North Carolina coach Hubert Davis wasn’t trying to hear it.
The Tar Heels lost for their eighth straight trip to Virginia and the details of their 65-58 defeat didn’t matter. Regardless, Armando Paquette, Carolina’s leading scorer and forward averaging 18.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, appeared to sprain his left ankle on the opening offensive possession and was not back in the game.
And it didn’t matter that starting forward Pete Nance was already a scratch for the game with a back injury. Davis was not touting the emergence of freshman Jalen Washington in the absence of both starters on the court.
“Maybe in some of the guys’ articles, you could say, ‘Wow, look how they fought without Armando and Pete,’ but that’s accidental,” said Davis. “It’s our sixth loss. We needed to be better to win here and we’ve had enough. We have enough on this stat sheet to win this game tonight. And we just didn’t get it done.”
Carolina (11-6, 3-3 ACC) led most of the first and second half until the Cavaliers (11-3, 4-2) used a 17-2 run midway through the second half to take a 52-42 lead. The Heels took a late lead thanks to three three-pointers by Caleb Love – after being zero in his first five of the game.
When Love made it 58-55 with 2:46 left, UVA guard Isaac McNeely made a three-pointer in front of D’marco Dunn to put two possessions back up. And when Love got it up to 61-58 by 3 on forward Ben Vander Blass, Reese Beckman edged Love for 34 seconds and the Heels didn’t score again.
“The discipline and detail that you have to have to win matches like this and win on the road, we just didn’t have,” Davis said. “And when you don’t have that, you get those kind of results.”
The Heels had already warmed up to play without Nance, who essentially missed his third straight game due to a sore back. Nance did not start and played only the first two minutes against Wake Forest. Nance said he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready to play when the Heels travel to take on Louisville on Saturday.
“I’m not sure,” said Nance. “I’m going to keep working on my back and just trying to keep getting better every day.”
Paco’s foot rolled as he came down to try to capitalize on a rebound and left the game just 78 seconds after it was overturned. It was particularly unfortunate for the Richmond senior, who said on Saturday his mother was trying to get 30 tickets for friends and family to watch him play. He left John Paul Jones Stadium on crutches as his ankle appeared to be swollen.
Just like previous games this season where Pacot played injured or was out with an injury, it didn’t go well for the heel.
Paco sprained his ankle in the second overtime loss to Alabama, and attempted a comeback in the third before losing in the fourth overtime. He injured his shoulder early in their loss at Indiana and was nearly helpless defending Trayce Jackson-Davis. The same shoulder injury kept him out for the entirety of their loss at Virginia Tech.
UNC senior forward Justin McCoy, who transferred from UVA in 2021, was coach Hubert Davies’ first choice to replace Paco. McCoy was booed by the Cavaliers’ student section every time he entered a game.
But it was new striker Galen Washington who came through and played like the heir apparent.
Washington missed the first nine games of the season while rehabilitating a right knee injury he suffered in high school. The freshman from Gary, India, never played more than six minutes and his season-high scoring was just six points against The Citadel.
He was clearly the best player on the floor at stretching exercises, scoring 12 first-half points in just 11 minutes of play. Washington helped Carolina go from a 10-3 deficit to a 24-15 lead.
Washington only scored one point in the second half, however, and the lack of inside presence hurt the Heels offensively.
“It gives me confidence that I can play at that level with these guys,” Washington said. “I just need to keep getting experience, getting a lot of reps. I haven’t played in about a year and a half now, so it’s just an experiment and I keep growing and learning.”
This story was originally published January 10, 2023 11:11 PM.