The No. 19 North Carolina men’s basketball team (2-0) survived an upset scare against Brown University (1-1) on Friday night, holding on to win 94-87 and start the season at 2-0.
While UNC’s first-half offense was efficient, Brown matched the Tar Heels step for step.
After Brown took the initial 2-0 lead, senior forward Leaky Black got on the board first for UNC with a pull-up midrange jumper. Several possessions later, sophomore guard Caleb Love made his first three-pointer of the night to give UNC a 9-4 lead.
The team could not create separation, however, as Brown answered North Carolina’s offense nearly every time down the floor. At the first media timeout, UNC trailed 13-11.
The high-scoring first half saw both teams trade buckets nearly every time down the court. Graduate forward Brady Mankek went on a personal 5-0 run to give UNC a 16-13 lead, but Brown followed that up with two unanswered makes.
Moments like this dominated the half, with seven ties occurring in the period.
Towards the end of the first half, sophomore guard RJ Davis connected on two consecutive three-point shots to tie the game at 47 before Brown's Aaron Cooley made one as time expired, putting the Tar Heels behind 50-47 at halftime.
The Bears flourished from midrange in the first half, with guards Dan Friday and Paxson Wojick leading the team in scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the first 20 minutes.
North Carolina relied heavily on junior center Armando Bacot for the better part of the first half, as he punished Brown’s defenders early on. He finished the half with 14 points, shooting a perfect 6-6 in the process.
The high-powered offensive display continued in the second half. Bacot scored six points before the first media timeout, bringing his point total to 20 with plenty of time to go in the half. Friday continued to produce for Brown, making a pair of shots in this same span.
Brown eventually took a 68-62 lead in the second half, but UNC began to chip away at the deficit. Transfer forwards graduate Brady Manek and sophomore Dawson Garcia combined for a quick eight points that tied the game at 70.
It took time for either team to pull away, but Davis delivered another stretch of back-to-back three-pointers to give UNC an 81-77 lead over the Bears. From there, the game began to slow down and UNC played to hold on to its lead. UNC ran the clock down when it had the ball, keeping possession away from Brown.
With 43 seconds left in the game, Davis hit his sixth three-pointer of the night to put the Tar Heels up six. From there, UNC went on to win, 94-87.
Who stood out?
Early on in the game, Bacot led the charge for North Carolina, making his presence known inside with 14 first-half points. He finished the game with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
It was Davis, however, that secured the win for the Tar Heels. His timely three-point shooting and strong ball movement gave him 26 points and six assists at the end of the game. He finished the game with a career-high six three-pointers.
When was it decided?
For the majority of the game, neither team was able to pull away. With both teams exchanging shots until the end, it was Davis who created separation with his two straight threes to put the team up 81-77. From there, UNC kept the lead and went on to win the game.
Why does it matter?
Though Brown may not be seen as a comparable opponent to UNC, winning a close game in this fashion showed the team’s ability to close down the stretch early on in the season. The team struggled defensively, but posting 94 points shows the separation it can have on any opponent this season. The Tar Heels had two 20-point scorers on Friday, whereas one 20-point scorer was a rarity just a season ago.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels ended its early-season home stand on Friday and will travel to Charleston, S.C. next week, where they will face the College of Charleston Cougars (2-0) on Tuesday.
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