With five minutes to play, Caleb Love flipped the switch.
All evening, the junior guard had struggled to make an impact while his teammates thrived in North Carolina’s 72-64 win over Boston College. As graduate forward Pete Nance returned from injury, star center Armando Bacot tied the program record for double-doubles in the first half alone.
Love, on the other hand? He had just four points at halftime.
He’d knocked down just two of his nine shots and missed all four of his 3-pointers. It was panning out to be another lackluster performance from the guard — another addition to a recent slump in which Love has averaged three turnovers and shot 31.3 percent from the field.
“I was taking the right shots,” Love said. “It’s different if I was just chucking up shots, but I was taking the right ones. It’s about letting the game come to me and telling myself that the next one’s gonna fall.”
Despite connecting on his first 3-pointer out of the break, Love remained stagnant as junior guard RJ Davis carried the backcourt, dropping 11 points in a span of less than five minutes. But midway through the second half, Davis collided with Bacot on a rebound attempt and was slow to get up. Love’s counterpart wouldn’t hit another jump shot for the rest of the game.
So when UNC’s comfortable 11-point lead disappeared in just four minutes thanks to a 12-2 Eagles run, it was Love’s turn to step up.
After setting a screen for a cutting RJ Davis, Love popped out and caught a pass from Bacot.
He pump-faked once, causing Boston College guard Jaeden Zackery to leave his feet. Love then dribbled once inside to fake a drive before stepping back for his second 3-pointer, extending the lead to 59-55.
“I told (Love) about the importance of continuing to shoot, and continuing to shoot good shots,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “Then I told him about making impact plays in different areas.”
On the next possession, Love caught a fastbreak pass, took one dribble and lobbed it to Bacot. When the anticipating Eagles guard Jaeden Zackery rose up and swatted the alley-oop attempt, Love didn’t miss a beat. He was right there for the putback basket.
Less than a minute later, Love drew a charge on Zackery. As he slid on his back along the baseline, the guard flexed and screamed at the ceiling as his teammates rushed over to help him up.
“I just wanted to be there for my team on the defensive end and be a spark,” Love said. “And that’s exactly what I did.”
Hubert Davis shared Love’s sentiments, adding that the charge call was ‘the biggest play in the game’ and that ‘it gave them life’.
With under a minute to play, graduate wing Leaky Black picked up his fourth steal and heaved an outlet pass to Love, who’s known for making flashy highlight plays when games are decisively over. With no one in sight, Love delivered the exclamation point of the night, soaring through the air for a reverse dunk.
Don’t be mistaken, though. Love knows where he can be better, as he was the first to remind reporters that he finished shooting 2-10 from downtown.
As the team’s unrivaled leader in 3-point attempts, taking almost as many as RJ Davis and Black combined on the season, Love understands his clip needs to improve in order for the Tar Heels to reach their lofty goals.
“It felt good,” Love said. “But it ain’t good enough.”
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