UNC basketball outlasts Boston College in rematch to remain perfect at home

·3 min read
Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newsobserver.com

North Carolina outlasted Boston College 58-47 in a closer-than-expected rematch Wednesday at the Dean E. Smith Center.

The Tar Heels defeated the Eagles 91-65 on Jan. 2 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. in a game it played without sophomore Dawson Garcia for most of the game. The 6-foot-11 forward suffered a concussion just two minutes into the first meeting. That win was the first time this season Carolina played extended minutes with a small lineup.

Garcia missed his second straight game Wednesday while back home in Minnesota due to a family illness, but Carolina didn’t go small for too long.

Boston College (8-11, 3-6 ACC) pulled within 50-47 with 7:13 left but could get no closer, missing their last 10 shots from the field. The Heels (14-5, 6-3) closed out the game on an 8-0 run.

Caleb Love led the way with 16 points for UNC, followed by R.J. Davis with 12 points. No other UNC player reached double figures. Armando Bacot grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds.

Here’s what we learned from Carolina’s win:

Exhausted Heels?

UNC’s starting five — Love, Davis, Leaky Black, Brady Manek and Bacot — again played major minutes without much relief from the bench. They all played at least 34 minutes in Monday’s win over Virginia Tech. They again played 34 or more minutes each against BC.

With games on Saturday against N.C. State and Tuesday at Louisville, it’s reasonable to question whether fatigue will be a factor as they finish out four games in nine days.

It seemed to catch up to the Heels midway through the second half Wednesday against the Eagles. There was a lot of tugging on shorts, hands on hips and jogging up the floor from Carolina players even while they managed to take a 46-39 lead with 12:22 remaining.

The starters played that entire stretch to begin the second half before coach Hubert Davis substituted for the first time.

The concern over scoring

Carolina has now gone four straight games shooting below 40% percent from the field. In blowout losses at Miami and Wake Forest, it was expected that poor shooting led to their losses. But in home wins? It seems more of a trend than an aberration.

In the Jan. 2 win at Boston College, the Heels shot 52% from the field and made 11 of 23 3-pointers. On Wednesday, UNC managed to go just 16 for 55 — or 29%. It was the lowest shooting percentage in a win since the Heels beat William & Mary in 1957.

Those struggles were again highlighted by Bacot’s performance. His streak of 10 straight double-doubles ended after shooting 1 for 10 from the floor. The Eagles tandem of James Karnik and 7-footer Quinten Post combined to body him on the blocks and make all of his shots contested.

After starting the Virginia Tech game perfect on his first six attempts, Bacot is now 2 for his last 23 shots from the field.

Hunting for a shot

UNC guard Kerwin Walton hadn’t made more than two shots in a game since scoring a season-high 14 points against the College of Charleston on Nov. 16. He’d largely been invisible in the Heels’ lineup despite leading the team in 3-pointers last season.

He appeared more aggressive Wednesday against the Eagles. He was fouled on a 3-pointer and made all three free throws, then hit another 3 from the right corner in the first half.

Even though Walton finished 1 for 4 from the field, Carolina needs him to continue to hunt for his shot, which he hasn’t always shown a tendency to do.

Those shots alone gave UNC more bench scoring than the two points it had in Monday’s win over Virginia Tech.

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