1. It wasn’t pretty, but it was exactly what Carolina needed: an ACC win over Virginia Tech, 78-68. The Tar Heels shot poorly overall (36.5 percent from the field), but hit ten three-pointers and put five players in double figures for the first time this season.
2. Armando Bacot continues his All-ACC type season. The junior had a double-double by halftime, making him just the third Tar Heel in history to record at least ten consecutive double-doubles. The others are Billy Cunningham and Doug Moe. Bacot finished . His most impressive play might have come with seven minutes left in a two-point game. After a Caleb Love miss, Virginia Tech’s Keve Aluma was content to let the ball roll out of bounds. But Bacot didn’t give up, saved it off Aluma, and kept the ball with Carolina in a one-possession game. That’s a great illustration of leading by example from the team’s best player.
3. Brady Manek was a tremendous secondary offensive threat to Bacot. Manek swished four three-pointers, including one that gave the Tar Heels a double-digit lead with under four minutes to play. He also was important on the backboards, where he hauled in eight rebounds, including three on the offensive glass. That duo helped Carolina control the overall rebounding battle, 42-31. The offensive rebounds were even more lopsided–Carolina secured 16 of them on 40 missed shots. Eight of Bacot’s boards were offensive. One area for improvement: those 16 offensive boards turned into just six second chance points, as the Tar Heels weren’t efficient from two-point range (13-for-38 inside the arc for 34.2 percent).
4. Carolina devoted a chunk of the minimal preparation time before Virginia Tech to polishing the secondary break. They were noticeably more committed to pushing the pace in the game’s opening minutes, and got a nice lob pass from RJ Davis to Bacot for an easy basket during that sequence. The game slowed to almost entirely halfcourt in the second half, and Carolina finished with six fast break points to Virginia Tech’s two–still a better output for the Tar Heels than the two in that category on Saturday in Winston-Salem.
5. Love didn’t have one of his best shooting games, going 4-for-13 from the field. But he did hand out five assists and would have had a zero-turnover game were it not for an inexplicable second half stretch in which he committed careless miscues on back to back possessions. And he might have had one of his best defensive games of the season, as he was involved and active on defense throughout his 35 minutes. Virginia Tech’s Storm Murphy was just 1-for-4 for two points partly because Love spent much of the night in his face. Hubert Davis has continuously preached ball pressure in recent practices, and it made a difference against the Hokies in preventing them from easily getting into their offense.
6. If Dawson Garcia–unavailable while he deals with an illness in his family–is out for an extended time, Carolina is going to have to find some scoring punch from the bench. The Tar Heels got just two points from the reserves. Puff Johnson is a candidate in that category; Kerwin Walton continues to struggle and was 0-for-1 with zero rebounds in nine minutes.
7. The opening minutes of the game were some of Carolina’s best recent ball movement. As Bacot piled up the points, Carolina collected five assists on the first six baskets of the first half while feeding the big man. They notched only three on the subsequent seven hoops, and the game got closer.
8. Hubert Davis has tried to coax better defensive communication out of his team, and you saw a great example of why in the game’s opening minutes. With the Hokies struggling, a pair of Tar Heel defensive breakdowns–no communication on screens and no one picking up the ball–led to two easy Tech baskets that kept them in the game. Just two minor slip-ups and lapses in concentration were enough to keep the visitors close enough to make it a game for the rest of the first half.
9. A more active Leaky Black was part of Carolina’s offense. Virginia Tech chose to put Storm Murphy on Black despite the significant height difference (leaving them free to match up Hunter Cattoor with Caleb Love), and Black responded by knocking in a three-pointer and putting up seven points in the first half. Black had six points combined in the previous six games. He finished with ten points and five rebounds, putting him in double figures for the first time this season.
10. Classic offensive/defensive substituting by Hubert Davis late in the game after Bacot was saddled with four fouls. During a dead ball near the four-minute mark, Davis subbed Justin McKoy for Bacot, and McKoy helped coax a Tech turnover. Bacot eventually fouled out with under three minutes to play and was replaced by McKoy, who is growing into a more important backup role and will be even more important if Garcia’s absence continues.