Armando Bacot’s ankle injury was a serious concern for North Carolina entering Monday night’s national title game against Kansas, but the Tar Heels’ center posted a legendary first half anyway. Despite clear limitations, Bacot racked up 12 points and 10 boards as UNC took a 40-25 lead into the break.
Not only did Bacot help stabilize UNC after Kansas jumped out to a 7-0 lead, he also got Kansas starting center David McCormack and backup center Mitch Lightfoot into foul trouble. In the process, he became the first player to ever post six double-doubles in the same NCAA Tournament. He reached 31 double-doubles for the season, which is tied with David Robinson for college basketball’s single-season record.
Bacot injured his ankle in UNC’s 81-77 victory against Duke in the national semifinals on Saturday. Before Monday’s title game, he was seen going through his own specialized warmup instead of completing the usual pregame warmup routine with his teammates. He appeared to be walking gingerly while trying to get loose.
But once the game began and Bacot was loose, he helped the Tar Heels dominate in the toughness-related categories. In the first half alone, the Tar Heels built an 18-2 edge in second-chance points. His play drew the praise of coach Hubert Davis during his first-half in-game interview.
“He’s doing terrific,” said Davis. “I’m so proud of him, 50% or 2%, him on the floor is good news for Carolina basketball.”