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Off the cuff: It's a little surprising that Armando Bacot didn't play against Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels not only needed to stop a losing streak but it was the first conference game of the season.

And it's a little surprising that it was Bacot's call. Coach Hubert Davis was under the asumption that Bacot would play. I can't imagine Roy Williams or Dean Smith finding out from a player that he's not playing just minutes before the game.

The way it has worked in the past is that it's the team trainer's call. That's because, in the past, players always wanted to play and had to be told that he couldn't.

Perhaps the potential money players can make in the NBA is a factor in players' minds. Carolina really could have used Bacot, even if he was just 80 percent.

I was also a bit surprised that Coach Davis freely admitted that he was surprised by Bacot not playing.

"Well, it is his call," Coach Davis said. "I can't make somebody play. So, it is his call. We didn't know until game time. I was going under the assumption that he would play, and when he came back and said he didn't feel like he could, then we moved forward."

The words, "I can't make somebody play" means something. I think Coach Davis thought Bacot's shoulder discomfort wasn't a big enough injury to keep him out, and that he thought he should play.

Virginia Tech 80, Carolina 72
Without Bacot, UNC loses 4th in a row

Losing nonconference games to tough opponents is one thing but falling in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener is another. North Carolina, playing without preseason All-America player Armando Bacot, fell at Virginia Tech 80-72 for the Tar Heels fourth loss in a row. (12/4)

Carolina fell behind two minutes into the game and never led again as the Hokies - behind the hot shooting of Hunter Cattoor, who had 13 points, all in the first half - took a 37-27 halftime lead.

The Tar Heels' 27 points was the season-low for a half. Things got worse as the Hokies, this time behind big man Justyn Mutts' game-high 27 points, took a commanding 18-point lead in the second half.

Using a scrambling, pressure defense, UNC made a run, going on a 19-8 spurt over six minutes to draw within three at 67-64 after a Caleb Love steal and acrobatic shot high off the backboard with 3:05 to play.

But Virginia Tech hit 10 straight free throws down the stretch and Sean Pedulla hit an open three to wrap it up.

"We've had a hard week," UNC coach Hubert Davis said. "I'm disappointed but I'm not discouraged." He told the players after the game that he's not panicked and he's convinced it will be a great basketball team by the end of the season.

They'll have to shoot better - they got behind by shooting 39 percent in the first half - and they'll need Bacot back. Bacot, who is nursing a sore shoulder, made the call as to whether or not he could go, Coach Davis said.

"Without Armando in the lineup, they were able to get in the post easily," Coach Davis said adding that he was under the assumption even during warmups that Bacot would play.

Love, R.J. Davis and Pete Nance each scored 18 points for the Tar Heels.

Virginia Tech improves to 8-1 overall and 1-0 in the ACC.

Carolina, 5-4 overall and 0-1 in the conference, hosts Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon.

Box score

UNC's R.J. Davis struggles to split a double team in a conference-opening loss to Virginia Tech. (UNC Sports Information photo by Maggie Hobson.)

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