It wasn’t the easiest of wins, but Carolina improved to 2-0, as they outscored the red-hot Charleston Cougars, 102-86 on Friday night in the Smith Center. The #1 ranked Tar Heels trailed 50-43 at the break, and used a big second half to run away with the win. Armando Bacot scored 27 points in the second stanza, and finished with 28 points for the game, along with 6 rebounds. Caleb Love had an all-around good game, scoring 25 points, grabbing a career-best 9 rebounds, and handing out 6 assists. Leaky Black also added to the offensive attack, as he scored 15 points, on a perfect 6-6 from the field, including knocking in two, three-pointers. R.J. Davis also scored in double figures, as he totaled 11 points, on 4-8 shooting, as we saw the type of offensive firepower we expected entering the season.
For the game, Carolina shot a blistering 60%, including 71% in the final 20 minutes, as they were an efficient 19-21 from inside the arc in the second stanza. Charleston, shot 49% and attempted 15 more shots than UNC. The main reason UNC had fewer total shot attempts was that they went to the foul line 38 times, converting on 27 of their freebies. The most discouraging aspect from this game was that once again, Carolina was out-rebounded by a mid-major opponent, as the Cougars won the battle of the boards 35-32, including 15-8 on the offensive glass.
After the opening win on Monday against UNC-Wilmington, Hubert Davis admitted he thought his team played both nervously and anxiously. Tonight he thought his team was soft and he challenged his team at the halftime break. When asked if he liked the way his team responded in the second half, here’s what Davis had to say: "I did like the response out of our guys in the second half. One of the things that we talked a lot about at halftime, I told them that there is nowhere to go. There's no exit route, there's no stairs, there's no door. You're going to have to stay in and you're going to have to compete." After the run to the national championship game last season, it appears Davis has a good measure of where his team currently, is and knows how to motivate them, as they try to get back where they fell short last year.
Carolina is 2-0, but it’s clear they have some things to work on before the non-conference competition heats up, let alone conference play begins, But that’s the beauty of college basketball, is that it allows you the opportunity to get better as the season moves along, luckily right now for the Tar Heels, they are learning where they need to improve, while also winning on the court:
Armando Bacot: Bacot may not have recorded a double-double but he dominated the second half, scoring 27 points, after having just one shot attempt at the intermission. There aren’t many teams in the country that has an answer for Armando, let alone Charleston and they found that the hard way, as Bacot bullied their entire frontcourt. A big focus for him this off-season was improving at finishing through contact, and he took a step in the right direction in the second half at just that tonight.
Defense: Simply put, Carolina didn’t guard anybody in the first half, allowing 50 points in the first 20 minutes, after allowing just 56 total points on Monday. The Cougars not only scored those 50 points, but they also did so on 53% shooting while connecting on 6-14 triples. Charleston’s leading scorer Reyne Smith only scored 3 points in the game but was picked up by Dalton Bolon who scored a team-high 16 points. The Tar Heels have work to do, staying in front of the basketball, and their communication on ball screens, while more advanced than this time last year, needs work as well.
Rebounding: Carolina being out-rebounded in its first two games wasn’t on anyone’s bingo card, and after thinking Monday was just a bump in the road, it’s fair to worry about Carolina’s rebounding woes to start the season. This is the first time since the 2003-04 season (Roy Williams’s first season back in Chapel Hill) that the Tar Heels have been out-rebounded by 7 or more on the offensive glass in back-to-back contests. The fact that it’s happened against CAA opponents is very eye-opening. Armando Bacot has yet to reach double-digit rebounds, and Pete Nance is learning how to position himself in the Carolina system, and while Caleb Love and Leaky Black both contributed on the boards in this game, it wasn’t enough. Hubert Davis has the flexibility to play smaller at times this season but will be reluctant to do so until he can trust they can hold their own on the glass.
Caleb Love: His all-around game on display against Charleston will get the attention of NBA scouts, as he controlled the game from a scoring, rebounding, and assists standpoint. His 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists were needed, but that didn’t stop him from getting a stern talking too from his head coach, after an ill-advised three-point attempt, and a tomahawk dunk in the closing moments after the outcome was already determined.
Tyler Nickel: The high-scoring freshman from Virginia scored his first points as a Tar Heel, as he scored 8 points, and showed a three-level scoring display that will be fun to watch during his Tar Heel career. We’ve only played two games, but it does appear that Hubert Davis trusts both Nickel and fellow freshman, Seth Trimble, more than he trusted either Dontrez Styles or D’Marco at this time last year.
Up Next: Carolina plays host to Gardner-Webb on Tuesday at 8 PM in the Dean Dome. The game will be televised on the ACC Network
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