Updated: Nov 20, 2022
On Tuesday night, Carolina improved to 3-0 on the season, as they took down Gardner-Webb 72-66 inside a sleepy Smith Center. The Tar Heels entered this game looking to put together their best effort of the season, and that simply didn’t happen as they let another overmatched, undersized opponent push them to the brink. UNC led just 26-22 at the half, as they were held to under 30% shooting from the field, and they were once again out-rebounded, a theme that has carried over from the first two games of the season. In the second half, UNC built an eventual 47-31 lead, but Gardner-Webb would eventually claw back, and make it a one-possession game. For the game, Carolina shot only 38% from the field, as compared to 41% for the Runnin’ Bulldogs. The perimeter shooting woes continued, as the Heels were 8-25 from behind the arc, but they were able to hold the opposition to 7-20 from behind the arc. For the first time all season long, Carolina won the battle of the boards, as they grabbed 40 rebounds, compared to the 38 for Gardner-Webb. More importantly, UNC didn’t allow double-digit offensive rebounds, and that’s the main reason why they won the rebounding battle. GW’s bench would also outscore UNC’s 19-3, and they dominated the paint 32-14, as Carolina’s offense has been all out of sorts to start the 2022-23 season.
Gardner-Webb entered tonight’s game at 0-2 after starting the season with losses to Colorado State, and Stephen F. Austin, and they were the 340th rebounding team in the country, yet took Carolina took the brink. You have to credit the opponent because it isn’t fair to not recognize the things they did well, but for the third straight contest, UNC didn’t play a brand of basketball that honestly doesn’t warrant the #1 ranking in college basketball.
UNC did put four starters in double figures, led by Caleb Love, and his 20 points on 7-17 shooting. Pete Nance had his best game in a Tar Heel uniform, as he totaled 18 points on 6-9 shooting before fouling out. R.J. Davis recorded his second career double-double, while also leading the team in rebounding with 10. As for Gardner-Webb, they were paced by Anthony Selden, the younger brother of former Kansas standout Wayne Selden, and his game-high 21 points, on 7-12 shooting. Julien Soumaro, who entered the game as their leading scorer, dropped in 17 points, as the Runnin’ Bulldogs leave tonight’s game with a lot to build off of in a positive way.
In his postgame conversation with Jones Angell on the Tar Heel Sports Network, Hubert Davis was audibly frustrated with his team’s effort and passion and even went as far as to say that this team lacks energy right now. That wasn’t expected coming off the way last season ended, and an off-season full of hype, but right now it’s evident that this team is going through some things, as they are still adjusting to playing with pressure and expectations. Here’s what to take away from another UNC win:
Pete Nance Breaks Out: Without the Northwestern transfer, it’s likely that Carolina would’ve been trailing at halftime, Nance poured in 16 points on 5-7 shooting, including knocking in three triples, Nance would finish the game with 18 points before fouling out, but it was nice to see him put the ball in the basket after Hubert Davis made it a focal point to start tonight’s game.
Rebounding: For the first time this season, UNC wasn’t out-rebounded as they won the battle of the boards, 40-38. R.J. Davis led the team with 10 total rebounds, and Armando Bacot was right behind with him 9. After allowing over 30 total offensive rebounds in the first two games combined, UNC limited Gardner-Webb to 8 offensive rebounds tonight, rewarding the defense in the halfcourt. Conversely, this team needs to start imposing its will on the offensive glass, as for some reason Bacot hasn’t been the rebounder we expected him to be, and Nance is still figuring out how to play in the UNC system.
Free Throw Shooting: Carolina’s offense hasn’t been pretty this season, and that’s why tonight’s 18-21 performance from the foul line was important. Scoring with the clock stopped is imperative with the offense struggling and tonight Carolina was able to capitalize, and that’s a big reason why they won.
Bench Points: Even though Hubert Davis played 5 guys off the bench, led by Seth Trimble’s 15 minutes, Carolina only got 3 points off the bench, all from the aforementioned Trimble. While Davis is tinkering with new lineups and players, as a way to develop more depth, at some point the reserves need to start producing, or Davis will be back to playing his starters more extensively. The additions of Donovan “Puff” Johnson and Jalen Washington, can’t come soon enough.
Points in the Paint: After giving up 50 paint points to the College of Charleston, UNC allowed 32 tonight, and was outscored 32-14 in that area. It’s no secret that Carolina needs to defend better, but they need to be more aggressive in getting to the rim as well. That’s the best way to get Bacot and Nance going, along with generating better looks from the perimeter.
Energy: Hubert Davis stated it, and R.J. Davis echoed it, when he spoke with Adam Lucas, that Carolina simply needs to play with more energy. This team is getting beaten in every hustle stat imaginable, and with that, this team isn’t having fun. Last year Carolina played down the stretch with contagious energy, and that was a big reason why they made it all the way to the national championship. You’d have to imagine the next couple of days will be spent trying to recreate such energy and passion.
Up Next: UNC is back in action on Sunday when they host James Madison at 12 PM.