UNC basketball looks to jump-start stagnant offense in ACC opener against Virginia Tech

Scoring was never supposed to be a problem for this North Carolina lineup, one that already has featured four different players with at least one 20-point outing through the first five games of the season.

Yet Wednesday’s 77-65 loss at Indiana was the second time in three games — and the third time this season — in which the Tar Heels were held under 70 points. UNC coach Hubert Davis said on Friday before his team travels to face Virginia Tech on Sunday in their ACC opener, that it isn’t a case of the plays not working. It’s the execution that is not.

“If you run a play and don’t run it with pace and purpose, the play’s not working, but it’s not the play,” Davis said. “It’s the pace of the purpose of which you run that play. And so I, 100 percent, believe that most of the stuff that isn’t working, is because we’re not working.”

Junior guard Caleb Love said as much Wednesday after the IU loss. He credited the Hoosiers’ defense for being physical and taking the Heels out of what they wanted to run offensively.

It’s why Carolina had just five assists, which marked the third time this season it failed to reach double figures in that category.

“They were taking us out of what we wanted to do as far as like denying and taking away certain options,” Love said. “And so it’s like we just stand around and wait for somebody to make a play. So we just got to change that, change our movements, and stay active off the ball. We’ve got to be tough enough and smart enough to get over it.”

Senior forward Leaky Black believes the way to do that is making sure the offense runs through forward Armando Bacot.

Opponents have made it a lot tougher this season for the Heels to do so with the way he’s been constantly double teamed. And Bacot hasn’t handled it so well, with a career-high turnover percentage of 21.3, according to Ken Pomeroy, coupled with a career-low assist rate at 6.9.

“We’ve got to find a way to help him out and help him get going,” Black said. “Because at the end of the day, he’s our guy. Without him, it’s gonna be hard to do. So we got to figure out how to get him going early.”

Davis reiterated on Friday that Bacot is expected to play at Virginia Tech, despite having some kind of shoulder injury early in the game at IU. Bacot said after the game that he heard it snap while he was playing defense. He did play 28 minutes, but said his shoulder pain limited what he could do offensively. That injury was on top of suffering an ankle injury in the second overtime of their quadruple-overtime loss to Alabama.

Hobbled or not, Sunday’s game carries a sense of urgency for Carolina. The Heels enter the game on a three game losing streak. They haven’t lost four in a row since losing seven straight in February 2020.

“It’s a long season,” Black said. “You know, I keep saying that, but at the end of the day, we have a long season ahead of us. There’s still a lot of games, we just got to figure out our chemistry again.”

Tipoff time + TV channel for Tuesday’s game

The game will start at 3 p.m. on Sunday and will air on the ACC Network.

How to stream UNC vs Virginia Tech game online

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Game day details: UNC vs Virginia Tech

Teams: UNC Tar Heels vs. Virginia Tech Hokies

Where: Cassell Coliseum, Blacksburg, Va.

Date: Sunday, Dec. 4

Time: 3 p.m.

TV: ACC Network

Series history: The Tar Heels lead the series 72-16. The teams last met on March 11 when the Hokies won 72-59 in the ACC tournament semifinals at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.