No. 3 North Carolina rolling into home matchup with Clemson

Feb 3, 2024; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Armando Bacot (5) scores in the second half at Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a crucial, emotional home win over rival Duke, No. 3 North Carolina will aim to put another tally in the win column Tuesday when it hosts Clemson in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Tar Heels (18-4, 10-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) were led by a season-high-tying 25 points from Armando Bacot on Saturday against Duke. The fifth-year center also grabbed 10 rebounds and tied his season-high in assists with five.

Bacot became the first UNC player since Charlie Scott in 1970 to total at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against Duke. It was also the first time Bacot topped 20 points in a single game since UNC’s Nov. 29 win over Tennessee. And it was Bacot’s fourth double-double against the Blue Devils.

Bacot’s big game came after he had a one-on-one meeting with coach Hubert Davis earlier in the week.

“I wanted to talk to Armando this time, not just about life, but about basketball,” Davis said. “It’s really important to me for Armando to finish out his career the right way. And I just wanted to hear how he was feeling. … For us to be the best team that we can be, we need (Bacot) being a dude.”

Bacot said after his dominant performance: “(The) ACC runs through me. All of the top bigs I play against, I feel like going into every matchup I’m going to win.”

The Tar Heels also got 21 points and 13 rebounds from Harrison Ingram, and 17 points and five assists from RJ Davis. The victory improved UNC’s record against AP Top 25 opponents to 5-2 on the season.

Davis continues to lead the ACC in scoring this season with 21.3 points per game, a mark that is 11th best in the NCAA.

Tuesday’s game is UNC’s second of the season with Clemson. The Tar Heels beat the Tigers in South Carolina 65-55 on Jan. 6. At the time Clemson was ranked No. 16 in the AP poll.

Bacot was crucial in that game too, totaling team-highs in points and rebounds with 14 points and 16 boards.

The Tigers are 3-4 since losing at home to UNC, but three of those losses came by a combined margin of five points.

Most recently, Clemson fell at home Saturday to Virginia 66-65. PJ Hall’s three free throws trimmed the deficit to a single point with seven seconds to play, but Jack Clark’s potential game-winning 3-pointer missed the mark.

Hall finished with 19 points and six rebounds to lead Clemson.

“It becomes hard, but I thought our guys just kept fighting,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “Obviously we had a pretty good look at the top of the key to win that didn’t go in.

“Again, we were a basket short. It’s happened to us about three times in the league now.”

Winning at North Carolina is an incredible rarity for the Tigers. Clemson is just 1-60 all time in Chapel Hill. Brownell is just 3-15 all-time against the Tar Heels.

–Field Level Media

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