NEW YORK — Hubert Davis would agree he was pretty fired up.
With 25 seconds remaining in the first half, the UNC head coach called a timeout. As he sat down in the huddle, he wiped his forehead with a towel. After a 3-pointer from junior guard Harrison Ingram cut North Carolina’s halftime deficit to five points, Davis stripped his sport coat and clinched it in his right hand as he exited the court and walked through the tunnel and toward the locker room.
“I was ready to go,” Davis said. “The talking and the physicality on both teams was rising. I wanted our guys to step up to the challenge, not by talking, but by our play.”
Despite the back-and-forth bickering (from UConn’s Cam Spencer, specifically), and an Armando Bacot technical foul (returning some smack talk after a dunk), No. 9 UNC was silenced on the boards in its 87-76 loss to No. 5 UConn. The Huskies — bolstered by length, physicality and sheer effort — outrebounded the Tar Heels 43-33 and held North Carolina to a season-low on the glass.
After the game, both Bacot and senior guard RJ Davis said UConn's performance on the glass killed them.
They were warned.
At halftime, first-year guard Elliot Cadeau said Hubert Davis emphasized boxing out, particularly on the offensive glass. North Carolina had secured just three first-half offensive rebounds, two of them by Bacot. Meanwhile, UConn's offensive rebounding helped the Huskies record eight more field goal attempts than the Tar Heels in the opening frame.
“He was saying Armando was the only one that had a couple of offensive rebounds, so that was a key emphasis of three, four and five getting to the glass, and doing that consecutively and consistently,” RJ said of Hubert's halftime talk.
Hubert told the team they were going to come out in the second half with great energy. RJ recalled his head coach saying the team was right there, that he saw the fight in them.