So far this season, the North Carolina men’s basketball team has won the games it’s supposed to — but not necessarily in the ways it wanted to.
The first two games have shown some promising highs as well as areas of improvement, especially on the defensive side, where the Tar Heels have had some difficulty getting stops.
After allowing Loyola Maryland to score 67 points in the season opener, UNC squeaked by Brown in a back-and-forth fight Friday, winning 94-87. The Tar Heels will have a chance to improve defensively and make a statement in their next contest on Tuesday against Charleston.
Although they won’t have the home crowd on their side, the Tar Heels will have the feeling of a potential upset from their last game fresh on their mind and will also have familiarity with their opponent.
UNC defeated Charleston 79-60 in its season opener last year at the Dean E. Smith Center. In his collegiate debut, sophomore guard Caleb Love dropped 17 points with four assists, and the Tar Heels dominated their opponent in second-chance points and points off turnovers.
Junior forward Armando Bacot and sophomore guard RJ Davis also contributed with double-digit point totals in last year’s matchup and will look to have similar impacts in Tuesday’s game.
To the Tar Heels’ advantage, they are coupling previous experience and offensive firepower with the additions of graduate transfer Brady Manek and transfer sophomore forward Dawson Garcia, who are averaging 17 and 9.5 points per game, respectively. This season, UNC has found little problems in lighting up the scoreboard, averaging 88.5 points per game on over 52 percent shooting, including over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
However, there are some defensive concerns going into Tuesday’s game. UNC has given up 77 points per contest, which is significantly higher than the 55.5 points per game the team allowed in its first two games last season. There has been some struggle defending the interior, as opponents have scored significant chunks of their points in the paint.
Like the Tar Heels’ previous two challengers, the Cougars are no pushover, especially when the ball is in their hands.
Charleston is averaging 90.3 points per game, and its two main scorers have been forward John Meeks and guard Brenden Tucker, who are averaging 17.7 and 16.7 points, respectively.
The Cougars are rather careless with the ball, though, coughing up 14.3 turnovers per game. Applying solid pressure on the ball will be a must for the Tar Heels if they look to collect some extra possessions by getting stops on defense.
On the offensive end, UNC must keep the turnovers down because of Charleston’s ability to create them. Charleston’s opponents give the ball away 16.7 times per game, and as a fast-paced team that puts up 74 shots per game, extra possessions can provide a boost to its offense.
Ultimately, UNC's ability to get stops will determine how this game plays out.
If North Carolina is able to fix some of its defensive issues, expect the team to make a statement and win by a large margin. If not, this game could be another high-scoring shootout in which the Tar Heels will look to grind out a win in the end.
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