North Carolina coach Hubert Davis tried a little bit of everything and everyone at Virginia Tech in the teams’ ACC opener.
No matter the lineup combination, to make up for the absence of Armando Bacot; nor the set plays, to try to ignite a stagnant offense; the Tar Heels didn’t have enough to avoid their fourth straight loss.
Carolina fell to the Hokies 80-72 on Sunday at Cassell Stadium.
The Heels played without Bacot, who injured his shoulder in Wednesday’s loss at Indiana. The senior forward, who is second on the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game, dressed and participated in warmups, but never checked into the game.
Reserve sophomore guard D’Marco Dunn also did not play after breaking a bone in his left hand in practice. Dunn was just starting to establish himself as a regular in the rotation, but will now be out for what the school termed as “several weeks.”
Carolina had struggled offensively even with Bacot in the lineup. The Heels failed to score at least 70 points three times entering Sunday’s game.
But without him, they appeared to lack purpose at times while running their halfcourt offensive sets. They only had two assists in the first half — and both of those came within the opening two minutes of the game.
Davis went deep into his bench, using forwards Will Shaver for just the second time this season; Justin McKoy, who had played a total of eight minutes entering the game; and Dontrez Styles, who hadn’t played in four of the last five games before Sunday.
None of them could compensate for Bacot’s scoring, and the Heels as a team couldn’t make up for his 11 rebounds per game either. The Hokies dominated the boards 39-25 including outscoring the Heels 8-4 in second chance points.
Carolina appeared to be headed to a blowout loss, trailing 57-39 with 12:38 left, before Davis’ change in defense sparked a rally.
The Heels began picking up full court and trapping in the halfcourt. Even when they didn’t force a turnover out of it, they managed to speed up the Hokies. The a quicker pace to the game, and some urgency to UNC’s play, it reeled off an 8-0 spurt to get back in the game.
Carolina’s momentum continued with R.J. Davis scored on an uncontested layup. And Pete Nance made a 3-pointer with 3:09 left — which was just their third 3 of the game — to pull within 67-62.
When Justyn Mutts turned the ball over on an inbounds pass under the basket, Caleb Love converted and was fouled with a chance to make it a two point game.
Love, who is shooting 77 percent from the free throw line this season, missed the shot and the Heels could get no closer.
Mutts scored a layup and Sean Pedulla drilled a 3-pointer with 1:02 left to boost the Hokies cushion back to 74-66.