The North Carolina men’s basketball team earned its first top-25 win of the season on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. The team fought back from a deficit to take an 89-84 overtime win over No. 23 Ohio State.
The Tar Heels improved to 8-4 on the season with the help of 20-point outings from senior forward Armando Bacot and junior guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis.
Here are the three main takeaways from the critical win:
After previously losing twice to ranked opponents, the Tar Heels finally got the job done in a hard-fought overtime battle.
Saturday was North Carolina’s biggest win of the season — one that it can carry into ACC play beginning Dec. 30. Following a four-game losing streak that sent the Tar Heels spiraling from No. 1 to unranked over the span of two weeks, UNC has now won three straight.
Before Saturday, UNC was 0-4 against Quad 1 opponents. Proving the team can still compete with some of the nation’s best is paramount after the slow start. It hasn’t been the season North Carolina expected, but the year is still salvageable. The Tar Heels needed a turning point, and beating the Buckeyes could prove to be one.
Troubles from beyond the arc
Despite the victory, North Carolina’s performance was far from perfect, and one of its most notable flaws was on display — defending and hitting attempts from beyond the arc.
UNC went 6-28 from deep, and for much of the game Love was the only Tar Heel with a made triple. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, knocked down 9-24 and went into the halftime break shooting 46.7 percent from downtown. Ohio State’s shooting success was much of the reason it built a consistent double-digit lead over North Carolina in the first half.
The Tar Heels have allowed their opponents to knock down 34.4 percent of 3-point attempts this season — slotting them as the 234th ranked 3-point defense in the country — and knocked down 34.6 percent of their own attempts. Love and Davis are leading the team in 3-point attempts this season, yet neither are shooting over 30 percent.
Moving into ACC play, UNC’s opponents will continue to get stronger defensively and better from beyond the arc. Improving this trend will be key in determining just how good this year’s Tar Heels can be.
Entering the season as a National Player of the Year favorite, to this point, Bacot’s senior season has not lived up to expectations.
The forward has still been a double-double machine — notching six this season before Saturday — but his rebounding average and shooting clips have gone down from last year. But against the Buckeyes, he showed himself to still be a dominant force.
Bacot finished with a game-high 28 points and 15 rebounds and took a season-high 19 attempts from the field. The senior wasn’t alone, as both Davis and Love had 20-plus point outings, but his contributions were the most impactful.
As was displayed last March, North Carolina is at its best when Bacot is at his best. For the Tar Heels to turn their season around, Bacot will have to put up more similar performances and put the team on his back when UNC needs him the most.
@dthsports | email@example.com
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