior forward Armando Bacot. Not too long after, sophomore guard Caleb Love got on the board with a stepback 3-pointer to tie the game at five.
The Hokies got out to an early 10-7 lead over UNC, but the Tar Heels cut into it with a pair of Love free throws and a 3-pointer from sophomore guard RJ Davis that tied the game at 12.
After a made basket from graduate forward Brady Manek on the team’s next trip down, UNC experienced a severe scoring drought. At the same time, though, Virginia Tech struggled mightily to score. North Carolina went more than four minutes without points until Love found Bacot inside for a dunk to tie the game at 16.
Love made many plays for the team in the first half, as he knocked down a deep 3-pointer with the shot clock running down to give the team a brief 19-18 lead. Later, once the team went down five points, he skipped his way inside for a layup.
UNC’s last points of the half came from Love finding Manek on a backdoor cut for an easy dunk.
The two teams went into halftime with the Hokies up 32-26, as North Carolina shot just 10-27 from the field in the defensive slugfest.
After a slow first half, Virginia Tech jumped on UNC early on in the second.
Keve Aluma of the Hokies opened up the half with an and-one finish inside, followed by a 3-pointer by Hunter Cattoor. Justyn Mutts made another shot from long range to give the Hokies a 9-0 run and a commanding 41-26 lead.
Senior forward Leaky Black stopped the bleeding momentarily with a transition layup, but was answered by an inside finish from Aluma.
As the half progressed, the lead grew and UNC eventually went down by 20 points after a Darius Maddox 3-pointer.
Though the gap was big, North Carolina did not go away quickly. The team still displayed effort, going on a 9-0 run and getting stops on defense. The Tar Heels brought the lead down to 11 points after a layup from Bacot, showing signs of life.
After that, though, the Hokies managed to push the lead back up to 17 with 8:19 left in the half after a four-point play from Maddox.
From that point, Virginia Tech held on to win 72-59 eliminating North Carolina from the ACC Tournament.
Who stood out?
Bacot offered the strongest performance for the Tar Heels. He ended with 19 points and 14 rebounds to extend his school-record of 25 double-doubles before fouling out.
When was it decided?
The entire first half of the game was close, but the team fell into a deep whole early into the second after Virginia Tech went on the initial 9-0 run. After the team went down by 15, the gap eventually went up to 20 and making a comeback proved too difficult.
Though the team demonstrated a sense of urgency to chip at the lead, the game already got away from UNC by that point.
Why does it matter?
Though the team is out of the ACC Tournament, it bolstered its NCAA Tournament resume within the last week. Having beaten the Hokies twice already this season, dropping this game to another tournament hopeful does not greatly damage the team’s resume.
Of course, a win and a shot at facing Duke again would have given the Tar Heels a higher seed. But UNC’s overall body of work gives it a strong chance to make the tournament.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will have to wait until Selection Sunday to discover its next opponent. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
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