That’s all the time the North Carolina men's basketball team had left to tie the game against No. 23 Ohio State — or to fall to their third ranked opponent of the season.
Down two, graduate forward Leaky Black lobbed the ball from the sideline to graduate transfer forward Pete Nance, who sank a fadeaway to send the game to overtime.
After a hard-fought overtime period, the Tar Heels prevailed, 89-84, to earn their first ranked victory of the season.
UNC was looking for an early-season spark after falling out of the top 25, and Nance’s turnaround jumper may just have been what the team was looking for — a way to build confidence while adding a quality win to its resume.
Just 12 games into Nance’s first and only year with the Tar Heels, he has already been asked to take a big shot. It wasn’t junior guards RJ Davis or Caleb Love — who many might have expected — but Nance, who has been a steady presence on the floor since joining the team.
With the game on the line, the Tar Heels’ coaching staff turned to the experienced big man.
“Coach (Jeff) Lebo thought that we could get the ball to Pete because of his length just throw it up. They weren’t going to foul him," head coach Hubert Davis said. "One of the things that Pete loves to do, he loves that side of the block and he loves the turnaround jumper."
The Tar Heels practice last second plays for various end-game scenarios, but this wasn’t one they had practiced before.
Although Nance’s shot sent the game to overtime, an unsung play came immediately before the buzzer-beater, when the Tar Heels advanced the ball across the court and called timeout to establish a better inbounding situation. Davis spoke to the trust that the team has in each other in order to be able to convert a series of plays in the high-stakes scenario.
“The first thing is, I thought their execution was fantastic to get the ball across half court to get us into a position where we can run that play,” Davis said.
The shot, a potential turning point in the season, was possible because of a big second half comeback from the Tar Heels. At one point, the team was down by 14, and it looked like it might be another game where the team simply couldn't get the job done. But as North Carolina came out of the break and slowly chipped away at the deficit, the group looked like an entirely different team than the one that took the floor in the first half.
The Tar Heels implemented a full court press, hoping to increase the speed of the game and catch the Buckeyes off guard. They forced the Buckeyes into tough shots, while also forcing six turnovers in the second half.
“We stepped up," Love said. "They were getting whatever they wanted in the first half and coach got on us and he kinda called us soft, so we just came out and proved that we weren’t that and we stepped up and made big time plays."
Tough tests still await for the Tar Heels in both non-conference and ACC play. Later this week, the team will head to Charlotte to take on Michigan and will then pivot to the early stages of its conference schedule against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.
But with a momentum-building win, North Carolina will look to use Nance’s shot as a way to turn the season around, build confidence and get closer to where the team expected to be at the start of the year.
“We’re getting better and better as a group," Nance said. "We know we have such a long way to go, but as you can see, in moments we can be a really really really good team and I think its just putting it together all at once and everybody firing on all cylinders.”
@dthsports | email@example.com
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