This season has proven to be slightly bumpy for the North Carolina men’s basketball team so far.
Coming back from a two-game losing streak in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament, the Tar Heels responded by returning to the Dean E. Smith Center to defeat UNC Asheville, 72-53, on Tuesday.
UNC exploded in the first half of the game, and at one point, built a 22-point lead. This hot start allowed the Tar Heels to maintain control for the remainder of the half, as they entered the break up 37-24.
Despite the early success, the Tar Heels came out sluggish after halftime. Turnovers piled up, as UNC Asheville scored 19 points off UNC’s mistakes. After the Tar Heels failed to score for the first few minutes, the Bulldogs began to make a comeback, and the once imposing deficit was trimmed to seven with just over 12 minutes to play.
Although the Bulldogs made their bid to keep things interesting, UNC’s defense locked in until the offense was able to regain its footing. For the game, the Tar Heels held UNC Asheville to 26.5 percent shooting, including only 18.9 percent from behind the arc.
Sophomore guard Caleb Love said he noticed improvement in the team’s defense, but said there is still work to do on offense.
“Defensively, I feel like we definitely took a step forward today, we just have to put up a full 40 minutes on that end,” Love said. “Offensively, we just have to run our stuff a little harder and stick to the principles of what coach says.”
After suffering two tough losses over the weekend, the win against UNC Asheville seemed to be a step in the right direction, but the Tar Heels still have a long way to go before they can be the team they want to be moving forward.
“We should’ve beat them by a lot more than we did,” graduate forward Brady Manek said. “I don’t know what it is, but we got to get better.”
One of the biggest difference makers for the Tar Heels this season has been junior forward Armando Bacot — and this trend continued in the win on Tuesday.
Bacot was able to put 22 points up for North Carolina and had a total of seven rebounds.
“This whole game I wanted to assert my dominance,” Bacot said. “When I get the ball, most of the time good things happen.”
As the Tar Heels look forward to having just over one week off before a big matchup with No. 20 Michigan, head coach Hubert Davis is celebrating the small wins while the team works to perform at their full potential.
“I felt like this was a great opportunity for us to get better as a team,” Davis said. “Tonight, to hold a team to 26 percent, I’m really encouraged by that.”
After the brief eight-day Thanksgiving break, North Carolina will host the Wolverines in the ACC Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 1.
Overall, the Tar Heels learned several lessons this game as they attempt to get better for the rest of the season: strong offensive and defensive plays are necessary to secure the win, success comes from working as a team and there is always room for improvement.
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