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Saturday May 28th

UNC men's basketball sheds first-half woes to defeat Furman Paladins, 74-61

Senior guard Leaky Black (1) plays defense during the game against Furman at the Dean E. Smith Center on Dec. 14.
Buy Photos Senior guard Leaky Black (1) plays defense during the game against Furman at the Dean E. Smith Center on Dec. 14.

The North Carolina men's basketball team (8-2, 1-0 ACC) pulled away from Furman (7-4) to snag a  74-61 win after a closely-contested first half on Tuesday night. 

What happened?

Sophomore forward Dawson Garcia exploded out of the gate with the Tar Heels’ first seven points in the first three minutes. Garcia hit a 3-pointer on the first possession, followed by two easy layups —  putting UNC up 7-0 before Furman interrupted his run with a timeout.

Following the timeout, the Tar Heels continued their scoring attack as Garcia stayed hot and others got involved. However, the Paladins began to catch fire as well, building momentum with a few layups and 3-pointers, bringing the game within two points with under 13 minutes to go in the first half. 

At that point, graduate forward Brady Manek began to assert his dominance in the paint by snagging two offensive rebounds for layups in consecutive possessions before a media timeout. 

He also provided the spark to keep the Tar Heels in the lead, pitching in a layup and a 3-pointer amid a rough stretch of empty possessions and turnovers midway through the first half. 

Yet, UNC continued to struggle defensively, allowing an and-1 and another layup to put Furman within one with five minutes before halftime. 

Both teams continued to trade buckets down the stretch. After a 3-pointer by the Paladins’ Alex Hunter, Furman took its first lead, 36-34, at the three-minute mark. 

The first half ended in a tie — 39 all. This was the second time UNC was not in the lead at halftime in the Dean Smith Center this season. 

The Tar Heels came out hot on the offensive side in the second half. A jumper by Garcia, two fastbreak dunks by junior forward Armando Bacot and a quick five points by senior forward Leaky Black put UNC up by seven within the first four minutes. 

Bacot continued to get active in the paint, hustling down the floor on defense and following his teammates’ misses with a key put-back to keep building on the lead. 

With 13 minutes left to go, the Tar Heels’ lead was back up to 12, and the lead remained protected through the final buzzer with improved defensive play and the continuation of dominance in the paint. 

Who stood out? 

Garcia had the best game for the Tar Heels, leading the team with 20 points and a 58.3 percent  shooting mark. He also grabbed 10 boards, with four resulting in second chance opportunities for the UNC offense. 

Bacot and Manek also had strong showings with their dominant paint presence. They combined for seven offensive rebounds and 27 points — all of which were scored in the paint except for one 3-pointer from Manek. 

When was it decided?

This game was decided as soon as the second half started, as UNC came out with more urgency on offense and more focus on defense. The Tar Heels also continued to feed the big men, finding Bacot for multiple layups and dunks to pull away from the Paladins. 

Other players like sophomore guards Caleb Love and R.J. Davis got more involved in the scoring column down the stretch to close out the win. 

Why does it matter?

The Tar Heels are now 8-2 on the season, yet as the first half displayed, this team has a lot more work to do on the defensive end. It has been a pattern this season to be in close battles early with numerically inferior opponents until later in the game — showing some issues with inconsistency. 

Despite their struggles, the Tar Heels have prevailed for the most part this season and have shown some bright spots on offense, especially with their exceptional guard play and the athletic versatility of their bigs. The bigs’ impact, with their size and talent, was essential in notching the win againstFurman. 

When do they play next?

UNC will face its toughest test of the season at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. on Saturday, Dec. 18, when they face off against the No. 4 UCLA Bruins. 

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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