The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

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

No. 9 UNC men's basketball held to season-low rebound total in 87-76 loss to No. 5 UConn

UNC graduate forward/center Armando Bacot (5) attempts to box out opponents for a rebound during the Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023 Jimmy V Classic game in Madison Square Garden against the University of Connecticut. UNC lost 76-87.

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.

He wasn't entirely wrong.

UNC’s rebounding margin slimmed to three and the Tar Heels more than doubled their first-half numbers on the offensive glass. 

But, according to Bacot, it was too little, too late.

“I think the difference really was they killed us on the offensive boards and they got a lot of second chance opportunities and they were knocking down a lot of shots,” Bacot said. “Especially at the beginning.”

For Cadeau, it was a matter of “effort” and “being locked in the whole possession.” He said UConn ran a lot of actions on offense, and after playing defense for 20 to 30 seconds per possession, an extra spurt of energy was needed to box out and keep the Huskies off the offensive glass.

Hubert Davis would agree.

“I think rebounding is will and want to,” Davis said. “I think there’s some technique to it, but at the end of the day, the ball goes up in the air, its a 50-50 loose ball. It’s the one who wants it more that gets it.”

The Tar Heels displayed more “will” and “want to” in the second half but it wasn't enough in the end. UConn totaled 18 defensive rebounds and limited UNC to zero second-chance points in the second frame.

Whatever Davis said at halftime — whether due to a lack of execution, effort or just being plain tired — didn’t result in drastic changes on the glass. 

After the game, Davis spoke at ends about the mentality required to rebound: “You’ve got to be willing to do whatever. Push, claw, bite – whatever to be able to get that rebound.”

But against UNC’s most formidable opponent of the season — and in its first top-10 matchup since 2019 — Davis' words ended up being just that: words.


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

@dthsports |

Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.