North Carolina will look to find its spark again at home against Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night.
The Tar Heels suffered back-to-back losses in Uncasville, dropping a game to Purdue, then getting blown out by Tennessee in the next day’s consolation game. The Heels returned home with a 20-point win over UNC-Asheville, but Brady Manek wasn’t satisfied.
“We’ve got to play better, plain and simple,” he said. “I don’t know what it is. Come together more, just play basketball. We’ve got to play better. We should have beat them by a lot more than we did.”
Manek pulled no punches, saying that the team got “lit up this weekend.”
“We’ve got to play together. We’ve got to play as a team. We’ve got to enjoy other people’s success. Be a team. That’s basically it. There’s nothing else in basketball than being a team. We got stomped by two teams this weekend. We were not a team.”
That was just over a week ago, and the team planned to spend time together—on and off the practice floor.
“We're going to celebrate Thanksgiving. We're going to spend time together as a team away from the court,” coach Hubert Davis said. “But we're also going to practice a lot and we're going to get better. I don't care what anybody says. I'm convinced that this is a team that has a chance to win a national championship. I just believe that … I'm excited about this week to get better as a team and to spend time together as a team.”
Now the Heels return with a challenge from a tough Michigan team.
The Wolverines have a senior guard in Eli Brooks who will test UNC sophomore Caleb Love on both ends of the floor. Sophomore seven-footer Hunter Dickinson will do the same to Armando Bacot in the paint. Michigan also has a strong freshman class, including shooter Caleb Houstan and forward Moussa Diabate.
There’s a good chance the Challenge will be decided by the time the game tips off. The Big Ten took a commanding 6-2 lead in the first two days of play and leads in at least two of the early games, which would clinch the 14-game showdown between two of basketball’s power conferences.
Officials for the game are from an ACC crew: Roger Ayers, Bert Smith, John Gaffney
Your starters: Armando Bacot, Leaky Black, Caleb Love, RJ Davis, Dawson Garcia
Rough start to the game. RJ Davis finally hits after teams combined to miss the first nine attempts. Hunter Dickinson picks up an off ball foul on a screen on Davis. That sends us to the under 16. UNC up 4-2.
Challenge is not over yet. Big Ten is up 7-3 and has clinched a tie. ACC needs to win the early NC State-Nebraska game (in overtime) and sweep the three late games to tie.
Brooks has been running UNC guards into Dickinson from every angle. That time, he did it as Dickenson was trying to dribble and Love ended up with a steal and breakaway dunk. Time out Michigan. UNC up 13-12 with 11:09 left in the half.
Diabate is going to be a problem. UNC doesn't have someone that can defend him. He's had his way with Bacot and now Manek. He's 5-for-5, 11 points already.
With 5:45 to go in the half, it's 21-18 Michigan.
Dickinson picks up his second foul to send us to the under four. Michigan leads 23-22. Heels shooting just 34.5 percent and getting outrebounded.
Caleb Love beats the shot clock buzzer and hits a three to end the half. UNC heads inside leading 29-27.
Dickinson picks up his third foul defending Bacot in the paint. He stays in and picks up his fourth on an and one from Bacot when the ball is inbounded. 18:20 to go, UNC up 5.
Carolina on a roll right now. Michigan calls time. It' 41-33 with 15:44 to go. UNC getting it inside and out-toughing Michigan right now.
Scoring drought is nearly 3 minutes for MIchigan. UNC hits the under 12 up 46
Heels have broken things open with a 20-5 run. Up 25 at the under 4
That will do it. Heels with a statement win 7