Despite the free biscuits, not everyone was happy — especially Armando Bacot.
With under thirty seconds left in North Carolina's bout against College of Charleston on Friday, junior guard Caleb Love exploded off the left wing, drew two defenders and lobbed it to Bacot for a thunderous jam.
The dunk served as the exclamation point of the night, securing the 100th point and awarding free Bojangles biscuits to delighted fans for the first time this season. UNC won 102-86.
But after the game, star center Bacot seemed disappointed. Dejected, even.
“I’m still upset with myself,” he said. “I feel like I’m the one putting the team in these positions. I’ve been punishing myself for that.”
Despite erupting for a monstrous 27-point second half, the only thing Bacot could acknowledge was the team’s lackluster first-half display. At halftime, the preseason ACC Player of the Year had just one point and one rebound. He had also struggled to contain sophomore forward Ante Brzovic, who dropped 12 points off the bench on perfect shooting in the first half.
At halftime, head coach Hubert Davis challenged UNC to play with more physicality, telling his team they were being "soft."
"My generation, somebody calls you soft and it's real," Davis said. "But they were. We were soft in the first half."
Bacot seemed to take these words personally. Given his dominating run last year, it's not a surprise that Bacot is being so hard on himself. The senior forward has seen virtually everything during his time playing in the Dean E. Smith Center — everything except another national championship banner in the rafters. He believes the team’s determination to accomplish such a feat starts with him.
“We go as I go,” he said.
Bacot’s extended leadership role has already been evident. When asked if he felt Love showcased a complete performance, Bacot was quick to point out flaws, saying, "he got a lot more he could’ve given us." Love, who finished with 25 points and a team-high six assists, also shot 1-9 from three and surrendered 14 first-half points to graduate guard Dalton Bolon.
Additionally, Bacot took the blame for graduate forward Pete Nance’s underwhelming start to the season. He said his teammates have ‘been doing a terrible job of getting (Nance) involved.’ Nance, who averaged over 14 points per game last season at Northwestern, has yet to hit double figures this season.
It’s easy for fans to yearn for former stretch forward Brady Manek and his value as a perimeter threat, especially when Nance hasn’t connected from downtown yet. Because Manek played an integral role in last year’s Final Four run, it’s even easier to forget that he didn’t become a regular in the starting lineup until January.
As UNC's most experienced player, fifth-year forward Leaky Black is the first to remind people of that.
“It’s a process,” Black said. “Everyone forgets how we looked at the beginning of last year.”
Davis similarly reminded the media that it's only November, adding "there’s growth and maturity for our team that has to happen."
But, for Bacot, there are no excuses. His sense of urgency couldn’t be any clearer.
“I’ve been here for four years and I should just be able to dominate,” Bacot said. “I think I’m the best player in the country and I just haven’t been putting out that product so far. There’s no time for any of those hiccups.”
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