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.