Bacot Taking Next Step In Sophomore Campaign
CHAPEL HILL - Sophomore slump? More like a sophomore jump for North Carolina forward Armando Bacot.
Bacot continued what has been an impressive campaign so far in North Carolina’s 80-73 win over Wake Forest on Wednesday night in the Smith Center, finishing with 18 points and six rebounds on 80 percent shooting.
Fourteen of those points came in the second half after UNC Coach Roy Williams challenged his team at the break to exploit their size advantage over the Demon Deacons.
“We talked about the mistakes that we've made, talked about challenging our big guys to get posted up lower to be more effective, be stronger,” Williams said. “Armando was 8-for-10, he missed one shot both halves, so in the second half he was 6-for-7. That is one of the things we've talked about, our big guys being stronger, going to the basket with the ball.”
Bacot heard his coach’s message loud and clear and focused on being more physical, despite dealing with foul trouble, over the final 20 minutes of play.
“Every time I got the ball, I was getting in my spot,” Bacot said. “And I feel like, once I get in my spot and get that angle, I know I can score.”
The sophomore big currently leads the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding, averaging 11.7 points and 7.6 boards through 14 games. Not only that, Bacot has the highest field goal percentage on the team for a player that’s played in every game, shooting 63.8 percent from the floor. He has shot above 80 percent in five games, 50 percent or better in 12 and has finished in double figures 10 times.
Even more impressive, Bacot has posted these numbers despite being only fifth on the team in minutes per game with 22.5. Those are huge improvements for a player that struggled with consistency during his freshman campaign.
For Bacot, his offseason grind and consistent focus on being more physical in the paint has led to him being the most efficient and reliable scoring option for this young UNC squad.
“I feel like now, when I get to my spot and I’m just balanced, I feel like no one can stop me,” Bacot said after the Tar Heels’ win over Syracuse on Jan. 12. “I’m just doing a better job moving guys. I put a lot of effort in over quarantine getting bigger and stronger in those areas and just seeking contact.”
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing this season for the Richmond, VA, native, however. In Carolina’s wins over Notre Dame and Miami earlier this month, Bacot shot a combined 2-for-10 from the field, finishing with just four points against the Irish and seven versus the Hurricanes.
Bacot didn’t let those sub-par performances affect him though and, in the three games since, has averaged 14 points and 7.6 rebounds on 62 percent shooting in 22.3 minutes per.
While he has turned into one the most reliable bigs in the ACC, Bacot still believes he and his teammates have not approached their full potential yet.
“Us as a team have not put a game together where everybody has played great,” Bacot said Wednesday night. “It’s always somebody’s in foul trouble, somebody's not playing good and I feel like, once we can get it to where everybody's playing good, I feel like we’ll be a really good team.”
Whether sophomore slumps are a thing or not, Bacot isn’t having one in his second season in Chapel Hill and that’s a huge positive for this team as they dive deeper into the second half of the regular season.