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Sunday October 17th

Tar Heels overcome sluggish start to defeat College of Charleston 79-60 in season opener

<p>First-year guard Caleb Love (2) drives the ball in the game against the College of Charleston on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020.</p>
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First-year guard Caleb Love (2) drives the ball in the game against the College of Charleston on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020.

Despite a rocky first half, the North Carolina men's basketball team defeated College of Charleston 79-60 on Wednesday night, behind 17 points from first-year guard Caleb Love and a double-double from first-year forward Day'Ron Sharpe. 

What happened?

Offense was hard to come by at the start of the game — the first field goal wasn't scored until nearly two minutes in on a short jumper from senior forward Garrison Brooks. Even as the Tar Heels struggled to score, they dominated the paint, with 10 of their first 16 points coming right at the rim. Charleston started out by missing its first 11 shots, but came alive later on in the half, cutting what was a 12 point lead down to just four after two made 3s and a layup. 

By halftime, the lead was just seven points as North Carolina struggled to out-rebound or defend the much smaller Cougar team. Both teams were tied at 18 rebounds at the end of the first half, despite Charleston's tallest player, Osinachi Smart, who had 11 rebounds for the game, standing at just 6-foot-8. UNC struggled to play consistent defense throughout the first half, limiting fast break chances and giving up points. 

North Carolina's woes continued into the second half, as the Cougars started out shooting 55.6 percent from the field six minutes into the first half, eventually taking their first lead of the game off a corner 3 by redshirt first-year guard Dontavius King. UNC would respond by going on a 28-8 run, powered primarily by the Tar Heels' first year players. The offense settled down, and Sharpe and first-year forward Walker Kessler began to dominate the paint, as Love forced his way time and time again to the free throw line. 

With the game in hand, North Carolina was able to clear its bench with just a couple minutes left, finishing the game with a 79-60 victory. 

Who stood out? 

Despite his subpar shooting night, Love's ability to get to the free throw line propelled him to be North Carolina's leading scorer in the blowout win, scoring 17 points on 4-for-11 shooting while hitting all eight of his free throws. The first-year guard also had four assists and just one turnover in his first stint as floor general for the Tar Heels.

Sharpe and Kessler looked like the front court of the future for North Carolina, despite Kessler not entering the game until well into second half. Sharpe was second in the team in scoring with 13 points, along with five offensive and ten defensive rebounds to become just the seventh player for UNC to record a double-double in their first game. Despite only registering five minutes in the game, Kessler made his impact as soon as he entered, using his size to dominate the much smaller Cougars team, scoring six points on 3-for-4 shooting to go with four total rebounds. 

When was it decided?

Despite the inferior competition, the Tar Heels struggled with defense and rebounding throughout the first half and into the second, letting the game stay closer than it should have been. But once Charleston took a one point lead, North Carolina finally found its offense, going on a 37-17 run to finish out the game with a 19 point victory. 

Why does it matter?

At least for one game, the Tar Heels proved they can handle adversity better than last year. Instead of folding once a weaker team took a second half lead, UNC rallied behind a talented group of first-years it sorely lacked last season to take the win. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels next play during the Maui Invitational hosted this year in Asheville, North Carolina, starting on Nov. 30 against UNLV. 

@bg_keyes

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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