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Saturday February 4th

'We didn't get it done': UNC men's hoops left with few moral victories after Virginia loss

UNC junior guard RJ Davis (4) dribbles the ball on Jan 10, 2023, at John Paul Jones Arena in the men's basketball game against UVA. UNC lost 65-58. 
Photo Courtesy of Ryan Hunt
Buy Photos UNC junior guard RJ Davis (4) dribbles the ball on Jan 10, 2023, at John Paul Jones Arena in the men's basketball game against UVA. UNC lost 65-58. Photo Courtesy of Ryan Hunt

Hubert Davis doesn’t believe in ‘moral victories.’ 

He just hates losing.

On Tuesday, the North Carolina men’s basketball team lost to No. 13 Virginia, 65-58. Less than two minutes into the contest, senior forward Armando Bacot — the Tar Heels’ leading scorer and rebounder — went down with what appeared to be a left ankle injury. He hobbled to the bench, then to the locker room, but never back to the court. 

This left the Tar Heels without two starters, as graduate forward Pete Nance remained sidelined with a back injury. Despite the missing pieces, North Carolina held a halftime lead it wouldn’t lose until over seven minutes into the second frame. 

With 1:08 remaining in the game, UNC cut the deficit to three. Bacot’s replacement, first-year Jalen Washington, shined in his first meaningful minutes as a Tar Heel. 

Given these circumstances, some may be compelled to call Tuesday’s loss a ‘moral victory.’ But Hubert Davis thought otherwise.

“You can say ‘Wow, look how they fought without Armando and Pete,’” he said. “But it's an L. It’s our sixth loss. We needed to be better to win here, and we have enough on this stat sheet to have won this game tonight. And we didn’t get it done.”

In the final three minutes, UNC cut its deficit down to three twice. On both occasions, the Cavaliers went right back down the court and scored. 

“Against a great, veteran, experienced team like that sometimes you’ve got to dial in,” junior guard RJ Davis said. “I think we just had one little slip up, which is ‘now we’re not disciplined.’”

But North Carolina’s downward spiral began well before those final moments. From the 14:01 to 9:25 mark in the second half, Virginia went on a 17-2 run. A five-point UNC lead turned to a double-digit deficit in less than five minutes. 

The Tar Heels turned the ball over 13 times on Tuesday. The Cavaliers turned those into 19 points on the other end. 

“They got stops, pick-six turnovers on our end and then got out in transition and scored,” RJ Davis said. “And then we just couldn’t make shots when they were on that run.” 

Virginia is a program built on defensive excellence — the Cavaliers have the best scoring defense in the ACC this season — and in order to beat them, unnecessary mistakes must be avoided. 

“We really couldn’t figure out how to stop the run and make our own run after that,” said first-year guard Seth Trimble. “We just ran out of time.”

Over two months into the season, North Carolina is in need of more victories — and not the moral kind. The Tar Heels now sit at .500 in the ACC and have gone 1-6 against Quad 1 opponents in the NCAA’s NET rankings.

None of the Tar Heels’ three ACC losses have come by more than eight points. As the season wanes, seeding in March will be determined by results in January and February. 

For the preseason national champion favorites to keep dancing into April, they'll will have to start turning close losses into wins, and the players believe these objectives are still possible.

“We’re a really good basketball team, I truly do believe that,” RJ Davis said. “We just have to key in on what makes us good and be disciplined.” 

@zachycrain

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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