The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

With Bacot banged up, UNC's path to ACC title becomes more complicated

UNC senior forward Armando Bacot (5) walks off the court after setting a school record for most career double-doubles during a basketball game against N.C. State on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2023, in the Dean E. Smith Center. UNC won 80-69.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — For one of the rare times all season, North Carolina was rolling.

Dominating inside against an undersized Boston College team? How about 10 early points in the paint. Fixing the outside shooting dilemma that sunk the Tar Heels to the bottom of the conference in 3-point percentage? Six triples found the bottom of the net — even one from RJ Davis that first required a detour to the backboard as it careened off the glass.

So, in almost all-too-fitting fashion for a campaign filled with countless low points, dun, dun, dun – it was time to add some drama.

With 4:34 to play in the first half of UNC’s 85-61 win over Boston College in the ACC Tournament opener, Armando Bacot tussled for a rebound like he had done a program-leading 1,332 times in his career, but as the senior forward’s left foot planted on the Greensboro Coliseum hardwood, he was forced to hop off the floor grimacing in pain with an ankle injury.

While the rest of the Tar Heels took the floor for second half warmups, Bacot stayed behind momentarily before making his grand entrance from the tunnel. As he went through an array of half-hearted post moves, he figured he was good enough to suit back up.

Bacot played just six minutes in the second half — mostly due to UNC already boasting a sizable lead — but his slower step was noticeable. Yet, for a team likely needing to win four games in four days to have any hope of dancing into the NCAA Tournament, the Tar Heels know they do not have much time to dwell on the status of their injured star.

“When Armando is out there, whether it’s 100 percent or 75 percent, that’s good news for us,” head coach Hubert Davis said.

Bacot was unavailable in the locker room for postgame interviews as he made the early trip to the hotel for treatment. His teammates confirmed that he was in good spirits, which aligned with his energetic presence on the bench as the Tar Heels extended the lead late in the contest.

As North Carolina’s interior anchor, Bacot has been no stranger to dealing with pain in his lower body. Aggravating his right ankle in last year’s national championship game was one of the motivating factors in his decision to return for another season, as he looked to complete his unfinished business in Chapel Hill. He also missed much of the team's first matchup against Virginia in early January when he left the game after the opening minute.

So, albeit moving gingerly in his return to the court, Bacot’s mere presence and durabilty was invaluable in helping the Tar Heels forge their identity as a complete unit.

“I’ve never seen anybody sustain ankle sprains and be able to come back like he can,” Davis said. 

With Bacot off the floor, graduate transfer forward Pete Nance took his place at center and continued his defensive renaissance by recording four blocks for the second time in two weeks.

To someone that has recently found his offensive rhythm – scoring in double figures in three of his last four outings – being a contributor on the defensive end has been critical in unlocking his entire arsenal.

“It helps when I’m throwing myself into the game,” Nance said. “I might be struggling offensively or miss a shot or a couple of free throws, but being able to make plays in other areas can definitely spark my game offensively.”

With the severity of ankle injuries often being difficult to diagnose, the question remains whether Bacot will be healthy enough to take the floor at full strength for the rest of the ACC Tournament. 

But for the Tar Heels to have any chance of making it out of Greensboro and potentially get back on track to achieving the preseason goals that now seem like a distant memory, the team knows it will only go as far as its senior leader will take them.  

“He’s tough as nails – I have no doubt Armando will be out there tomorrow,” junior guard Caleb Love said. “That just shows how much he cares about this team and program.”  


@dthsports |  

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.