By Adam Lucas
1. It wasn’t pretty, but Carolina made the right plays down the stretch to complete the sweep of Louisville.
2. Those closing minutes, from the point it was 60-60, were solid. RJ Davis got a steal and layup to give Carolina a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Brady Manek made a tough baseline shot, and Manek also found Armando Bacot on a gorgeous feed for a dunk. Out of a Hubert Davis timeout, Caleb Love finished at the rim. The first 37 minutes weren’t artistic, but the last three were pretty solid.
3. Carolina also managed the clock well at the end, taking advantage of having only four team fouls to force Louisville to burn six seconds facing a seven-point deficit.
4. On a night when Love had his struggles, it felt like Davis was important in controlling the flow of the game. Davis finished with 16 points and two assists, but most importantly, he had zero turnovers. He was also involved in most of the game’s biggest plays.
5. It’s a huge luxury to have Love and Davis as the primary ballhandling guards in a close game. Both are excellent from the free throw line, and they combined to go 7-7 from the charity stripe on Monday. As a team, the Tar Heels converted 11-13 free throws.
6. Puff Johnson gave Carolina seven excellent first half minutes. The sophomore pushed the ball in transition, which created a couple free throws for himself, made a nice post entry to Brady Manek, and grabbed a steal. Johnson was good enough at doing the little things that it allowed the Tar Heels to rest Leaky Black more than they otherwise might in the first 20 minutes. Johnson was the only reserve to play in the second half.
7. Defensive communication continues to be a problematic area. Armando Bacot and RJ Davis failed to talk to each other in one first half sequence that resulted in a wide open Cardinal three-point basket. That’s an area of the game Hubert Davis continues to talk about regularly in practice – early, loud, clear and constant communication – but it’s still a work in progress.
8. Armando Bacot (12 points, 15 rebounds) now has 21 double-doubles this year. The Carolina season record is Brice Johnson with 23, which seems well within reach. Carolina wasn’t great at getting Bacot the ball, especially in the second half, but he created his chances by hitting the glass relentlessly. He finished with five offensive rebounds.
9. Manek just knows how to play. His 17 points of him were nice, but he consistently made the right pass at the right time. He had two assists with no turnovers.
10. It was great to have Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye back in the Smith Center. Both took advantage breaks in their pro schedules – Johnson with the Phoenix Suns and Maye with the top league in Spain – to visit Chapel Hill. You’ll hear more from Johnson on a future episode of the Carolina Insider podcast.