Sometimes, a team will win because of some good things, while other times, it will win despite some bad things.
And sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.
The North Carolina men’s basketball team provided a happy medium in Tuesday’s 94-83 win against College of Charleston.
Even with a double-digit victory, UNC still needs to focus on basic fundamentals to extend its unbeaten start to the season. The Tar Heels’ 17 turnovers almost doubled the Cougars’ total of nine, and the team was outrebounded 12-7 on the offensive glass.
“They're well-coached,” head coach Hubert Davis said. “They're extremely talented, they can score, they can defend. They really put a lot of pressure on us.”
The game was extremely fast-paced, as Charleston came out of the gates with five three-pointers just seven minutes into the game.
“Our guys have not been in an environment like this in at least two years,” Davis said. “One of the questions that they (the media) were asking me before the game is asking, ‘Are guys going to be ready? Do they know what to expect?’ And I told them, ‘Honestly, no, we haven't been in this environment.’”
Junior forward Armando Bacot tallied a double-double, leading the team with 12 rebounds and a career-high 24 points. His aggression on the boards helped UNC keep Charleston off the defensive glass, as the Tar Heels held a 42-24 advantage in that category.
“That's why he's one of our captains,” Davis said. “Because not only can he lead us on the court, he can lead us off the court. His work ethic and how competitive and consistent he's been throughout the entire season has been a real benefit for us as a team.”
Although the first half didn’t seem promising, as the Tar Heels entered the break down by six, Bacot kept his confidence in the team’s ability to outweigh the bad with the good.
“We knew we had to limit our turnovers,” Bacot said. “Just in the first half we were turning the ball over, kind of beating ourselves, so we just kind of had to weather the storm in the second half.”
Although Davis expressed doubt before the game regarding his players' readiness to compete in such a high-energy, quick-paced environment, sophomore guard Caleb Love said that he was fired up and prepared.
“I live for these moments,” Love said. “I wasn't really rowdy or anything like that. I was ready for the moment.”
Despite scoring just four points in the first half, Love ended with 22 points, 12 of which were in the last seven minutes of the game. From the free throw line he was 10-12, which came in clutch for the Tar Heels’ second-half comeback.
Love mentioned that the coaches have put confidence in him, which seems to have helped him loosen up on the court and cash in on bigger plays.
“Caleb is a big-time player,” Davis said. “I was really proud of him, how he settled the team offensively, he got us in sets and he really got the ball into the hands of the people when they were wide open.”
Davis noted that the team’s first half woes stemmed from their difficulty getting the ball in and out of bounds underneath the basket. He said that when the team did catch the ball, it was too far from the spot needed to make the right passes.
In the second half, though, Davis said the Tar Heels came out more physical, and were able to catch the ball where they wanted it. Love helped facilitate this with his ability to see the court.
“(Love) had a good understanding of when to dip into his bag offensively and shoot the basketball, but also penetrate and dish,” Davis said. “He had some beautiful bounce passes for layups to Brady Manek and also Armando Bacot. I thought he did an outstanding job running the team in the second half.”
Love was the game leader in assists, with six total, which attests to his talents as a coordinator on the court. His hot hand and sharp eye on offense helped combat the numerous turnovers and lacking defense in the first half.
Just three games into the season, UNC has already had some unexpectedly close matchups. If the team looks to continue to win, it will need to focus on several areas — namely, turnovers.
So far, the Tar Heels have shown they can make up for stolen points with their offense, but the coming weeks will be a test of whether or not the good can continue to outweigh the bad.
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