UNC center Armando Bacot, before re-injuring ankle, makes NCAA Tournament history in final vs. Kansas

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USATSI

Armando Bacot’s ankle injury was a serious concern for North Carolina entering Monday night’s national championship game against Kansas, and it ended up coming to a head in the final minute of the 72-69 loss when he went down hard on it again. But the Tar Heels’ center posted a legendary first half before that.

Despite clear limitations, Bacot racked up 12 points and 10 boards in that first half alone as UNC took a 40-25 lead into the break. He also got both of Kansas’ centers, starter David McCormack and backup 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 finished the game with 15 points and 15 rebounds, but the injury in the final minute caused him to miss the end of the game. He lost his footing with 49 seconds left and Kansas leading 70-69. The Jayhawks showed sportsmanship and did not take advantage of a 5-on-4 opportunity, allowing Bacot off the court before resetting and completing the win.

Bacot first 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,” Davis said. “I’m so proud of him, 50% or 2%, him on the floor is good news for Carolina basketball.”

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