Second-half aggressiveness from Armando Bacot a driving force in UNC win

The UNC basketball program had another tough test on Friday night as the 2022-23 season continued. Despite a double-digit win over College of Charleston, the Tar Heels found themselves down at the half.

Entering the locker room down seven, 50-43, UNC was looking for some sort of spark. That came from All-American forward Armando Bacot.

With an incomprehensible first half for the preseason ACC Player of the Year of one point, one rebound and one shot attempt in 14 minutes, something needed to change.

“I challenged him at halftime,” UNC head coach Hubert Davis said postgame. “I think he only had one shot and so there’s two parts to it. One, you can call a play for a player and then number two, they actually have to catch the ball in the play to be able to do something with it.”

The message that was give to the 6-foot-11 forward hit home and helped lift him to a terrific second half. Bacot, who finished with 28 points and six rebounds, had 27 points on 10-of-12 from the field in 19 second-half minutes.

He ended up one-point shy of tying his career-high.

“We called just as many plays in the first half for Armando as we did in the second half, but Armando was fantastic,” Davis added. “He did his work… he caught the ball where he wanted to, he outworked whoever defended him to catch the ball as close as he could to the basket. His moves were definitive and strong, and he either scored or got fouled, and I was I was very proud of him.”

What shifted in Bacot’s mindset though was something that he has tried to change in his mentality over the last year. While Bacot came in as five-star talent, it’s been his work ethic over the last two years that has made him the player he is today.

“I’ve got to remember like Coach told me the other day, I’m not a CEO, I’m a high-end janitor,” Bacot said postgame. “I mean, it’s the truth. I’m not the most talented guy. I’ve got to go out there and fight, and that’s what I’ve got to hang my hat on. So that’s what I need to go do, be a janitor… I’ve got to go out there and just be a dog. I’ve got to do a better job of that, and I’m going to figure it out.”

Part of that ‘dog’ and ‘janitor’ mentality is all about getting to the foul line and using his body to overwhelm most opponents.

In the first half, Bacot went to the foul line just three times, going 1-of-3 from the foul line. That mentality shift at halftime saw Bacot attempt nine free-throws in the second half, going 7-of-9 from the line. He also saw his player efficiency go from -1 in the fist 20 minutes to a 30 following intermission.

UNC scored 59 points in the second half and attempted 28 shots. Bacot accounted for 45.7 percent of the second-half points and 42.8 percent of the attempted shots.

“I think I’m the best player in the country,” Bacot said. “And I just haven’t been putting out that product so far, so I’ve just got to be a lot better.”

Bacot is now averaging 22.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 15-of-23 from the field on the season.

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Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire