NCAA Basketball

No. 18 North Carolina stumbles into ACC opener at Va. Tech

No. 18 North Carolina looks to snap a three-game losing streak when it opens Atlantic Coast Conference action against Virginia Tech on Sunday in Blacksburg, Va.

Ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll to start the season, the Tar Heels (5-3) lost to Iowa State and Alabama last weekend at the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland, Ore. They also fell at Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday.

The Hoosiers used a 13-2 run in the first half to take a 10-point lead and an 11-2 second-half surge to pull away for good in a 77-65 victory.

It's the first time North Carolina has lost three straight games since the 2019-20 season.

For the Tar Heels, transfer Pete Nance led the way with 15 points and 12 rebounds. Armando Bacot -- the preseason ACC Player of the Year -- added 12 points and 10 boards. Bacot played the game on a hobbled right ankle and briefly left the court to go to the locker room to have his right shoulder taped.

"All I could use is my lower body," Bacot said after the loss. "I couldn't pump, I couldn't arm guard. It didn't feel good."

Caleb Love was frustrated the loss, in which he made just 5 of 16 shots from the floor.

"I put in so much work, and it's like I don't know why they're not falling. But I think part of it is my shot selection, as well, so I have to change that and get easier ones," Love said. "It's like we're just standing and waiting for somebody to make a play. So, we've just got to change our movements, stay active off the ball and we've got to be tough enough and smart enough to get open."

The Tar Heels shot a season-worst 33.9 percent from the floor in the loss at Indiana. And it was the fifth time this season North Carolina has missed at least seven free throws.

Virginia Tech (7-1) is the reigning ACC Tournament champion and has won two straight. The Hokies' last victory came at home against Minnesota on Monday.

Sean Pedulla scored 17 points, while Justyn Mutts had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead the Hokies over the visiting Gophers, 67-57.

Despite the win, Hokies coach Mike Young wanted more from his team.

"I just don't think we're playing very good basketball," Young said. "We need practice time. We've played eight games since Nov. 7. We have strides to make. We do. Numbers are good. I told our team, 'Don't get fooled.'"

He was impressed with Pedulla though, who made 8 of 13 shots from the floor and leads the Hokies with 17.1 points per game this season.

"He's not afraid, is he? Sometimes to his detriment," Young said. "He's doing it night in and night out. He's making better basketball plays, better team plays... He's a good basketball player."

Virginia Tech ranks 31st in the nation in shooting, making 49.5 percent of their shots from the floor. The Hokies are a disciplined bunch, too, only sending opponents to the free throw line 8.9 times per game, which is fourth-best nationally.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 3, 2022

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