Lucas: Saturday Afternoon – University of North Carolina Athletics

By Adam Lucas

As soon as he walked down the varsity hall and turned the corner into the Smith Center tunnel, Hubert Davis he could feel it.

Saturday was NC State against Carolina. One national college basketball writer listed ten games to watch on Saturday and it didn’t include Tar Heels-Wolfpack, even as an “under the radar” game.

But that’s why it makes so much sense Hubert Davis to become the head coach at the University of North Carolina—he doesn’t need lists. All he had to do was look through the tunnel and see the 21,750 packed seats, the largest crowd to watch a college basketball game anywhere in the United States on this day.

“There’s nothing — nothing better than an ACC game this afternoon,” Davis Jones Angell said on the Tar Heel Sports Network after the game. “Walking out of that tunnel at the start of the game, it felt like a big game. And it was.”

It was great for so many reasons. The 80-69 win was a conference win, moving Carolina into the five-team group tied for third place at 6-3 (one of that group is Syracuse, where the Heels will travel on Tuesday) . The victory was also historic, because Armando Bacot moved within one possession of two all-time UNC records – double-doubles (passing Billy Cunningham) and rebounds (passing Tyler Hansbrough). It happened not only in front of a sellout crowd but also in front of the 1993 national title team, which reunited to celebrate its 30th anniversary

It was also a victory that required some toughness which, to the State’s credit, was not the case in a few recent league games. This felt more like an old-school Carolina-State game, with Bacot hitting DJ Burns in the paint and plenty of trash talking as the two teams battled for the conference’s top seed. Two non-zero lies were awarded, one of them and two suspicious lies Leaky Black (no, he doesn’t have to miss any time the next day) and the other a sloppy one against Casey Morsell.

Like the best Carolina-State games, there was some pregame commentary, this time from the State side. Quotes from both Terquavion Smith and Ernest Ross made their way into the UNC locker room last week.

That helped make for a tough week of practice, highlighted earlier this week when a Hubert Davis grew frustrated with his team’s defensive performance and jumped into a drill to demonstrate how he wanted his team to go over ball screens rather than under them. “I’m 52 years old!” he barked.

That was the kind of pregame intensity that paid dividends — the Pack was under 30 percent from the three-point line at Carolina — compared to the kind that wasn’t very productive. Saturday was a tough day for Ross, who recently predicted that State is “gonna win that.” Ross was dunked on by Pete Nance and missed a dunk of his own. As you might recall from Carolina’s six NCAA championships, four of which have come since the Pack won one — in fact, since 1990, the Tar Heels have more national titles than NC State’s Sweet 16 appearance – nattys won’t win in january.

But there are conference games, and the Tar Heels had a great game plan for Saturday’s edition. NC State’s defensive profile all season has been a team that scores at an above-average rate. According to Ken Pomeroy, they are dead last in the league in FTA/FGA ratio in ACC games, meaning they send opponents to the free throw line more consistently than any defense in the conference.

Hubert Davis‘ The game plan, therefore, was simple: defend the State, take advantage of their tendency, and convert on the free throw line. Armando Bacot and RJ Davis They drew eight sacks each, meaning they drew as many sacks combined as the entire NC State team. Bacot and Davis also combined to hit 21-for-21 from the free throw line, and that’s your game.

“At the beginning of the game we settled for too many three pointers,” said Davis. “When we put our heads down and attack through penetration and he got down low to Mando in the post, he put us in a great position to get to the line. And we’re a pretty good free shooting team.”

However, it will be remembered as more than just a free shooting competition. You can live your whole life as a Carolina fan and not see a heel After a great career record for yourself. On Saturday, fans in attendance saw one person do it twice. Bacot’s career resurgence was led by Tyler Hansbrough, a player Bacot has faced in summer league games. “Tyler Hansbrough is one of the greatest UNC players and college players ever,” Bacot said. “It’s unbelievable to say that I have a record for it.”

Hansbrough, of course, was in attendance, because this is Carolina and that’s how it happens. It wasn’t that long ago that Phil Ford was on hand to congratulate Hansbrough on his UNC scoring streak. This time, Hansbrough was acknowledging Bacot in the rebounding category. Before you know it, your favorite players are former players and the stars are legends.

But they are always around. Because Carolina Basketball is like no other.

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At Carolina, one current player sets a record and shows his streak in the record books to congratulate him in person, while a national championship team from 30 years ago waits to talk to the entire team in the locker room.

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“Being able to connect all the players, both current and former players, that’s what makes this place special,” Davis said. “They shared their experiences and talked about how their neighborliness and solidarity allowed them to win a national championship in 1993. That’s what we have to do with this team: we want to let each other and our solidarity for us to be the best team we can be. .”

Also on Saturday was a certain Hall of Fame coach and current season ticket holder (basically every sport on campus) who compiled a 33-5 record against the State as a Tar Heel head coach. Roy Williams is just a fan now. And so he spoke for most of the other 21,750 as he walked out of the Smith Center on Saturday afternoon, grabbing a box score and laughing at the eleven-point victory.

“Do you think,” he said with a wink and a smile, “I might love that just a little?”

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