Louisville, Kentucky — North Carolina turned all of the uncertainty surrounding Saturday afternoon into a predictable outcome. The Tar Heels earned their first road win of the season in convincing fashion, defeating lowly ACC basketball 80-59 Louisville at the KFC Yum! A center to keep the last of the Cardinals stuck in a convention basement.
The leadership of the UN team did not have to do without the leading scorer and the second, Armando Pacote, as was expected. The big man, who had been described as “very questionable at best” by coach Hubert Davis the day before, played through the sprained left ankle he had suffered four nights earlier and cemented his solid character.
Bacot produced a two-run double in the first inning. He finished the game with 14 points and 16 rebounds, while navigating a foul problem in the second half. Fellow front-court Pete Nance (strained at the back) primarily missed his fourth straight game, but the Tar Heels (12-6 overall, 4-3 ACC) had a host of other contributions while subduing Louisville (2-16, 0-7). ), which remained the only winless team in the league.
DiMarco Dunn (14 points, five rebounds), RJ Davis (12 points, five assists), Buff Johnson (12 points, six rebounds) and Caleb Love (10 points, five rebounds) also had double digits. UNC delivered on 53.8 percent shooting from the field during the second half for the win. The Tar Heels, who recorded 11 steals in the afternoon, had their biggest lead at 75-52 on Dunn’s steal and dunk.
Ellis totaled 22 points for the Cardinals, who had only defeated Western Kentucky and Florida A&M in the season under first year head coach Kenny Payne. Ellis went 6-for-16 from the field and committed six turnovers.
RJ Davis drilled a deep 3-pointer during the final 5 seconds of the first half as UNC put together a 7-0 spurt going into the break to lead 37-26. Moments before, Dunn caught a steal and rebounded a pass to Dontrez Styles, who dunked in the transition.
Tar Heels play a game of mix and match
Hubert Davis promised that the unconventional lineups showed up this coming Saturday, given Bacot and Nance’s injuries, and the Tar Heels have mixed and matched throughout the first half here in Louisville.
UNC finished the first half with Dunn, Styles and Galen Washington on the court with RJ Davis and Love, as Backout rested for the final 5:08 before halftime. Dunn contributed solid minutes on defense against Louisville’s offensive guard Ellis. Dan got a piece off the Ellis 3-pointer late in the shot clock for one block, then moved well on the defense of Ellis’ drive, bringing the turnover down.
After getting the best game start of his young career, freshman Washington didn’t sign on until 8:31 of the first period. He entered as part of a larger lineup for the Tar Heels, who had RJ Davis, Dunn, and Johnson paired with Bacot and Washington during that stretch. Earlier, UNC was a junior with the three-guard lineup that started the previous two games – rookie Seth Trimble along with RJ Davis, Love, Bacot, and Leaky Black.
Armando Pacote in the first half
Hubert Davis didn’t use a very cautious approach with Bacot, four nights after he slumped in pain just 78 seconds after the loss in Virginia, and eventually left John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia, on crutches.
The big man started Backout and played all but 15 straight minutes in the first half, while amassing a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. Hubert Davis finally landed on Styles for Bacot with 5:08 left in the first half.
Bacot’s activity level skyrocketed during a 9-0 run that put UNC ahead 24-19. He delivered the first seven points of that rush—scoring on a foul and converting the free throw into a three-pointer, coming out and running in transition to shoot the ball off an RJ Davis pass, then going up the offensive boards to tip on a missed 3-pointer from Johnson.
This boom had a local Louisville radio crew stationed at the stadium refer to Backout emphatically as “the big guy who plays on the ankle.”
Next on the schedule
North Carolina returns to Chapel Hill, NC, for back-to-back games at the Smith Center, the stretch end of four home dates across six games. Boston College is up next for the Tar Heels on Tuesday night, followed by a weekend visit from rival NC State.
UNC entered Saturday’s game here after playing the fifth-toughest schedule nationally, according to Ken Pomeroy’s College Basketball Database, behind only Alabama, Creighton, Gonzaga and Kansas. That rating is sure to drop now, as Louisville and Boston College are KenPom’s lowest ranked teams in the ACC.