NEW ORLEANS – North Carolina gave Kansas all it could handle in Monday night’s national championship game here in the Big Easy, but these Tar Heels by the time the final horn sounded were the literal definition of walking wounded. In their 72-69 loss to the Jayhawks, each of the Tar Heels’ top three scorers went down with various maladies, and off-the-bench hero Puff Johnson added himself to the lengthy injury list late after vomiting on the court (and later in the trash can just off the court) following a blow to the stomach.
The biggest injury of them all was the only one that lingered from the weekend to North Carolina star big man Armando Bacot, who on Saturday late against Duke appeared to injure his ankle. Bacot returned to the game vs. Duke, rehabbed religiously in the lead-up to the title tilt after the Final Four win and then gave 38 gutty minutes on Monday night. But in the final few minutes, he tweaked the ankle and did not return.
“The last 24 hours, I’d say 15 of them were spent just trying to get my ankle better,” Bacot said. “Right before the game I couldn’t even really jump. Luckily I was able to play 38 minutes.”
Second-leading scorer Caleb Love, who days earlier dropped 28 points on rival Duke, also tweaked an ankle in the second half on a freak play while backpedaling and taking a misstep. Love played all 20 second-half minutes, but was gimpy for most of them and finished 5 of 24 shooting on the night.
Yes, the irony is real: you could say the Heels were ultimately felled by feet. Go figure.
Bacot’s injury was easily the most consequential – and perhaps controversial – of them all. With less than 90 seconds remaining, Bacot drove to the basket and aggravated the same ankle as the one he injured in Saturday’s game. A replay of the injury appears to show that the hardwood beneath him gave way.
“I thought I made a good move and I got the angle I wanted,” he said….