Tuesday night, the Tar Heels closed out their non-conference home slate against The Citadel in a game where they were hoping to build off of the win in the Smith Center on Saturday over Georgia Tech.
Similar to Saturday’s game, the Tar Heels closed the first half strong, outsourcing The Citadel 12-4 in the final 3:44 of the half, extending their lead from six to fifteen heading into the locker room. That late success carried over into the second half, as the Tar Heels began the second half on a 20-8 run as they pulled away for a comfortable 100-67 win, the most dominant of the season so far. Caleb Love led the way for the Tar Heels with 17, while Pete Nance had 16, as did Tyler Nickel off the bench.
The team began the game doing what Hubert Davis said on Saturday he was wanting to see more of on the offensive end of the floor, playing inside out. Armando Bacot scored twelve of the first 26 points, including eight straight at one point in the middle of the half. The success inside opened up those catch-and-shoot looks that hadn’t really been there for most of the year and the team capitalized on them. The team hit 7 of their 15 attempts from beyond the arc, including four of the final five of the first half that helped them to create the separation.
That hot shooting from behind the arc carried over into the second half, allowing the Tar Heels to race away from an opponent for the first time this season. The team shot 54.5% from the field in the second half on their way to outsourcing the Bulldogs 52-34 and earning biscuits for the first time since January 29th of last year. 34 of the 52 points in the half came from the bench, an extremely positive sign for a team whose bench had been relatively quiet the entire season before tonight.
Tyler Nickel: As we mentioned above, the Tar Heels had a tremendous night from their bench and it was led by a career performance from Nickel. He dropped in a career-high 16 points, all of which came in the second half, on 5-10 shooting, including 3-8 from behind the arc. Nickel looked confident even after that tough first half and continued to play well on the defensive end of the floor, showing why he deserves to be a part of the rotation moving forward.
Dontrez Styles: Styles had only played in five games this season for a total of 23 minutes coming into the night, but he burst back on the scene in a big way on Tuesday night. He brought some much need energy for the team off the bench early and carried that throughout the night on his way to playing a season-high sixteen minutes and tying a career-high with nine points. He also had another really strong night on the glass, as well, ripping down six rebounds, the most of anyone off the bench.
Sharing the Ball: For a second straight game, the Tar Heels’ ball movement was simply outstanding. The team assisted on 13 of their first 14 baskets and finished the night with 24 total assists on their 32 made field goals, easily topping the previous season-high of 17 from earlier this season against Portland These last two games have been huge for a team that ranked at the bottom of the country in assist percentage heading into this past weekend.
Three-Point Shooting: The Tar Heels entered Tuesday shooting just 28.8% from beyond the arc, which ranked 337th in the country. They took a major step in the right direction in this one, though, knocking down 15-31 from deep, finishing with seven or more three-point field goals in both halves of the game. Love led the way, hitting a team-high four from the outside in this, while both Nickel and Nance had three of their own. There was a lot of concern about this team’s perimeter shooting coming in and rightfully so, but hopefully this is the start of this team heating up from deep.
Rebounding: This wasn’t quite as dominant a showing from the Tar Heels on the glass as they had on Saturday, but it was pretty darn close. They finished the night +16 on the glass in what was another balanced night rebounding-wise. Six players finished with three or more rebounds, including six or more from three of them.
Armando Bacot: Bacot officially became the career record holder for the Tar Heels in double-digits rebound games on Tuesday night. He ripped down 11 boards on the way to his 62 double-digit rebounding game, which breaks the record that was previously held by Hall-of-Famer Billy Cunningham that he tied on Saturday. His 14 points combined with those 11 rebounds to give him his 55th career double-double, which puts him within five of tying the program record also held by Cunningham.