The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 8th

No. 1 UNC men's basketball shakes off early rust to defeat UNCW 69-56 in season opener

UNC junior guard RJ Davis dribbles the ball during the men's basketball game against UNCW in the Dean Smith Center on Monday, Nov. 4, 2022.
Buy Photos UNC junior guard RJ Davis dribbles the ball during the men's basketball game against UNCW in the Dean Smith Center on Monday, Nov. 4, 2022.

Despite a slow start in the first half, the No. 1 North Carolina men’s basketball team picked up a 69-56 home win over UNCW in its season opener on Monday night.

What happened?

UNCW jumped out to an early 8-5 lead entering the first media timeout, but from there, North Carolina began to settle in. The Tar Heels held the Seahawks scoreless for nearly four minutes, and after seven points from junior guard RJ Davis, UNC took a 15-13 lead with 11:02 remaining in the half.

With 8:33 remaining in the first half, Davis fell to the court and limped off holding his right leg. After a quick check-in with head trainer Doug Halverson, Davis moved back to the front of the bench. By the under-eight timeout, the Tar Heels were still struggling from the field – knocking down just four of their first 15 shots.

Davis returned to action at the 5:43 mark with the Tar Heels leading 19-17. On the ensuing possession, graduate transfer Pete Nance lowered his shoulder and buried a jumper from the elbow. After that, two more jumpers gave UNC a six-point lead with under three minutes until the break. In the final minute, several free throws and inside layups helped UNC build a 32-21 halftime lead.

Coming out of the break, graduate wing Leaky Black left the game with an ankle injury at the 18:08 mark and was replaced by sophomore guard D’Marco Dunn.

Slowly, UNC began to dominate inside. Bacot went to work on the low blocks and out-muscled double teams to score two quick layups to bring the Tar Heels’ lead to 16 with just over 15 minutes remaining. Black then re-entered the game a minute later and UNC headed into the under-12 timeout with a 43-31 advantage.

After holding the Tar Heels scoreless for nearly four minutes, the Seahawks slowly chipped into the deficit and cut the lead to eight with under 10 minutes to play. But after UNC got a stop of its own, Davis found first-year guard Seth Trimble in transition for a two-on-one layup to stop the bleeding.

Both teams traded hoops for the next several possessions, as UNC maintained its double-digit lead. Two consecutive and-one opportunities stretched the margin, which helped the Tar Heels come away with a 69-56 victory in the final minutes.

Who stood out?

Despite the brief injury scare, Davis was productive in the opener with 17 points on 6-11 shooting.

After making just two of his shots in the first half, Bacot responded with improved play in the second and finished with 16 points. Junior guard Caleb Love was also a primarily contributor — chipping in 17 points of his own.

When was it decided?

Although UNC seemed to be in control for most of the night, UNCW made things interesting by bringing the margin to single digits with just under 10 minutes to play. However, an ensuing 6-0 run helped the Tar Heels withstand the threat and pull away with the win.

Why does it matter?

Following a loss in the national championship game last season, the Tar Heels opened the new year in the win column.

Although the team was stout defensively in the first half, the offense failed to establish much of a rhythm in the first 20 minutes – registering just one assist and shooting just under 38 percent from the field.

UNC also struggled with getting out and running the break, as the Tar Heels did not record their first fast-break basket until 9:32 remained in the second half. Although the team was able to dominate inside a number of timely buckets in the paint, the Tar Heels — who were out-rebounded 37-32 — will need to reestablish some type of offensive identity to prepare for tougher tests that lie ahead.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will return to the Smith Center on Friday to take on College of Charleston. Tip-off will begin at 7 p.m.  

@hunternelson_1 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com 

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