The No. 1 North Carolina men’s basketball team posted a slim 72-66 victory over Gardner-Webb on Tuesday night in the Dean E. Smith Center.
Much like North Carolina's first two games of the season, the Tar Heels had a slow start against the Runnin’ Bulldogs. Graduate forward Pete Nance made a three-pointer, his first of the season, to put the Tar Heels on the board first. Gardner-Webb responded with ferocity though, as junior Anthony Selden stole the ball from UNC star forward Armando Bacot and finished a coast-to-coast dunk.
A media timeout was much needed for UNC when they were already down four minutes into the game. Coming out of the break, another three-pointer by Nance tied things up at eight.
From there, UNC pulled ahead, thanks in part to a foul-heavy period of the game for Gardner-Webb. The Tar Heels didn’t fall behind again in the first half, aided heavily by three-pointers. In the first fifteen minutes of game time, North Carolina made four three-pointers, three from Nance and one from junior guard RJ Davis. The Runnin’ Bulldogs found success in the paint, evidenced by their five dunks n the first half, but it wasn’t enough to pull ahead. At the half, Gardner Webb trailed, 22-26, in the low-scoring affair.
Junior guard Caleb Love had the first points of the second half with a layup, and the Tar Heels went on to score ten consecutive points. The three-ball continued to be the cornerstone of their success, as they put up three in the first five minutes of the half. Love was responsible for two of these deep shots, while the other came from Davis.
The game became increasingly competitive in its final minutes, as Gardner-Webb limited its deficit to five, but a focused approach for UNC matched with fouls by the Runnin’ Bulldogs allowed North Carolina to stay ahead for the win.
Who stood out?
Nance lit up the scoreboard for his first big game in a UNC uniform. In the first half alone, he put up 16 of the team’s 26 points with three three pointers. He aided on defense as well, with a blocked layup in the twelfth minute that elicited a roar from the crowd. The transfer saw significantly less playing time in the second half due to foul trouble, but remained the team’s second highest scorer, with 18 points in 26 minutes played.
Both Love and Davis also served as essential players in Tuesday night’s win. Love was the top scorer of the game, putting up 20 points. Davis had a double-double with 14 points and ten rebounds.
When was it decided?
Although the Tar Heels led for the majority of the first half, their lead in the half never exceeded nine points, and they were up by a mere four at halftime. UNC came out hot in the second half. UNC's ten-point scoring run seemed to suggest that the team would soon pull away, and their lead did consistently stay in the double digits, but Gardner-Webb did make a comeback push towards the end of the game. However, the Runnin’ Bulldogs failed to turn the game in their favor.
Why does it matter?
North Carolina entered this game as heavy favorites against a Gardner-Webb team that lost its first two games this season. However, the Tar Heels didn’t perform like the No. 1 team people expected, having to fight for this win.
The team didn't truly finding its footing until the second half. Even then, this game was a battle until the final buzzer. As more competitive matchups approach, North Carolina may have to adjust its approach in order to find continued success.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will remain at home for Sunday’s noon matchup against James Madison University.
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