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UNC junior guard Caleb Love locks in for 22 points against Boston College in ACC Tournament

UNC junior guard Caleb Love (2) dribbles the ball during the game against Boston College at the 2023 New York Life ACC Men's Basketball Tournament on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, at the Greensboro Coliseum. UNC beat Boston College 85-61.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Throughout the course of the year, Caleb Love has been the flashiest competitor for the Tar Heels.

From 3-point goggles to high skipping down the court, Love has a fully loaded arsenal of post-bucket celebrations. But in North Carolina’s 85-61 triumph over Boston College in the ACC tournament, Love never unveiled a celebratory gesture en route to scoring a game-high 22 points — nor did he want to.

“I was just trying to win the game,” Love said. “All the other stuff (antics), it wasn’t needed.”

On North Carolina’s second offensive possession of the game, Love beat an Eagle backdoor to score UNC’s first points. After the layup seamlessly banked in, the St. Louis, Mo. native calmly jogged down the floor.

Minutes later, Love drifted toward the left corner after UNC corralled an offensive rebound. After the ensuing kick out, the junior guard canned his first shot from distance. 

Again, Love silently trotted back to play defense.

Every made basket — whether it was a creative drive to the hoop or long-range connection — was followed by the same monotone demeanor from North Carolina’s most polarizing guard. Not a chirp or even a clap of self-approval came from Love during the entire first period.

After swishing a 3-point shot minutes out of the halftime break, Love appeared to be in the process of unleashing his first extracurricular of the night. Instead, he just pointed to graduate wing Leaky Black, showing appreciation to the Tar Heel who assisted on his third made triple of the contest.

“(Love) was definitely really locked in,” graduate forward Pete Nance said. “He’s definitely one of our leaders and somebody that everybody looks to. Him being locked in, we had no choice but to follow suit.”

As Love’s point total began to creep up, the rest of North Carolina’s guards elevated their play.

Sophomore guard D’Marco Dunn connected on a pair of triples, including one late in the second half that rattled home as the shot clock expired. Dunn’s pair of 3-pointers served as his first made shots from distance since early February. 

More importantly, Love’s starting backcourt mate — junior guard RJ Davis — tallied 18 points, highlighted by a quartet of conversions from downtown. For a tandem that usually doesn't have efficient outings simultaneously, Love and Davis’ combined 40 points in the Tar Heels’ dominant win displayed what North Carolina can look like when both guards play at a high level.

“We’re the team everyone expects us to be when they’re clicking,” Black said. “When they’re playing the way they need to play, we’re just a completely different team.”

When Love subbed out of the game late with North Carolina comfortably leading by 19 points, he finally let loose. 

The honorable mention All-ACC performer flashed a wide grin after first-year guard Seth Trimble finished a contested layup in traffic. Love even pogo-sticked around on the baseline — twirling and jumping around five times — after Justin McKoy threw down a put-back slam near the end of regulation. 

Love’s game wasn’t perfect by any means. Accounting for four of North Carolina’s seven total turnovers certainly serves as an eye sore on the box score for him. But it’s how Love positively responded to his mistakes — seen in the junior guard swiping a team-high three steals — that shows just how drastic a simple mindset change can help one’s play. 

On Wednesday night, Love let his game do all the talking. 

“We go as he (Love) goes,” Black said. “You know he’s going to shoot the stepbacks, you’ve got to take and give a little bit. Just seeing him be locked in like that is huge.”


@dthsports |

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