Armando Bacot is “stressed the hell out.”
Coming into this season as the preseason AP No. 1 team, it seemed like a given that UNC would get back to the NCAA Tournament. Not going to The Big Dance would never have crossed Bacot’s mind.
“Yeah, on a level of worried, I’m 100 percent worried,” Bacot told reporters after the game.
After a rebound win against Clemson — a slight relief, not necessarily a 'bounce-back' if you consider Clemson’s No. 77 position in the NET rankings — UNC had ended a three-game skid. In Monday night’s 80-72 loss against Miami, the Tar Heels shot an abysmal 16 percent from behind the arc.
Against a top-15 opponent, this yield rate just wasn’t going to fly.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to have to be able to make some shots,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “It is what it is. I don’t know if we are still, but I know before the Clemson game, percentage-wise, we were the worst 3-point shooting team in the ACC. That’s never a good thing.”
As of Monday night, UNC is tied with Boston College as the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference, with both teams shooting at a .306 clip. The Tar Heels rank 333rd in the nation in 3-point percentage. Only one player in North Carolina’s rotation, D’Marco Dunn, is shooting over 35 percent with multiple attempts from three.
Considering the Tar Heels' less-than-stellar performance from deep, it made sense that they start off Monday night by attacking the rim.
After Miami forward Norchad Omier picked up two fouls in the first eight minutes, the paint was wide-open. UNC was able to get downhill successfully — especially late in the first half — thanks to the slashing of RJ Davis and Caleb Love.
But then, in the second half, Miami’s hard hedges and tough man-to-man defense kept pushing UNC’s guards out. In order to beat the Hurricanes, North Carolina was going to have to knock down some outside shots.
After Love’s stepback three to open the game, North Carolina missed 14 consecutive 3-point attempts. The Tar Heels didn’t make another three until Leaky Black hit a jumper from beyond the arc with 11 minutes remaining. Up until that point, UNC’s 3-point percentage was in the single digits.
After shooting 45 percent from deep against Clemson — a team-high in conference play — the Tar Heels recorded their worst 3-point performance of the season.
“There’s nothing really, no secret sauce or something, I can tell you that would change that, as far as the outcome,” Love said. “We just got to step up and make the shots.”
Despite UNC’s inconsistencies from behind the arc, one factor has stayed the same — Pete Nance has been ineffective.
The graduate transfer has only hit one 3-pointer in February. In his past five games, Nance is 1-18 from deep. Opponents have noticed, opting to sag off of the forward and collapse in the paint to berate Bacot and any guard that drives in.
"It's a team thing," Bacot said. "We all got to do a good job of just getting other players involved and trying to find ways to generate more points from other players. You couldn't ask for a better stat line from the guards. Obviously, I didn't score as much, but I was efficient. Leaky was efficient. We just got to figure out a way to get other guys involved."
The poor shooting and supposed lack of help from teammates culminated in a palpable level of frustration on Monday night.
After he missed another 3-point shot with under two minutes remaining, Nance pulled down the rebound and had his pass deflected out of bounds. Love picked up the basketball, smacking it with both hands, and slammed it on the ground twice before handing it back to the officials.
Even after the game, the tension was still there. Bacot exited his postgame interviews, during which he reported feeling “blank," with an audible sigh.
It’s all incredibly frustrating for a team with such high preseason hopes.
Another loss. Another step back. Another trip back to the drawing board to see what is left to tweak, pivot and adjust.
And while Love postulated that there isn’t a “secret sauce” to hitting shots, Bacot — the same player that lectured his teammates after the Wake Forest loss — suggested one.
“We just got to go get it,” he said. “We just got to want it, at the end of the day. That ‘want to’ can take over almost anything.”
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