While the Carolina soccer team might be the most stressful ranked team the program has ever experienced, the basketball team made its own case for the title tonight. The country’s No. 1 took on the College of Charleston and played an uninspired defense only to knock out the Cougars in the second half and catch fire offensively. It’s early days, there’s still plenty of basketball to go, but the question is will those two facts keep Hubert Davis from going insane.
The first half felt like these two teams had a shooting contest, with the Cougars and Heels shooting 52.5% and 50% from the field, respectively. Charleston guard Dalton Bolon heeled through to score 14 points on 6-8 shots in 12 minutes of action. The other source of pain for the Tar Heels was Ante Brzovic, who came off the bench and scored 12 points on a 5-5 shoot and even threw in a pair of threes for good measure.
While this all sounds awful, the pleasant surprise of the half was Leaky Black, who hit all four of his shots to earn 10 points as the team leader. He really had one of his better offensive performances we’ve seen from him as the Tar Heel and looked very comfortable shooting the ball from anywhere on the floor. He finished the game with 15 points, allowing four of the five starters to finish the game in double digits.
After playing weak defense in the first half, the Heels decided they would not play any more games in the second half. They kept the Cougars at 45.5% for the last 20 minutes, which while still not great is a lot better than before. Carolina only allowed two threes in the second half after the Cougars lost six of them in the first 20 minutes.
Things were also looking better because of UNC’s offense – after scoring just one point in the first half, Armando Bacot went off for 27 points and deducted five rebounds. His aggressive play in the paint lit a fire among his teammates, most notably Caleb Love, who added 17 of his 25 points. To say it was a two-half story is an understatement: the team we saw in the second half was a more aggressive, hungrier, and more efficient basketball team than what we saw for ourselves in the entire UNCW game. Now they just need to find a way to play that consistently.
What changed schematically in the second half, Hubert Davis tightened his rotation. We saw a lot from the bench in the first half but some of the lineups were cooked up by the Cougars. We still saw quite a bit of Seth Trimble looking good alongside Caleb Love and RJ Davis. Tyler Nickel also got some fire and finished the game with eight points thanks to the Cougars sending him to the line a couple of times. I still don’t know what Davis’ true rotation looks like deeper into the season, but it’s hard to imagine Trimble and Nickel not getting quality minutes.
Overall, this game was 20 minutes of rampaging defense followed by 20 minutes of the country’s No. 1 team showing why they are among the country’s best. It’s hard to shake the feeling that we might see a few more games like this, but hopefully they’ll finish as strong as tonight if that’s the case. The Heels’ next game is next Tuesday at the Dean Smith Center against Gardner-Webb.