After suffering two losses over this past weekend in Connecticut, the North Carolina men's basketball team (4-2) came back to the Smith Center to defeat the UNC Asheville Bulldogs (2-3) at home on Tuesday night, 72-53.
North Carolina started with sophomore forward Dawson Garcia, junior forward Armando Bacot, sophomore guard RJ Davis, sophomore guard Caleb Love, and senior forward Leaky Black on the court. Garcia gave the Tar Heels an early advantage by scoring a 3-pointer for the first shot of the game. Davis followed this with an attempt to score, but Bacot cleaned up Davis’ attempt with a successful shot for the Tar Heels.
Even though they started the game off slow, the Bulldogs played scrappy in an attempt to keep up with North Carolina. When Love went up for a shot early in the half, UNC Asheville’s Drew Pember rejected it. Pember had a strong presence on the court, blocking several North Carolina shots throughout the first period.
As the half went on, the Tar Heels began to roll. With the score once tied at 5-5, North Carolina followed that with a 12-point scoring streak. It wasn’t until Bulldog forward Coty Jude shot a good 3-pointer that the scoring streak was broken. A relatively strong first half for the Tar Heels on both ends concluded with the Tar Heels in the lead, 37-24.
Both teams started the second half at a slower pace, but that didn’t last long. Late in the first half it seemed like the Tar Heels had the game under control, but that changed when they entered the second half. Asheville played hard to close the score gap, getting it down to just seven points at one point in the half. North Carolina kept up its scoring efficiency, remaining at over 50 percent shooting for the entire half, but an increase in turnovers kept the score close. A sluggish second half didn’t discourage North Carolina. The Tar Heels continued to fight hard on the court and, after contributions from several players, got back to their winning ways, ending the game at 72-53.
Who stood out?
Bacot put 22 points on the board, making this his third 20-point game of the season. Bacot went 8-for-14 from the field and had seven total rebounds against the Bulldogs.
When was it decided?
At the end of the first half, the Tar Heels seemed to have the win secured with the score at 37-24, but that changed as the teams entered the final half of the game. The start of the second half was very slow for both teams, with the first two minutes remaining scoreless. The Tar Heels were stagnant as they struggled to score and started to stumble on the court, allowing the Bulldogs to catch up.
That slow start didn't last forever, though. Toward the latter half of the second period, while their lead dropped to as low as seven points, the Tar Heels continued to shoot and play well on defense. North Carolina’s high number of turnovers allowed for the Bulldogs to score more than the Tar Heels would’ve liked, but that didn’t stop the team from increasing the lead, securing the 72-53 win.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels came into this game on a two-game losing streak, which had pushed them out of the AP top 25 after falling to No. 6 Purdue and No. 17 Tennessee in the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament. North Carolina has had a bumpy season so far with a 3-2 record, so this game against the Bulldogs was a chance to get back on the right track.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will remain at home in the Smith Center to host the No. 20 Michigan Wolverines (3-2) on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at 9:15 p.m.
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