{{ timeAgo('2023-01-25 16:45:24 -0600') }} basketball Edit

Nance Gets A Boost, Then Gives Carolina A Boost

UNC forward Pete Nance had his most active game of the season in a win at Syracuse on Tuesday night.
UNC forward Pete Nance had his most active game of the season in a win at Syracuse on Tuesday night. (USA Today)


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SYRACUSE, NY – Pete Nance has played in 125 college basketball games logging more than 3,100 minutes. But sometimes, even grizzled old dudes need a confidence boost.

Consider the last five weeks for Nance, and it’s not hard to understand why he needed a bit of a mojo injection Tuesday night.

He entered North Carolina’s game at hungry Syracuse having scored in double figures just once since a December 13 win over The Citadel, and that was a 10-point effort in a loss at Pittsburgh on December 30, which also happened to be the game in which the 6-foot-11 Northwestern transfer inured his lower back.

He gave it a go a few nights later versus Wake Forest, but left 1:42 into the contest and didn’t step onto the court again until last week’s win over Boston College. So, it had been a while since Nance had been asked to do much for an improving team that played well in his absence.

That is why his performance Tuesday night was so big, among other reasons. When Nance repeatedly passed up open jumpers inside the Orange’s 2-3 zone in the first half, he was encouraged by his coach and the other Tar Heels (15-6, 7-3 ACC) to shoot the ball. Be more aggressive. So, he was.

“I think so,” Nance said, agreeing he was more aggressive in the second half of UNC’s 72-68 victory at JMA Wireless Dome. “When I catch and turn, with my height I think I could have probably shot it every time. But missing a couple, you just try to make another play or just try to do too much sometimes.

UNC forward Pete Nance scored 21 points, had three assists, and four steals Tuesday at Syracuse.
UNC forward Pete Nance scored 21 points, had three assists, and four steals Tuesday at Syracuse. (USA Today)

“I appreciate the team telling me to continue to take that shot and continue to look for your looks, and trusting me with that. So that was huge for my confidence in the second half.”

It was a no brainer, though. Carolina’s success versus Syracuse and that renowned Jim Boeheim zone since the Orange joined the ACC has largely been because a second big has played crucial roles in making everything flow. Tuesday night, that was Nance’s job.

“All week I kind of knew I was going to get the ball right there a lot,” he said. “All the credit to my teammates for finding me there. I think just trying to make quick decisions. When you turn, there’s a lot there, a lot to read in a small amount of time. Just trying to make the best decision I can and get the right shot for the team.”

Nance had a bit of a wobbly performance at times, but it helps to understand he was tasked with a little bit of everything. It seemed like he touched the ball on every possession, or at least close to it. He handed out three assists, all in the first half while the Tar Heels were breathtaking at times getting open looks and knocking them down.

And after the intermission, Nance was more assertive, and the result was he drew a bevy of fouls on the Orange and repeatedly got to the free throw line.

His stat line on the night – 21 points, 7-for-18 from the floor, a big three in the second half, four rebounds, a blocked shot, and four steals – tells just part of the story. That he played all 40 minutes, and even when dragging himself to the finish line, Nance still stepped up to make decisive plays, suggests he’s moved on from the effects of the injury, both physical and mental.

“In the last couple of minutes, I was definitely feeling pretty tired,” he said. “I just tried to tell myself that’s not okay right now, not acceptable. Just trying to get through and get the win.”

The win occurred as much because of Nance as anyone else in blue.

His missed free throw with 22 seconds left ended up in his hands after a scrum for the ball resulted in Syracuse guard Joe Girard attempting to save the ball from going out of bounds, but it ended up in Nance’s hands.

A couple of feet to the left of the basket on the baseline, Nance instinctively went toward the rim, though he didn’t actually have control of the ball. But those years of finger-tip drills ended up paying off, as he softly laid in the ball for the go-ahead points with 19 seconds remaining.

“I was bobbling it and was like jumping and bobbling,” Nance explained. “I finally gathered it and was able to lay it in. It all happened super fast... I finally gathered it and was able to lay it in.”

So were the Tar Heels, as it gave them their fourth consecutive victory and tenth in the last 12 games. And as a season’s storylines layer, Nance’s night and boost in confidence could be one of the team’s more signature moments if this continues.