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UNC men's basketball empties its bench in 100-point effort against The Citadel

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UNC junior guard Caleb Love (2) shoots the ball during the men's basketball game against The Citadel at the Dean Smith Center on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. UNC beat The Citadel 100-67.

Hubert Davis hadn't planned on playing the bench as much as he did in North Carolina's 100-67 victory over The Citadel on Tuesday night.

However, the reserve players played so well in the 33-point win that UNC's head coach had no other choice. With the second unit in, UNC fended off a push by The Citadel to retake the lead midway through the first half. After that, the players stayed in.

“We needed a spark in the first half,” Davis said. “We needed energy and enthusiasm. I was just going down the line to be able to find that.”

In the final home game of 2022 — a tune-up before UNC faces No. 23 Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic and Michigan in the Jumpman Invitational — there may have been no better time to give the bench significant minutes. 

More than 40 of UNC’s 100 points came from its bench. First-year wing Tyler Nickel led all bench players with 16 points and two steals, sophomore wing Dontrez Styles added nine points and six rebounds and first-year guard Seth Trimble set the table with five assists and two steals.

First-year forward Jalen Washington – a highly-rated recruit hindered by knee injuries – also played his most meaningful minutes of the season so far.

“With me, you will always get a chance,” Davis said. “And not just one chance — you will get chances throughout the year. But the thing that I can't control is when, where, how and the manner in which you'll get those opportunities.”

Davis praised Styles for swinging the momentum of the game in the first half. With UNC leading by a slim 30-25 margin and struggling to find an offensive rhythm, Styles hit a three-pointer with 6:10 remaining to spark an 18-8 run before the end of the half.

Nickel led all players in scoring in the second half, having scored all 16 of his points in the final 20 minutes. He attempted eight three-pointers in the game, compared to the six he had taken in the eight games prior.

The Virginia High School League's all-time leading scorer said he has always been confident in his shot — something his teammates recognize. Junior guard Caleb Love, who took the most shots of any Tar Heel last season, said Nickel is a confident shooter.

“He thinks every shot is going in,” Love said. “Anytime I see him on the court, I'm looking for him because he can shoot the ball, and he does have that confidence.”

Davis expressed the same trust in Nickel. He pointed to a moment in the second half where Nickel made the extra effort for an offensive rebound — an area where Davis wants more of his players to get involved. Nickel didn’t come down with the rebound, but it kept the ball alive and led to his first three-pointer of the game.

“I never have to tell Tyler ‘can you go harder?’” Davis said. “He’s a guy that always competes on both ends of the floor.”

Similar to UNC’s victory against Georgia Tech on Dec. 10, the team attacked well in transition against The Citadel. Davis praised Trimble for his ability to push the ball on the break and make sound decisions.

Tuesday’s game was an indication that the team trusts its bench to make plays in pivotal moments.

“One through fifteen, we all can play,” Styles said. “Even the walk-ons. Creighton Lebo, he tough. He gives us trouble in practice. We all got good chemistry, we all can hoop. It’s good to have that depth, man.”

@dmtwumasi

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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