UNC finishes sweep of NC State on Senior Day

Armando Bacot had a big game for the Tar Heels in an 84-74 win

North Carolina Tar Heels guard Caleb Love (2) goes up for the dunk against North Carolina State Wolfpack forward Ebenezer Dowuona (21) during an ACC mens basketball game at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC on February 26, 2022. PJ WARD-BROWN/NORTH STATE JOURNAL

RALEIGH — UNC got off to another fast start against NC State and withstood numerous second-half runs as the Tar Heels finished a season sweep of the Wolfpack with an 84-74 win on Senior Night at PNC Arena.

In the first meeting between the two teams a month ago, Carolina jumped on top 11-3, extended the lead to 18-7 and kept State in single digits nearly eight minutes into the game.

In the rematch, UNC pulled out to a 20-3 lead and led 22-5 at the eight-minute mark. State didn’t crack double figures until 10:24 remained in the half.

The Wolfpack had no answer for Armando Bacot inside. The UNC big man scored the game’s first six points and finished with 28 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots, the first Tar Heel in history to produce that stat line in a game. He also matched a 57-year-old school record for rebounds against the Wolfpack.

“He was fantastic,” said UNC coach Hubert Davis. “We really felt like we had an advantage down low in the post. NC State only had two healthy big guys, so we wanted to establish Armando down low.

Shortly before halftime, the Tar Heels got a scare when senior Leaky Black went down clutching his knee. He was helped back to the locker room and, after testing his knee on the court at halftime, didn’t return to the floor.

“Leaky hyperextended his knee,” Davis said. “The great thing about it is it’s nothing serious, nothing structurally damaged. He felt like he could come out in the second half and play. He said he felt good but didn’t feel 100% comfortable cutting and making moves. So we rested him the rest of the game.“

That set the stage for Puff Johnson to have a career game. The sophomore, who missed almost a year and a half due to injury, had a career-high 14 points, including back-to-back 3-pointers, to help extend UNC’s lead to 22 midway through the second half.

“It felt great,” Johnson said. “I felt my rhythm again, felt my groove again. When I let go, I knew both of those were going in.”

The win spoiled senior night for NC State’s Thomas Allen and Jericole Hellems, who were honored in a pregame ceremony. Junior Manny Bates, who missed this year due to injury, also participated in the ceremony, although he still may choose to return.

“We went back and forth,” said coach Kevin Keatts. “He’s graduating. He wanted to go through Senior Day with Jericole. They came in (together). They’ve been close. We didn’t give him a framed jersey on purpose because he’s still got eligibility.”

State finished the game on a 9-0 run to cut the margin to 10 points, impressing Keatts with their fight, as they have all season despite losing several key players to injury.

“We’re probably going to be one of those teams,” said Keatts. “There are teams where you say, ‘I don’t want to play against them because they have nothing to lose.’ We’re that team. … We’re focused. We’re going to finish this last week of the season, and we’re going to go into Brooklyn and see what happens.”