Love finds a way as Tar Heels hold off Boston College

UNC won for the fourth time in five games

UNC guard Caleb Love, left, drives to the basket against Boston College guard Jaeden Zackery during the Tar Heels’ win Tuesday in Chapel Hill. (Chris Seward / AP Photo)

CHAPEL HILL — UNC took care of business on Tuesday, knocking off visiting Boston College, 72-64, to set up a weekend showdown with NC State. Both teams will enter the game with 5-3 ACC records, and, for the first time in four years, the Tar Heels and Wolfpack will meet with both teams as Quad I opponents for the other.

For a while in the second half, however, the Eagles looked ready to throw a wrench into the works. Boston College entered the game on a three-game losing streak that had dropped the Eagles to 8-10, 2-5 in the conference. They fell behind early, never led and trailed by as many as 10 points early in the second half. The Eagles also became the first UNC opponent in 1,150 games, dating back to November 1990, to fail to hit a 3-point shot, finishing the game 0 for 6 from outside.

Midway through the second half, however, Boston College put together an 11-1 run to cut the Tar Heel lead to a single point, 56-55.

That’s when a surprising hero emerged for the Tar Heels. Caleb Love, who had missed 12 straight 3-point attempts dating back to the end of the Virginia loss a week ago, hit a 3-pointer and layup on back-to-back possessions to build the Carolina lead back up to six. He then scored nine of UNC’s final 16 points, matching Boston College’s point total over that span, to help the Tar Heels hold off the Eagles’ upset bid.

A conversation with his head coach may have helped Love snap out of his slump.

“I talked to him yesterday,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “I talked to him through my own experience. I told him one time in the NBA. I struggled shooting the ball for an entire month. And I said that I’d always felt like if I missed 10, I was gonna make the next 10.”

Love never seems short on confidence, so the pep talk from his coach may not have helped as much as more technical advice from one of UNC’s — and the NBA’s — most accurate outside shooters.

“One of the things that I always did was go through a checklist,” Davis said. “I looked at was there anything wrong, in terms of fundamentally, with my shot. I told him that sometimes, my elbow would come out a little bit too much, or my guide hand thumb would be on the ball a little bit too much. And I said, looking at your shot, and when he was shooting the last couple of days, to me, it just seemed just a smidge flat. Just a little bit. So I said just think about getting a little bit more arc on there.”

Davis also pointed out that there are other ways to help the team besides knocking down shots.

“I told him about the importance of continuing to shoot and continuing to shoot good shots,” Davis said. “And then I told him about making impact plays in different areas. You know, when I struggled to shoot the ball, I thought more about let me get some extra rebounds, make some more hustle plays and to take my mind off of, ‘Ooh! I’ve got the ball. I’ve got to make this shot.’”

So perhaps the biggest play of Love’s late-game run wasn’t his 3-pointer or any of the other shots he made, but the charge he took from Boston College’s Jaeden Zackary to continue a 7-0 UNC run.

“What gave us life was his defensive charge,” Davis said “That’s what I thought gave us life. One of the things that I’ve said a number of times is Caleb is a basketball player and all of our guys are. You can make an impact in many different areas. It’s not just scoring and shooting. It’s distributing. It’s playing defense. It’s rebounding. It’s team chemistry, energy and effort, enthusiasm.

“There’s a number of ways that you can benefit a team and allow us to be the best that we can be. It was nice that, from an offensive standpoint, he made some shots down the stretch. I thought the biggest play in the game was his defensive charge that he took late in the second half.”