CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina came up with a winning counterpunch right on cue Tuesday night. The Tar Heels denied Boston College 72-64 in ACC basketball at the Smith Center, leading throughput and holding off a late push from the Eagles with the help of Caleb Love’s clutch response.
Boston College used a 12-2 run to chop UNC’s lead to 56-55, when Love shook off the struggles that have plagued him, and nailed a step-back 3-pointer for some breathing room. Then, as the Tar Heels ran in transition, Love lobbed a pass for Armando Bacot that BC deflected. Love caught the deflection of his own pass in midair and scored off the glass, putting the Tar Heels ahead 61-55 and on their way.
UNC (13-6 overall, 5-3 ACC) improved to 9-0 at home this season and 15-1 against Boston College since the start of the 2010-11 season.
Armando Bacot did the heavy lifting again with another brawny performance that belied the sprained left ankle he suffered seven nights ago at Virginia. Bacot delivered 20 points and 16 rebounds for the Tar Heels, producing his 60th career double-double to tie Billy Cunningham’s school record.
RJ Davis drained three of his four 3-pointers and supplied 15 of his 18 points during the second half. Davis sank a pair of free throws with 4:05 remaining to give UNC a 63-55 lead, and BC didn’t get closer than four points from there.
Love pumped in nine points during the game’s final 5:21 and finished with 16 points. He had hit just 3-for-11 from the field, including 1-for-6 from 3-point range, before stepping up during the game’s final 5½ minutes.
Quinten Post’s 17 points and five rebounds and Jaeden Zackery’s 14 points topped Boston College (8-11, 2-6). The 7-foot, 250-pound Post fouled out with 4:05 left. He banged against the 6-foot-11, 235-pound Bacot down low and became frustrated at times, jawing in Bacot’s ear during one moment in the second half.
Boston College’s cold perimeter shooting here at the Smith Center continued. The Eagles went 0-for-6 from beyond the arc, marking the first time a UNC opponent failed to hit a 3-pointer since Nov. 27, 1990, a stretch of 1,149 straight games. BC shot 1-for-16 from 3-point range in last season’s loss to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.
Welcome back, Pete Nance
Pete Nance returned to action Tuesday night after missing essentially four games due to a strained back. He took his starting spot alongside Bacot in the UNC frontcourt, and promptly made two 3-pointers during the game’s first four minutes.
After feeding Bacot in the post and relocating to the corner for a catch-and-shoot, Nance’s first launch caught the back rim, bounced up to the backboard, and then down through the hoop. That had Nance giving a little skip as he retreated to the other end to play defense, almost like a golfer celebrating after coaxing in a long putt. Nance ran in transition and spotted up to sink his second 3, off a nice look in the open court from Davis.
Nance and Bacot combined to score 10 of UNC’s first 12 points. When he wasn’t on the court, Nance wore a black back brace on the Tar Heels’ bench for extra support. That device had red lights illuminating from the back of it.
Jalen Washington out with ankle issue
UNC freshman forward Jalen Washington’s progress was halted by an ankle issue Tuesday night. He was in a warmup hoodie and warmup pants prior to the start of each half, but didn’t participate as the other Tar Heels got loose. Early on, Washington didn’t emerge form out of the tunnel until about 90 seconds were left on the pregame clock.
A week ago, Washington became a revelation at Virginia with a season-best 13 points and six rebounds in the absence of Bacot, after the big man limped off due to the sprained left ankle. Washington added six points and three rebounds off the bench in UNC’s drubbing of Louisville during the weekend.
Next on the schedule
North Carolina stays at home to meet rival NC State on Saturday, which finishes off its stretch of four home dates across six games. The Wolfpack (15-4, 5-3) won at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night, picking up its seventh victory across the last eight games.
UNC entered Tuesday night having played the 10th-most difficult schedule nationally, per Ken Pomeroy’s college basketball database. That rating is sure to dip again. The Tar Heels had played KenPom’s fifth-most difficult schedule nationally — behind only Alabama, Creighton, Gonzaga and Kansas — prior to their road victory Saturday at Louisville. Boston College and Louisville are KenPom’s lowest-ranked teams in the ACC.