Caleb Love takeover in the second half


PHILADELPHIA — At 1:50 in the second half, and North Carolina drops three points, Caleb Love missed a three. The long bounce was heading out of bounds before Armand Bacot jumped up to save the ball with one hand and sent it back where Love was holding it.

In pure Caleb Love in fashion, he smashed UCLA’s Johnny Juzang with a behind-the-back dribble and didn’t hesitate to attempt three more. This time it was good. The triple tied the game at 64-64.

On the next possession, Love took a pass from Bacot, used a screen down from Brady Manek, a quick side dribble and nailed three more. He put UNC up 67-64 at 1:03. The Tar Heels never trailed again and beat UCLA, 73-66, to advance to the Elite 8.

Love was freezing in the first half. He had his first shot, then missed seven straight games to enter halftime with three points. He scored 27 goals in the second period, none more important than those last two three-point shots.

“I never lose faith,” Love said Friday night. “Coach Davis and my teammates always tell me that. I feel like the best part of my game is not losing my level of confidence. And when I’m out there, I’m just in a mode, and that’s what it was tonight.”

Love was on fire in the second half with 10 of 16 from the field and 5 of 9 from three after halftime.

“Things weren’t going well offensively in the first half for us and Coach Davis told us, we’re still in the game and we have to stick with it,” Love said. “Shots weren’t falling. We were getting great shots, and we just weren’t hitting them. So Coach Davis told us to keep our confidence and keep shooting, get great shots, and that’s what we have done.”

Caleb Love Friday Night vs. UCLA (Photo: Jim Hawkins | Inside Carolina, 247Sports)

Love scored 18 points in the final 11:47 and eight points in the final 1:40 of the game, including two free throws to help UNC seal the game. His second-half scoring started with solid drives to the basket, one followed with a two-armed flex to the crowd.

“Coach Davis just wanted me to attack the basket. He thinks I’m better when I go down,” Love said. “I had a few downhill lay-ups and then the outside shot started to drop. Once you have them watch them pass, your rhythm is there.”

Davis added, “Caleb, because of his size and his athleticism, he’s the only guy, probably the best on the wing, who can create his own shot all the time. The area that I thought he was really good tonight, and he talked about it, he started upside down, and sometimes he has problems, that’s when he starts outside or outside, outside, outside. And he went inside, and I just feel like he has the ability to attack the basket and he was able to get to the rim. And I always felt that – even for me, I wasn’t as fast and as athletic, but I always wanted to do some lay-ups, so you feel better coming out and shooting that jump shot.

“I think because of his aggressiveness towards the basket, he found a rhythm beyond the three, and he just got hot.”

Hot is one word to describe it. When Love is on, it is on. His second-half show against UCLA was similar to the final minutes of the Syracuse game when Love took over late in regulation to force overtime, then continued to shoot in extra time. He finished the 2:30 regulation and overtime finals with 4 for 5 from the field and 3 for 4 of three for 14 of his 21 points to help UNC beat the Orange.

Love started Friday’s game against UCLA in black Jordan Space Jam 11s, but after going 1-for-8 on the court, he was encouraged to switch them up, slipping on a Carolina Blue pair of Jordan 11 Retro Pantones.

“(Eric, director of basketball operations at UNC) Hoots told me to change them because I never play well in black shoes, so he told me to change them, and it worked “Love said.

His head coach had no idea the change had even been made.

“I’m going to give (Hoots) a raise. So let Hoots know. I didn’t even know he changed his shoes. I don’t think it was the shoes. I just think Caleb did very well. played,” Davis mentioned. “…One of the things I said is that – in any game, but especially in big games like this, it has nothing to do with training, it’s “It’s just about the players stepping up and making plays. Everyone who played made plays, and Caleb did a lot, especially in the second half.”


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