College Hoops

Lucas: A Deep Breath – University of North Carolina Athletics

Lucas: A Deep Breath - University of North Carolina Athletics

By Adam Lucas

SYRACUSE—If you think Tuesday was a long game, consider that the victory actually began on Sunday afternoon about 1:30 p.m.

That’s when Caleb Love arrived at the Smith Center for an individual shooting session with assistant coach Jeff Lebo. The duo have been working out twice a day over the last few weeks, even as Love has struggled with his shot.

But Sunday looked different. Sunday, Love’s shots weren’t just going in—they were going straight into the heart of the basket, ripping through the net almost every time. He alternated taking a series of three-pointers with a set of free throws, rotation after rotation, Lebo and Tar Heel managers Alex Pardue and Will Lam feeding him the ball again and again. 

No one ever sees these moments. But you could tell in the way that Lebo and Love boisterously high-fived after one particularly deadeye series of trifectas that something was different.

“Stay the course,” Love said with a grin after the workout. 

Tuesday night, it paid off. On a relatively quiet night by his standards (he finished with 15 points but needed just seven shots to do it), Love hit three first half three-pointers in a terrific Tar Heel offensive start against the Syracuse 2-3 zone, propelling them to a quick lead and silencing the traditionally well lubricated JMA Wireless Dome crowd.

Love’s early shooting forced the Orange to respect him in their zone, opening the middle around the ACC logo—where they should really paint a Tar Heel foot for all the damage Carolina has done there in this building—for Pete Nance and the rest of the Tar Heels to operate.

“At the beginning of the game, the way we were moving the basketball offensively we were getting any shot we wanted,” Hubert Davis told Jones Angell on the Tar Heel Sports Network after the game. “We were getting open threes, open jump shots around the free throw line or getting the ball to the basket in the low post.”

It was gorgeous basketball, featuring assists on Carolina’s first ten baskets of the game. When Davis is showing future Tar Heel teams how to attack the Syracuse zone, likely coached by Jim Boeheim in the year 2044, he’ll use those first ten baskets as the clip tape.

Little did we know that the beauty of the early offense would soon give way to a slugfest. If Saturday was a typical ACC Saturday afternoon game, this felt more like a typical…

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