<![CDATA[The Daily Tar Heel: Mens basketball]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2022 16:40:12 -0500 Mon, 28 Nov 2022 16:40:12 -0500 SNworks CEO 2022 The Daily Tar Heel <![CDATA[Despite back-to-back losses, UNC men's basketball leaves Phil Knight Invitational with their heads up]]> After a four-overtime loss to No. 18 Alabama, the North Carolina men's basketball team slunk back to the locker room physically and emotionally exhausted. When head coach Hubert Davis walked in, he told his players to pick their heads up.

The Tar Heels seemed to leave it all on the court in Sunday's grueling matchup. However, a career-high 34 points from Caleb Love, an impressive defensive performance from Pete Nance and big-time plays from several role players still weren't enough to outlast the Crimson Tide in the 103-101 loss.

UNC left the Phil Knight Invitational with two losses against teams that, on paper, the top-ranked Tar Heels should have beaten. However, Davis refused to call the Thanksgiving weekend in Portland a disappointment.

"I was disappointed in a couple of outcomes, but I leave very encouraged," Davis said.

On Friday, UNC let an eight-point lead against Iowa State slip away in the game's final minutes. Against Alabama, the Tar Heels battled in a back-and-forth affair in which neither team ever seemed to hold an edge.

Both teams had ample opportunities to end the game in the final seconds of regulation and each of the overtime periods. Every time, the potential game-winners didn't fall.

Love missed two 3-point attempts at the end of the second half and first overtime. Alabama's Jahvon Quinerly also missed several shots that could have potentially sealed the game.

"A lot of late clock execution - you know, good or bad - really comes down (to) 'Does the ball go in or not?'" Davis said. "We had a number of looks in those situations - midrange, jump shot, three - that normally we make, and we just didn't make it."

Ultimately, the outcome came down to a hectic final 30 seconds. After Alabama center Charles Bediako scored down low to put his team up 102-101, he blocked a floater attempt from Love on the other end.

Bediako's block was originally waved off and called for goaltending, which would have given UNC the lead with nine seconds remaining. Instead, the referees reversed the call and ruled it an inadvertent whistle, awarding the ball to Alabama who had the possession arrow.

Then, Alabama's Jaden Bradley turned the ball over on the inbounds play, caused by UNC first-year guard Seth Trimble deflecting the ball off the hands of a Crimson Tide player. The Tar Heels still couldn't capitalize on the opportunity, as Nance turned the ball over on the ensuing inbound attempt and UNC was forced to foul.

Bradley made one of two free throws with four seconds remaining in quadruple overtime, and Alabama walked away with the victory. After the nearly three-and-a-half hour game, the UNC players were left wondering what they could have done to come out on top.

"We're one play away, and it's not even necessarily about scoring," Nance said. "Getting one stop, one rebound, getting a steal, you know, we're that close to beating a really good Alabama team."

There were plenty of positives to take away from the game, particularly when it came to role players stepping up in big moments.

UNC junior wing Puff Johnson again flexed his high motor, registering several crucial put-back buckets while also adding three steals. Redshirt first-year center Will Shaver nailed two free throws at the end of the first half, his first points as a Tar Heel, to cut Alabama's lead to three points going into the break.

"At any given time, your name could get called - Coach says that all the time, and you just got to be ready," Love said. "And those guys are ready for sure."

Priority number one for the Tar Heels is bouncing back, and they will have a chance to do that against No. 11 Indiana in Bloomington on Wednesday.

"It's a long season," Davis said. "I feel like we're taking taking steps forward to be the best that this year's team can be."


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<![CDATA[UNC men's basketball loses to No. 18 Alabama, 103-101, in four-overtime thriller]]> The No. 1 North Carolina men's basketball team lost in four overtimes to No. 18 Alabama, 103-101, to round out their play in the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday.

What happened?

A hard-fought 40 minutes resulted in the two teams tied, 77-77.

Senior forward Armando Bacot blocked a shot from Alabama's Brandon Miller to open the first overtime period, and junior wing Puff Johnson made two free throws to open scoring. On the other end, Johnson blocked a 3-point attempt from Alabama's Jahvon Quinerly.

Miller tied the game up from the free-throw line after being fouled under basket, and Quinerly drained a jump hook to put Alabama ahead, 81-79. UNC guard Caleb Love tied it back up with a drive inside, but the Tar Heels struggled to seal the game as Love committed an offensive foul to turn the ball over and Bacot bobbled a defensive rebound out of bounds.

With 30 seconds remaining in the period, Love poked the ball away from Quinerly and Johnson dived for the loose ball to give UNC the final possession. Love missed a step-back 3-pointer before the buzzer sounded, and the teams headed into a second overtime period tied at 81-81.

The Crimson Tide came out of the break strong with a dunk from center Charles Bediako and a lay-in from Quinerly, but Bacot answered with an easy dunk off the pick and roll. Bediako and Love exchanged baskets, but a floater from Jaden Bradley put Alabama up by four points with two minutes remaining in the period.

UNC refused to back down though, as Johnson made a crucial put-back basket and Love capitalized off a steal from fifth-year wing Leaky Black to tie the game at 89 points apiece. An offensive foul on Love gave Quinerly a chance to win the game with the clock winding down, but Nance blocked him to force triple overtime.

Nance connected with Love for the first points of the period, and then junior guard RJ Davis blew by his defender to go up, 93-89. After Love drew a charge, Nance scored inside to round out a six-point run from North Carolina. A 3-pointer from Miller put the Crimson Tide within two points, and, with 28 seconds left in the period, Quinerly was fouled by Davis and tied the game up from the line.

Neither team could find the game-winner, sending the game to an improbable fourth overtime. Bradley drove inside for the first basket of the period, and Love tied the game up at 98-98 after being fouled going for a rebound.

A Bediako put-back gave Alabama its 100th point, but Black answered with a three off the dribble to retake the lead. With 24 seconds left, Quinerly found Bediako at the rim to make the score 102-101 in favor of the Crimson Tide.

Who stood out?

Caleb Love scored a career-high 34 points on 13-36 shooting, while Davis, Bacot, Black and Johnson also contributed double-digit scoring performances. Johnson also made several critical plays on both ends for the Tar Heels, likely earning himself more playing time going forward.

Alabama's Mark Sears led the Crimson Tide with 24 points, 21 of which came from the three-ball. Quinerly also had an impressive showing with 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists. Bediako tallied a double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds.

When was it decided?

UNC and Alabama traded the ball back and forth in the closing minute as the two exhausted teams committed sloppy turnovers.

With nine seconds remaining, a goaltending call on Bediako was overturned to an inadvertent whistle, returning possession to Alabama. UNC first-year guard Seth Trimble forced a turnover on the inbounds to return the ball to the Tar Heels, but Nance turned the ball back over with an errant pass on the inbounds and UNC was forced to foul.

Bradley sunk one of two free throws to go up, 103-101, and Davis missed a half-court shot to end the game.

Why does it matter?

This could have been anyone's game, but UNC leaves the Phil Knight Invitational disappointed after losing back-to-back games against lesser-ranked opponents. The Tar Heels, who certainly will not be ranked No. 1 come Monday, will look to rebound when they hit the road Wednesday to play No. 11 Indiana, another formidable opponent.

When do they play next?

On Wednesday, the Tar Heels will head up to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The late game will tip off at 9:15 p.m.


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<![CDATA[Iowa State's Caleb Grill cooks Tar Heels' defense in UNC's first loss of the season]]> For much of Friday night, it was a battle of the Calebs.

After trading shots to open the game, UNC junior guard Caleb Love gathered a tip-out with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half. He put the ball on the floor and immediately sized up Iowa State's Caleb Grill.

Crossing over to his right, Love drove to the rim, stopped just before reaching the paint, and banked in a floater over Grill. Love turned and ran down the court, but not before reaching his hand down to motion that Grill was too small.

He might've celebrated a bit too soon.

In UNC's matchup against Iowa State in the Phil Knight Invitational semifinal, Grill recorded a career-high 31 points off of seven three-pointers. His explosive performance - coupled with three late turnovers by senior forward Armando Bacot - clinched a 70-65 win for the Cyclones and handed the top-ranked Tar Heels their first loss of the season.

"(Grill) is somebody percentage-wise, (who) wasn't shooting the ball well coming into the game," UNC head coach Hubert Davis said. "But it really doesn't matter - he was feeling it today."

It wasn't just Grill's volume that proved deadly - it was the opportune timing in which the senior decided to strike.

Down by seven points with under four minutes to go, Grill went to work. With a three-pointer in the corner, over the outstretched arms of Love, he brought the Cyclones within four points.

"For Iowa State to come back, they needed to make plays and they did," Davis said. "Caleb Grill's three, he was hot the entire game."

Following a dunk from Iowa State's senior forward Robert Jones and a UNC turnover, Grill found himself open again.

Despite a late, leaping close-out attempt by Love, Grill was able to tie the game at 61 points apiece on a near 28-foot bomb.

As the ball went through the net - marking the Wichita, Kan., native's seventh three-pointer of the night - Grill landed and held his staggered stance emphatically before turning in Love's direction.

"He hit a lot of crazy shots," Love said. "A lot of shots that were over our hands and a lot of deep ones. It was tough (to defend) obviously because he was hitting a lot of tough shots."

One of Grill's toughest shots of the night came soon after he tied the game.

With a turnover by Bacot at the other end of the floor, the Cyclones quickly regained possession.

After faking a hand-off to senior guard Gabe Kalscheur on the perimeter, Jones passed the ball to Grill and set a high screen. Unable to fight around it in time, Love found himself lagging behind as Grill launched another shot in his face - this time to take the lead, 63-61.

"They just made more plays than us down the stretch," Bacot said. "The guards made a lot of tough shots, we turned the ball over a few times. I don't know, it just kind of slipped out of our hands."

While it was hard to predict a performance of this caliber from a player who put up just five points in his previous outing, Grill's success on Friday in the Cyclone's set pieces should come as no surprise against the Tar Heels. Grill's lights-out performance was largely due to the senior's ability to shoot off a variety of screens and dribble hand-offs - something UNC has struggled to defend in the early stages of the season.

Love addressed these deficiencies on Thursday after giving up 12 three-pointers to Portland. On Friday, Love was forced to discuss the same topic once again - but this time, following a tough defeat.

"(Grill) played out of his mind," Love said. "Credit to him. We definitely have to be better on the defensive end, all around."


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<![CDATA[Late-game implosion dooms UNC men's basketball against Iowa State, 70-65]]> The North Carolina men's basketball team lost to the Iowa State Cyclones, 70-65, in the semifinals of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament on Friday.

What happened?

Caleb Grill made Caleb Love bite on a shot fake from outside the arc, then the Iowa State senior guard drained the open three for the first points of the game. Love responded with a baseline jumper down the court, but Grill blocked a Love three-point attempt just a few possessions later.

Coming out of the first media timeout, Love turned the ball over and Jaren Holmes made the transition lay-in to make the score 11-9 in favor of UNC. The Cyclones nearly tied the game soon after, but fifth-year wing Leaky Black blocked a cutting Hason Ward, and Love drew a foul and made both free throws to bring UNC's lead to four points.

Grill hit a three in response, but Bacot made a basket, Love hit a three and junior forward Puff Johnson stole the ball off the inbounds and made a contested floated to go up, 20-12. Grill hit another three, but Johnson made another impressive play to find an open Bacot down low for an easy dunk.

Grill hit yet another three off the dribble, his fourth, to cut his team's lead to six. Soon after, Holmes made back-to-back buckets and Grill made a transition lay-in after Love turned the ball over again. After a missed three-point attempt from Love, Holmes hit a three to tie the game, 30-30, with three minutes remaining in the first period.

Love found Bacot inside for a dunk to break the tie, the Cyclones answered with two free throws, and then the UNC big man hit a jump hook from the baseline to make the score 34-32 going into the half.

Love and Grill went right back to their guard battle out of the break, trading buckets through the first few minutes of the second half. A few minutes in, Iowa State forward Robert Jones hit two straight baskets to give the Cyclones the lead, 40-39.

Black was given the assignment to guard Grill in the second half, but it didn't seem to matter as Grill hit his fifth three-pointer of the game off a screen to put the Cyclones up by four. Nance responded with a turnaround post move for his first points of the game, and then first-year guard Seth Trimble tied the game back up from the charity stripe, 43-43.

Grill hit a pull-up jumper from the elbow to being his scoring total to 21, but Davis answered with a mid-range shot to keep the score even. UNC continued to successfully draw shooting fouls, tallying five-straight points from the line. A Nance three-pointer made the score 53-47 in favor of UNC, giving the Tar Heels some distance.

Who stood out?

Grill was electric for Iowa State, scoring 31 points off an efficient 11-15 shooting. The senior guard hit seven three-pointers, despite the fact that he was shooting 16.7 percent from behind the arc coming into the game.

UNC's team had a balanced day offensively, with Davis scoring 15 points, Bacot scoring 13 and Love scoring 12. Johnson had his best performance since his return to the court with eight points, six rebounds, two steals and an assist.

When was it decided?

With just over three minutes to play, Grill hit his sixth three-pointer to cut Iowa State's deficit to four, 60-56. Soon after, Nance went 1-2 from the free throw line and Grill his his seventh three-pointer of the day to toe the game at 61-points. After Bacot turned the ball over, Grill hit a deep two to give the Cyclones the lead.

Holmes then drew a foul and made both free throws to go up, 65-61. Over the course of Iowa State's nine-point run, Bacot turned the ball over three times.

Love then air balled a three-point attempt and missed another shot in the paint with less than a minute to play, forcing the Tar Heels to foul. UNC couldn't dig itself out of the hole, and the Cyclones won, 70-65.

Why does it matter?

Iowa State was UNC's first Power Five opponent of the season, a major test for the No. 1 Tar Heels.

The Cyclones's stifling defense gave UNC's offense trouble, and late-game turnovers eventually spelled doom for the Tar Heels. On the other end of the ball, UNC's guards had no answer for Grill, yet another example of a deep-shooting guard taking advantage of North Carolina's sub-par perimeter defense.

UNC looked like it had a chance to take control of the game late in the second half, but instead an implosion led the Tar Heels to squander away the lead and walk off the court with their first loss of the season.

When do they play next?

UNC will play the loser of the UConn-Alabama matchup in the third-place game, with is set to tip off at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Pete Nance leads No. 1 UNC men's basketball to 89-81 win over Portland in Phil Knight Invitational]]> The No. 1 North Carolina men's basketball team (5-0) defeated Portland (4-3), 89-81, in UNC's first matchup of the Phil Knight Invitational.

What happened?

Spearheaded by junior point guard Caleb Love, the Tar Heels' offense was firing on all cylinders at the beginning of the first half, as UNC shot 64.3 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the three-point line through the first ten minutes of the game.

The Tar Heels' hot start earned them an 18-11 lead on the Pilots, but Portland scored six unanswered points off two UNC turnovers and a missed three-pointer by senior center Armando Bacot to tie the score at 18.

The two teams traded blows until the Pilots scored a transition layup off a missed mid-range jumper from graduate forward Pete Nance, putting the Tar Heels behind 23-22. After falling behind, UNC quickly regained its lead and maintained it until the halftime break thanks to Love continuing to score efficiently and timely three-pointers from Nance and sophomore guard D'Marco Dunn.

But the Pilots kept themselves within striking distance of the lead thanks to forcing several turnovers and strong shooting from beyond the arc. Dunn's first score of the game put the Tar Heels ahead 40-38 before halftime.

Both teams started the second scoring the ball effectively, as each team scored at least eight points within the first four minutes of the half. UNC was the first team to fall behind, however, as they allowed the Pilots to score five unanswered points to put them behind 53-48.

After losing the lead when Portland broke the 48-48 tie, the Tar Heels didn't reclaim an advantage over the Pilots for over six minutes until Love drove to the basket, collapsed the defense and passed back out to Nance at the top of the key for a wide-open three-pointer that put UNC ahead 66-64.

The game remained tightly contested after the Tar Heels reclaimed the lead, as the lead changed twice and neither team held more than a five-point advantage until junior guard RJ Davis made two free throws to give UNC a seven-point lead.

The Tar Heels, however, allowed Portland to hang in the game, and the Pilots drew to within three points of their lead with just 50 seconds remaining, prompting a UNC timeout. Davis connected on a mid-range jumper to make it a two-possession game with just 30 seconds left, effectively sealing the win for the Tar Heels. UNC closed out the game by making free throws and sealed the 89-81 win over Portland.

Who stood out?

Love led the way for the Tar Heels in the first half, scoring 16 points on 7-9 shooting from and 100 percent shooting the three-point line. Love also contributed three steals, three assists and two rebounds in the first half.

In the second half, Love continued to have the hot hand, adding seven points to his first-half contributions. Love also finished with four assists, three rebounds and three steals.

Nance also had a strong outing in the Tar Heels' winning effort, matching his career high with 28 points. He recorded seven rebounds while providing spacing for UNC guards to work in the paint with his accurate three-point shooting.

When was it decided?

The Tar Heels' matchup with the Pilots was a wire-to-wire matchup that was anybody's game to win with 50 seconds left to play after Portland scored a three-pointer to draw within three points of UNC's lead. But Davis' clutch mid-range jumper with just 30 seconds left in the game essentially sealed the win for UNC.

Why does it matter?

Aside from maintaining their undefeated record and bolstering their case to remain the nation's top-ranked team, the Tar Heels' victory against Portland is significant because it shows that UNC can win games in several ways.

The Pilots made it clear that they wanted to neutralize Bacot's impact in the paint, sending double teams his way almost every time he got the ball in the low post. Normally, Bacot's offensive production in the paint is a critical component of the Tar Heels' chances of winning, but regardless of Bacot only contributing two field goals through the first 35 minutes of the game and just four the entire game, UNC found a way to win.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels' next matchup is Friday, November 25th, at either 3 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. against the winner of the Iowa State-Villanova matchup.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[UNC men's basketball displays new cohesive identity in 80-64 win over James Madison]]> The North Carolina men's basketball team took a step forward on Sunday in its 80-64 win over James Madison - and it might all be thanks to an 8.5x11 piece of paper.

After practice on Thursday and, ultimately, in the aftermath of three uninspiring wins over lesser opponents, head coach Hubert Davis asked his team to collectively write down what they wanted their identity to be. On Saturday, the players came to practice with a thought-out list, typed up on a piece of paper and signed by all 18 members of the team.

"It's an agreement, but it's also a promise that through sunny days and cloudy days, that we're going to stick together," Davis said. "That's what we talked about before the game - let's just stick together - I thought they did that today."

This new identity was on display as for the first time all season, as the Tar Heels played a complete game of basketball and led for all 40 minutes against the Dukes. The offense, which had struggled for the first two weeks of the year, seemed to come to life, as the team had its second-highest scoring output of the year and matched its season-high in assists with 14.

Junior guard RJ Davis led UNC in both categories with 21 points and five assists - his highest totals since helping the Tar Heels upset top-seeded Baylor in the NCAA Tournament in March.

"I feel like I have a good IQ of when to pass and when to score," RJ Davis said. "My teammates are a tremendous help of me being able to do that in terms of finding me and taking a good shot, and when I don't have a good shot, I can give it up to them."

On both sides of the floor, the Tar Heels dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Dukes 50 to 34. Senior big man Armando Bacot and graduate wing Leaky Black notched career-highs in rebounds with 23 and 12, respectively.

Then, to finish it off, the defense played as a unit, limiting a James Madison team who previously averaged 105.2 points per game to just 64. Rather than allowing the Dukes to operate their patented perimeter-oriented offense, the Tar Heels forced them to take uncomfortable shots inside the paint, which led to the team shooting a season-low 34.8 percent from the field.

"We weren't doing a really good job of playing good, team defense," Bacot said. "Me and a lot of us were letting our individual play affect us as a team, and I think today we did a great job of helping the helper and then helping that helper. When we're playing defense like that, we're hard to beat."

Having devised what they want their identity to be four games into the season, the Tar Heels need to hold onto that mindset for the rest of the year, especially with a trip to the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland ahead of them.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[UNC men's basketball bounces back in big win over James Madison, 80-64]]> The No. 1 North Carolina men's basketball team (4-0) defeated James Madison (4-1), 80-64, in the Dean E. Smith Center on Sunday afternoon.

What happened?

The Tar Heels jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead after fifth-year forward Leaky Black found graduate forward Pete Nance inside for an open layup, followed by a free throw and a layup from senior forward Armando Bacot.

The Dukes got on the board with a three-pointer from guard Takal Molson over junior guard Caleb Love. On the next possession, junior guard RJ Davis swung it to a wide open Love at the top of the key, who answered with a triple of his own over Molson.

UNC continued to stifle James Madison on the inside, leading to Davis being fouled on a fastbreak. After he hit both free throws, the Tar Heels forced another tough shot, and Davis took it coast to coast, muscling his way inside for a contested layup.

Junior wing Puff Johnson checked into the game for the first time this season, eliciting a spirited applause from fans. The Dukes continued to only find success from the outside, with all 12 of their early points coming from downtown. After Molson hit another three, Black responded with a corner triple.

First-year guard Seth Trimble checked into the game at the under 12 and muscled his way inside for a left-handed layup. On the next play, Davis zinged the ball to Trimble in the corner, who hit his first career collegiate three-pointer to extend the lead to 24-12.

The teams continued to trade downtown shots, with James Madison forward Julien Wooden connecting from downtown, followed by Nance hitting a corner three off an assist from Love. Davis hit another three to extend the lead to 33-17.

Highlights to close out the half included Bacot showing off some handle, spinning his way to a right-hand layup after starting from the top of the key. Additionally, sophomore guard D'Marco Dunn hit a three from the right wing, followed by Davis scoring a three in isolation with a crossover pull-up three from the right wing. The Tar Heels led 45-26 at halftime.

The Dukes came out in the second half firing on all cylinders with a 14-4 run, trimming the deficit to single digits at 40-49. Timely shots from Nance, Bacot and Black helped UNC maintain a nine-point lead, but James Madison continued to scrap for second chance points.

As the game got more physical towards the end, with both teams registering several fouls, the Tar Heels began to gradually pull away at the free throw line. The exclamation point of the game was when Johnson hit a three from the left wing. A few plays later, Johnson scored an and-one layup on a fast break.

Who stood out?

Bacot posted an impressive double-double, scoring 19 points and grabbing 23 rebounds on 5-11 shooting. He also shot significantly better from the charity stripe, going 9-12 on free throws. Additionally, Davis led the backcourt with 21 points and five assists.

Molson shined for James Madison, scoring 19 points, including shooting 3-6 from downtown.

When was it decided?

Though the Tar Heels held a commanding 19-point lead at halftime, they appeared to look complacent during the second half - settling for difficult shots, moving the ball less and reducing defensive intensity.

The Dukes managed to cut the lead to single digits with under eight minutes to go. It was only until the final seven minutes of the game where the Tar Heels seemed to dial back in, with Bacot and Davis leading the way on offense.

Why does it matter?

It's been a rather lackluster start to the Tar Heels' season, with first-half defensive woes plaguing UNC in non-conference play. During the first half, North Carolina's performances on both ends of the floor showcased a more accurate representation of what this group is capable of.

Bacot notched a double-double in the first half. Davis made timely passes and scored in isolation, true to his floor general role. On offense, the Tar Heels made open shots and didn't force contested ones, and on defense, they stymied the Dukes into uncomfortable shots.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will travel to Oregon this Thursday for the Phil Knight Invitational, where they will face Portland and either Iowa State or Villanova. Tip-off against Portland is at 1 p.m.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[After Gardner-Webb win, Hubert Davis says UNC men's basketball needs 'a hunger and a thirst']]> Following the North Carolina men's basketball team's narrow 72-66 win over Gardner-Webb on Tuesday, head coach Hubert Davis called out a seeming lack of motivation from his team.

"I really felt like at the beginning of the year that there would be a hunger and a thirst," he said. "I was excited about it because I felt like it was coming from different directions, different viewpoints."

One of those new directions was from graduate transfer forward Pete Nance, who finally found his footing wearing Carolina blue on Tuesday.

Nance came out of the gate with a high intensity, scoring 14 of UNC's first 18 points, and by the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half, he had 16 points, four rebounds and three blocks - all season-highs for him in a young campaign.

"I was glad I was able to get some shots to fall," he said. "I've been trying to shoot with confidence and it's good to see the work pay off and have some shots go in for me."

However, Nance's teammates didn't have as much success, shooting 4-for-24 in the half. The eight other players who registered minutes in the first half only scored a combined 10 points.

But even Nance found himself with a lack of hunger at times. In the second half, Nance only shot the ball twice, attributing this deficiency to playing within the flow of the game as well as battling foul trouble for most of the night.

"Obviously I picked up some fouls and was off the floor a good majority of the second half," Nance said. "It wasn't a conscious decision (to not shoot the ball) and all that mattered to me in the end was that we won."

Junior guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis picked up his slack after the break, helping the Tar Heels offensively, as well as on the boards.

Love scored 12 points in the first seven minutes of the second half to finish the game with 20 points. Meanwhile, RJ Davis scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds in the final 20 minutes, ending the game with a team-leading 10 rebounds and adding 14 points for his second career double-double.

"It was just me getting in a rhythm," Love said. "I had made a layup and I made a rhythm three. Everything else was just flowing through the game. I had a smaller guard on me, and I felt like I had the advantage, so I took advantage of him."

There was an absence of hunger and thirst from the Tar Heels when they needed to pull away, though. Despite going up 14 points just three and a half minutes into the second half, UNC failed to extend the lead, giving Gardner-Webb an opportunity to make a comeback.

North Carolina again went up by 14 points with 7:12 left in the game before Gardner-Webb shut down the UNC offense, going on a 12-3 run over the next four minutes to bring the score to 61-56.

Missed shots from both sides and the time winding down forced the Runnin' Bulldogs to intentionally foul North Carolina, allowing them to shoot free throws and put the game out of reach.

With tougher non-conference opponents on the horizon, the Tar Heels will have to to start each game playing their best basketball, or else there'll come a time when the buzzer won't bail them out.

"We're going to get the best out of every team we play, regardless of whether it's non-conference or conference play," Hubert Davis said. "We'll need to continue to talk about (hunger and thirst) and we'll continue to practice (having) it.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[UNC men's basketball ekes out narrow win against Gardner-Webb, 72-66]]> 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.

What happened?

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.

@lindseyashe_ | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Bacot 'upset' by lackluster first half following 102-86 win over College of Charleston]]> Despite the free biscuits, not everyone was happy - especially Armando Bacot.

With under thirty seconds left in North Carolina's bout against College of Charleston on Friday, junior guard Caleb Love exploded off the left wing, drew two defenders and lobbed it to Bacot for a thunderous jam.

The dunk served as the exclamation point of the night, securing the 100th point and awarding free Bojangles biscuits to delighted fans for the first time this season. UNC won 102-86.

But after the game, star center Bacot seemed disappointed. Dejected, even.

"I'm still upset with myself," he said. "I feel like I'm the one putting the team in these positions. I've been punishing myself for that."

Despite erupting for a monstrous 27-point second half, the only thing Bacot could acknowledge was the team's lackluster first-half display. At halftime, the preseason ACC Player of the Year had just one point and one rebound. He had also struggled to contain sophomore forward Ante Brzovic, who dropped 12 points off the bench on perfect shooting in the first half.

At halftime, head coach Hubert Davis challenged UNC to play with more physicality, telling his team they were being "soft."

"My generation, somebody calls you soft and it's real," Davis said. "But they were. We were soft in the first half."

Bacot seemed to take these words personally. Given his dominating run last year, it's not a surprise that Bacot is being so hard on himself. The senior forward has seen virtually everything during his time playing in the Dean E. Smith Center - everything except another national championship banner in the rafters. He believes the team's determination to accomplish such a feat starts with him.

"We go as I go," he said.

Bacot's extended leadership role has already been evident. When asked if he felt Love showcased a complete performance, Bacot was quick to point out flaws, saying, "he got a lot more he could've given us." Love, who finished with 25 points and a team-high six assists, also shot 1-9 from three and surrendered 14 first-half points to graduate guard Dalton Bolon.

Additionally, Bacot took the blame for graduate forward Pete Nance's underwhelming start to the season. He said his teammates have 'been doing a terrible job of getting (Nance) involved.' Nance, who averaged over 14 points per game last season at Northwestern, has yet to hit double figures this season.

It's easy for fans to yearn for former stretch forward Brady Manek and his value as a perimeter threat, especially when Nance hasn't connected from downtown yet. Because Manek played an integral role in last year's Final Four run, it's even easier to forget that he didn't become a regular in the starting lineup until January.

As UNC's most experienced player, fifth-year forward Leaky Black is the first to remind people of that.

"It's a process," Black said. "Everyone forgets how we looked at the beginning of last year."

Davis similarly reminded the media that it's only November, adding "there's growth and maturity for our team that has to happen."

But, for Bacot, there are no excuses. His sense of urgency couldn't be any clearer.

"I've been here for four years and I should just be able to dominate," Bacot said. "I think I'm the best player in the country and I just haven't been putting out that product so far. There's no time for any of those hiccups."


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Caleb Love helps Tar Heels ramp up defensive intensity in second half against College of Charleston]]> Every bucket converted by College of Charleston's Dalton Bolon in Friday's matchup against UNC was followed by a display of antics.

On the first play of the night, the graduate guard muscled his way baseline for a layup and talked his way down the court. Later in the half, he flashed a trio fingers in the air and tucked them into an imaginary holster after canning a pair of 3-pointers.

Every bucket. Every point scored. For Bolon, there was always a show.

But he had good reason. Despite North Carolina eventually pulling away from College of Charleston 102-86 on Friday night, Bolon's first-half explosion helped the Cougars take a seven-point lead into the break, and with it, raise questions about the Tar Heels' defensive efforts.

Nearly all of the Division II transfer's points came against one defender - Caleb Love.

"That was unacceptable of me in the first half for (Bolon) to get those bully-ball points," Love said. "Coach (Davis) told me I was being soft and I had to change it in the second half. I took it personally to do that."

Out of the break, North Carolina's streaky guard seemed to take the challenge from his coach well.

On the first Charleston possession, Bolon posted up Love on the high baseline. But instead of guarding from behind, Love fronted the graduate transfer and snuck around to intercept the ensuing entry pass. With the ball in his hand, Love took the Cougar turnover coast-to-coast and finished a floater over the top of Bolon.

"(Love) can literally be the best player in the country," graduate wing Leaky Black said. "I feel like with him, it's all mental - if he wants to (play defense)."

Of course, it wasn't just the defensive performance by Love that head coach Hubert Davis was critical of coming out of the break.

The second-year head coach made it clear that all of his players were playing 'soft' and that he challenged them to step up after being physically dominated by Charleston in the first half.

Seth Trimble stood as a sign of the turnaround Davis was searching for. The first-year guard drew an offensive foul and repeatedly ball-hawked Cougar guards over 30-feet from the basket.

"We think of Seth as one of the best defenders on this team," Black said. "His defensive IQ is crazy."

Yet, with the game still tightly contested midway through the second half, Charleston's offense continued to target Love. Bolon - who only scored four points after the half - posted up the UNC guard and slowly worked his way near the paint.

Rather than concede his ground, Love snuck around and swiped the ball from Charleston's leading scorer. The junior guard once again darted down the court before dishing it off to Trimble, whose bucket helped extend the Tar Heels' lead to 74-68.

Just over three minutes later, Love met graduate guard Ryan Larson at the rim and took the loose ball. After maneuvering through a trio of Cougars to finish an acrobatic layup, the junior flexed his way back down the court.

"We love when Caleb plays with that fire - it gets us all going," senior forward Armando Bacot said. "When he's being a dog like that and doing his thing, that's what it's all about."

Love's spark helped the Tar Heels force 11 turnovers and tally four blocks in the second half. UNC's increased focus on the defensive end led to immediate offense, capped by Love's tomahawk dunk in the game's final seconds.

On a night where things looked to be heading Bolon and the Cougars' way, Love made sure he got the last word.

"I just had to get downhill," he said. "Coach told me I'm best (when going) downhill, and that's exactly what I did. They couldn't stop me."


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[No. 1 UNC men's basketball uses second-half push to squeak by College of Charleston, 102-86]]> In a tightly contested game, the No. 1 North Carolina men's basketball team (2-0) eventually pulled away from the College of Charleston (1-1) to pull off a 102-86 win on Friday night in the Dean E. Smith Center.

What happened?

The Cougars knocked down the first shot of the night, but North Carolina's offense went to work shortly after. Graduate transfer forward Pete Nance worked his way toward the block before kicking it out to graduate wing Leaky Black for a corner three.

North Carolina would open up a five-point lead moments after the first media timeout, but Charleston responded quickly. The long ball ignited a quick 8-0 run for the Cougars which was capped off by Ben Burnham's 3-pointer to give the visitors a 14-11 lead.

At the 9:42 mark, with Tar Heels still struggling to find their groove from beyond the arc, Charleston continued to pour it on. Dalton Bolon used a quick jab to open up space to connect from distance to extend the Cougars' lead to six points.

In need of a spark, UNC turned to the play of two of its returning core pieces. Junior guard RJ Davis knocked down the second three of the night for the Tar Heels, swishing a stepback jumper from the corner. Shortly after, Black nailed his second triple, inching the Tar Heels within one.

But just as North Carolina appeared to be finding a rhythm on offense, Ante Brzovic displayed his multi-level scoring ability. The sophomore forward made a 15-footer and jumper from behind the line in the final 90 seconds of the first half to give Charleston a 50-43 lead at the break.

Out of the half, UNC came out with new found life on the defensive end. Junior guard Caleb Love stole a Cougar entry pass coast-to-coast and finish with a layup. Moments later, Love came off a down screen to bury a left-wing three to tie the game.

At the 10:50 mark, Nance's bullet pass from the wing fought Bacot for a two-handed dunk, opening up a four-point lead for North Carolina. Bacot continued to find success down low, bullying his way to an and-one lay about one minute later.

Out of the under eight-minute media timeout, Love's impact on both ends of the floor continued. The St. Louis native met Charleston guard Ryan Larson at the rim for a block, and quickly turned the rejection into a fastbreak deuce. North Carolina kept the Cougars at a sizable distance for the rest of the contest, and the Tar Heels prevailed, 102-86.

Who stood out?

After being held to just one point in the first half, Bacot exploded in the latter period. The preseason All-American registered 27 points and 5 rebounds in the second half to lead the Tar Heels to victory.

Love also flashed his second-half heroics many have become accustomed to seeing. The junior guard tallied 17 second-half points and contributed a pair of steals.

For the Cougars, Brzovic put on a clinic in the first half. The sophomore from Croatia scored from all three levels, showing polished footwork on multiple post-move buckets, knocking down a 15-footer from the baseline and burying a pair for 3-pointers.

When was it decided?

North Carolina struggled on the defensive end in the first half, allowing Charleston to score 50 points in the initial period. But out of the prolonged stoppage, the Tar Heels' increased intensity on the defensive end helped lead to numerous transition baskets and tilt the contest's trajectory in their favor.

Why does it matter?

Expectations were high entering this season for the preseason No. 1 team in the country. But up to the point, it's clear that UNC has a long way to go to find itself in Houston next April.

Against the Cougars, North Carolina's rebounding woes continued, as Charleston out-rebounded the Tar Heels, 35-32. UNC gave up 15 offensive rebounds and 15 second-chance points to the Cougars - highlighting a major area of improvement for North Carolina.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels host Gardner-Webb on Tuesday. The midweek contest is set to tipoff at 8 pm.

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Analysis: How UNC men's basketball's previous preseason No. 1 teams stack up to one another]]> On Oct. 17, AP News released the preseason top 25 rankings for men's college basketball. North Carolina, the 2022 national runner-up, tops the list as preseason No. 1 for the tenth time in school history, the most of any program.

Here is a look back at the previous Tar Heel teams that came into the season on top and where they ended up by the spring.

Dean Smith era

The Tar Heels recorded their first preseason No. 1 ranking in the 1977-1978 season while under the direction of head coach Dean Smith. The team struggled to live up to the preseason hype, going 23-6 in the regular season and ending at No. 16.

North Carolina finished the regular season on a high note with a home win over Duke but failed to find success in the postseason, losing to San Francisco in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Over the course of the 1980s, North Carolina received three preseason No. 1 rankings.

The first of these came in 1981, when members of the team posed alongside Coach Smith for the iconic Sports Illustrated cover that this year's team recreated.

With the addition of first-year guard Michael Jordan, the Tar Heels thrived, going 24-2 in the regular season, and eventually became the first preseason No. 1 UNC team to win the national championship when the Tar Heels recorded a slim 63-62 win over Georgetown.

Though not ranked first in the season coming off Dean Smith's first national championship title, the next No. 1 preseason ranking quickly followed in the 1983-1984 season. With Jordan still on the roster, the Tar Heels went 26-1 in the regular season and fell from the No. 1 position only once. Despite the successful regular season, UNC lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Indiana.

North Carolina continued to gain recognition in the 1980s, earning another No. 1 ranking in the 1986-1987 preseason. The team had a promising 26-2 regular season record and made it to the Elite Eight before losing to Syracuse.

Smith had one more preseason No. 1 as UNC basketball's head coach in the 1993-1994 season. Despite a less-than-perfect 24-6 regular season record, the Tar Heels remained in the top position at season's end before losing to Boston College in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Roy Williams era

Before the 2007-2008 season, Roy Williams' fifth as North Carolina's head coach, the Tar Heels once again became the preseason No. 1. The team fell out of the No. 1 position for six consecutive weeks in the new year, but a 29-2 regular season record allowed the Tar Heels to return to the top before the season was over. UNC ended up reaching the Final Four for the second time in the Williams era, where it lost to Kansas.

The final result didn't deter the media from giving the team the No. 1 preseason position again in the following season. A 27-3 record for the 2008-2009 team resulted in them finishing the regular season at No. 2, and North Carolina went on to win the national championship over Michigan State.

The 2011-2012 Tar Heels had big shoes to fill when they were the next to receive the No. 1 preseason ranking. The team ended with four regular season losses and finished the regular season at No. 4 before losing in the Elite Eight to Kansas.

North Carolina had one of their most memorably disappointing ends to a season in the 2015-2016 season, during which they were once again the preseason No. 1. UNC went 25-6 in the regular season to end at No. 3. A deep postseason performance landed the Tar Heels in the national championship game, where they lost to Villanova on a Kris Jenkins buzzer-beater. The team went on to win the National Championship over Gonzaga the following season.

The 2016-17 redemption season seems to be the blueprint for this year's team, which returns four of its five starters from last season's national championship loss. Unlike the 2016-17 season team that debuted at No. 6, this season's Tar Heels are the preseason No. 1.

Being the preseason No. 1 has had mixed results for North Carolina in the past, but this year, UNC will look to have a season that lives up to the Tar Heels' last redemption run.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[First-years, seniors share equal excitement for UNC men's basketball season]]> With 31 ACC regular season titles, 18 ACC Tournament titles and six NCAA championships, the North Carolina men's basketball team has given students plenty to root for throughout the years.

But despite this long run of success, for the seniors in the Class of 2023, it looked like they might not experience any similar triumphs during their time in Chapel Hill.

As first-years, a Cole Anthony-led UNC team battled through injuries in the 2019-20. The Tar Heels then finished at the bottom of the regular season conference standings and lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament.

The next year, despite the team's high potential, UNC fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and longtime head coach Roy Williams unexpectedly retired two weeks later.

Then, in head coach Hubert Davis' first year at the helm last season, it looked like the Tar Heels might miss the tournament completely. In mid-February, the team lost to a struggling Pittsburgh team to fall to 18-8 on the season.

The team suddenly gained momentum down the stretch. The Tar Heels beat Duke in head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final home game and then went on a Cinderella run in the NCAA Tournament, advancing all the way to the championship game that included another victory over the Blue Devils in the Final Four. Then after weeks of contemplating their career options, all four eligible starters elected to return for the upcoming season.

Now, the Class of 2023 will get its first taste of what it's like for the basketball team to have a target on its back every game, with North Carolina ranked as the top team in the country entering the season.

"In my first year I was like, 'Alright, I'm not going to see us go past the Sweet 16 in all my four years here,'" senior Shivan Shah said. "Last year was a complete surprise. Going into this year, I'm extremely excited but I'm a little worried because being number one, you have the highest possible expectations. So there's a bigger possibility of being let down."

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Class of 2026 comes in with a No. 1 team to root for - something that no other four-year student at North Carolina can say.

For the first-years that grew up watching UNC basketball, it provides an opportunity for them to witness history unfold in front of their eyes.

"Both my parents went to UNC, so I grew up with the TV always playing Carolina basketball," first-year Anne Dancausse said. "I remember how exciting it was six years ago when we had an amazing team."

Both first-years and seniors are looking to that team from six years ago for inspiration on what they hope might happen this year.

After losing on a buzzer-beater to Villanova in the 2016 NCAA National Championship, North Carolina rebounded to win the national title the next season with a victory over Gonzaga, becoming the fourth team to lose the championship and win the following year, joining the 1982 Tar Heels, the 1991 Duke Blue Devils and 1998 Kentucky Wildcats.

"Having seen UNC lose that national championship in 2016 and then go back and win it, I hope we can mirror those two seasons," senior Riley Lachance said. "I'm anticipating that we can run it back and win a national championship. But I'm overall just really looking forward to the season."

Part of the student experience of basketball is getting seats at the front of the student section in the Dean E. Smith Center. With the excitement surrounding this year's team, Shah knows it's going to be the hardest it's ever been to get front-row seats.

"I'm excited for the ride," Shah said. "I'm looking forward to being in the front row even though the line's going to be way longer this year."


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[Fresh faces aim to make instant impact for UNC men's basketball]]> Fans already know what each returning starter for the North Carolina men's basketball team brings to the table this season, but some of the new faces will be expected to contribute in their own right.

Junior guard RJ Davis is the primary ball handler who led the team in assists last season, and graduate wing Leaky Black is known for guarding the opposing team's best player. Senior big man Armando Bacot grabbed over 40 percent of the starters' rebounds last season, while junior guard Caleb Love's shot selection is often UNC's double-edged sword.

These assets of North Carolina's veteran core aren't likely to see any significant changes this year. However, there are six new players on the roster that head coach Hubert Davis will utilize in early non-conference matchups.

Here's a breakdown of the immediate impact that each newcomer might have.

Pete Nance

The graduate forward from Northwestern will join Bacot in the frontcourt as a starting forward. At 6-foot-11, Nance has a multifaceted skill set with fundamental post moves, clever backdoor passes and a reliable outside shot. He has already showcased his versatility in scrimmages and the exhibition win against Johnson C. Smith.

Last season, North Carolina faced difficulty when Bacot got into foul trouble, as the leading rebounder's absence decreased opportunities for second-chance points. This forced the team to move the slightly shorter Brady Manek inside, weakening Manek's role as a perimeter threat and creating defensive liabilities.

Nance led Northwestern in scoring, rebounding and blocks, and he also registered the team's second-most assists. These skills make him well-equipped for rotating to the center position if Bacot picks up fouls.

Although Nance's impressive 45.2 percent clip from beyond the arc will likely drop if he increases his 3-point shooting volume, opposing teams will still need to guard him on the perimeter, opening more space for Bacot on the inside. Alternatively, high-low action with Bacot will give Nance a plethora of one-on-one opportunities to showcase his inside craft and footwork.

Seth Trimble

The first-year guard brings impressive athleticism and confidence to UNC's backcourt rotation. Trimble's quick feet make him a capable on-ball defender, and, on the offensive end, the springy 6-foot-3 guard likes to attack the basket relentlessly.

In last season's Final Four, Duke exploited the size advantage that guard Trevor Keels had over RJ Davis. Keels finished the game with 19 points, including going 6-for-7 on 2-point field goals. Depending on each opposing team's arsenal, Hubert Davis might momentarily trade offense for defense by putting in Trimble for RJ Davis if the starting point guard needs rest.

Tyler Nickel

While the first-year wing probably won't see significant minutes in his rookie season, Nickel has particularly impressed from downtown in scrimmages and the exhibition game.

Similar to Trimble, Nickel - Virginia's all-time leading high school scorer - appears to have no issues with confidence on the offensive end. But much like the other reserve players, Nickel will need to first demonstrate consistency on defense before breaking into the Tar Heels' rotation.

Will Shaver

With a seasoned frontcourt tandem in Bacot and Nance, the redshirt first-year Shaver likely won't play impactful minutes this season. The 2022 early enrollee registered a block, three rebounds and a basket against Johnson C. Smith in 10 minutes of action.

In high school, the Birmingham, Alabama, native shot 35 percent from three. If he continues to develop this season, Shaver could be a key piece in Hubert Davis' long-term goal of utilizing bigs that can shoot from deep.

Jalen Washington

Washington, a 6-foot-10 first-year, hasn't played a competitive basketball game since his junior year of high school due to a knee injury. The stretch forward is a proficient perimeter shooter, and he is expected to be back in action early this season.

Beau Maye

It's difficult to gauge how the walk-on junior forward will fare against non-UNC players, as Maye has only played in the Live Action scrimmage. He did, however, knock down back-to-back threes from the left wing, perhaps giving fans a glimpse of the Maye magic that could be left in store for North Carolina's basketball program.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

UNC freshman guard Seth Trimble (0) defends the ball during the basketball game against JCSU on Friday, Oct. 8, 2022. UNC beat JCSU 101-40.

<![CDATA[Local Chapel Hill restaurants look ahead to much-anticipated basketball season]]> For some people who step on UNC's campus, North Carolina is synonymous with basketball.

On Nov. 7, the UNC men's basketball team will return for another attention-filled year, attracting people from around the state to Chapel Hill. Because stadium tickets are often hard to come by, restaurants in Chapel Hill are popular secondary locations to watch games in large crowds.

When there's lot of hype surrounding basketball season, that means big business for Franklin Street staples.

Four Corners owner Kristian Bawcom said the typical preparations for a basketball season have included ensuring enough product was available and hiring additional staff. He's seen Chapel Hill through basketball highs and lows and said preseason rankings are a clear indicator of how busy the restaurant will be. Just a few weeks ago, the Tar Heels secured the number-one spot in the Associated Press's preseason top 25 poll.

Bawcom said basketball season carries meaning beyond the potential business. Not only does his restaurant serve fans during special moments throughout the season, but he's a fan himself. He said he's witnessed some of the most iconic UNC basketball moments from inside his restaurant.

According to Bawcom, there's one memory that stands out in particular.

"My wife (was) sitting in the kitchen on a pickle bucket, because she was afraid to come out when Luke Maye hit the shot against Kentucky," Bawcom recalled.

However, while Chapel Hill is most known for its busy basketball season, it's not necessarily the best season for these restaurants financially. Bawcom said football season brings more people to town than basketball, and Top of the Hill owner Scott Maitland agrees.

He said he believes that football's weekend scheduling allows more out-of-town patrons to enjoy the game at a restaurant, whereas basketball's weekday evening schedule attracts smaller groups of fans.

Maitland doesn't hire any employees specifically for games, but adds staff during the fall, as that's normally a busier time. Rivalry games don't require extra employees, he said, which he credits to Top of the Hill's size and preparations for large crowds.

Another local establishment that's seen plenty of UNC basketball seasons is Carolina Coffee Shop, which has been open for just over a century. As the front-of-house manager of the popular breakfast joint, Olivia Robertson said she often hears patrons discuss fond memories of UNC basketball.

Robertson said the restaurant's preparation for the season differs because of the employees, who are mostly students who have to work around classes and busy weekends.

She said the coffee shop began by going through the schedules of current employees to see availability. This way, they could hire to fill in gaps if they knew weekends or particular games would be understaffed. Robertson said she often allows student employees to attend games if they are able to land tickets.

Robertson said the alumni conversations are what she looks forward to most during basketball season, and thinks Carolina Coffee Shop's history makes it a special place for game days.

"It's a landmark that they can come back to, no matter how long they've been away from UNC, and still feel a bit of memory," Robertson said.


@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

Top of the Hill on Franklin Street, pictured on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2022.

<![CDATA[UNC graduate transfer Pete Nance 'couldn't have picked a better spot']]> Head coach Hubert Davis isn't surprised that graduate transfer big man Pete Nance is already fitting in at UNC - he's still shocked that he's at North Carolina at all.

"From a basketball standpoint I haven't been surprised at all," Davis said at a press conference on Oct. 27. "He's an accomplished player, he had an unbelievable career at Northwestern for four years… I'm surprised he's with us and he's not in the NBA."

Nance's abilities as a stretch four perfectly fit the NBA's mold of a mobile big with capabilities on both sides of the floor. The graduate has already had a successful tenure at Northwestern, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and leading the Wildcats in scoring, rebounding, 3-point percentage and blocks this past season. He also comes from a lineage of professional players - his father Larry played 13 seasons split between the Cavaliers and the Suns, while his older brother Larry Jr. is a power forward for the Pelicans. Nance himself declared for the NBA draft before eventually pulling out of draft consideration ahead of the June 1 deadline.

So why is Nance in Chapel Hill? In his own words, it's to get UNC over the hump. After watching the Tar Heels' tournament run last year, Nance said he "knows what this team is capable of". Now, the Wildcat-turned-Tar Heel is looking to fill whatever role is needed to finish the job this year.

"Honestly, I genuinely feel this way, whatever I'm needed to do during a game, I will try and do it," Nance said at that Oct. 27 presser. "If we need to defend, if we need to facilitate more, if we are in a dry scoring spell, I can be that guy."

Davis and Nance's teammates will be quick to tell you that Nance isn't the new Brady Manek - and they're right.

Manek had one of the most prolific 3-point shooting seasons in North Carolina history, coming second in the ACC in 3-point percentage. While Nance shot over 45 percent from behind the arc last season, Manek drained more threes at UNC than Nance even attempted last season.

However, Davis admitted that Nance had reminded him of Manek due to how quickly he's found his fit on the team.

"He's only been here (for) three and a half months, and it feels like he's been here for four years," Davis said. "The relationships that he has with the coaches and his teammates, it's been seamless."

Before he had ever hit the court donning a Carolina blue uniform, Davis already had a "great idea" of how Nance was going to compliment his teammates - specifically senior forward Armando Bacot.

"I love the way that they work together," Davis said ahead of the team's exhibition against Johnson C. Smith. "Their skills compliment each other. They enjoy being on the floor together. It just works."

Aside from their offensive cohesion, Nance will be a much-needed partner in the post for Bacot, which will be especially important in the postseason. Bacot had to play through an ankle injury late in the 2022 NCAA Tournament and put UNC in a precarious position after fouling out in its Final Four matchup against Duke.

"He can really score the ball," Bacot said at the 2022 ACC Basketball Tipoff. "What he brings to the table is a lot different than what we had last year because he can play the four and the five. So if I get in foul trouble or whatever, it just allows him to be able to come in."

Nance will also look to bolster UNC's defensive presence under the basket. Standing at 6-foot-11, Nance used his athleticism and 7-foot wingspan to register a team-high and career-high 34 blocks as a Wildcat last season. The Akron, Ohio native matched up against some true towers in the Big Ten, from Illinois' Kofi Cockburn to Purdue's Zach Edey. While he likely won't be facing similar matchups this year at the four position, Nance can drop down to support Bacot when needed.

While Nance can play the five, the proposition of expanding his game past the center position is something he's looking forward to as he prepares to enter the NBA Draft next year. In the meantime, Nance will take on a starting role on a preseason No. 1 team with national championship aspirations as a player who has never played once in the NCAA Tournament.

So while Davis may be surprised that Nance hasn't already taken his talents to the NBA, the graduate transfer himself would tell you he stumbled upon a pretty sweet deal.

"Only being able to spend one year somewhere, I think this meets all those thresholds and I couldn't have picked a better spot," Nance said.


@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

<![CDATA[UNC basketball players, local stores teaming up to thrive in NIL era]]> Entering year two of the NIL era, the ability to monetize a player's name, image and likeness is benefiting both UNC basketball players and local Chapel Hill businesses alike.

In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled the NCAA violated antitrust laws, and it could not restrict college athletes from receiving compensation outside of scholarships and stipends. As a result, college athletes could begin making money by using their name, image and likeness through merchandise, camps, social media posts and other branding opportunities.

The ruling went into effect on July 1, and Holly Dedmond, store manager at Chapel Hill Sportswear, said she was approached by parents of a football player to begin working together soon after.

By mid-July of 2021, the store offered its first merchandise featuring current UNC athletes. Now, over a year later, the store stocks T-shirts with the faces of current basketball players Armando Bacot and RJ Davis, former player Brady Manek, field hockey forward Erin Matson and many more.

In order to have their T-shirts sold at the store, athletes submit their designs, and the store screen-prints them. Then, the profit is split between the store and the athlete.

Dedmond said NIL has had a positive impact on the store by bringing in more customers - both in the store and online. She added that NIL further solidifies the store's relationship with the UNC athletic department and the individual teams.

"It's fun when RJ Davis comes in the store and says, 'Hey, how's my T-shirt selling?'," she said. "It's kind of neat to say, 'Hey, I know him.'"

In addition to NIL shirts, the store has also hosted autograph signings, and Dedmond said she enjoys getting to watch the players interact with people.

"That's a lot of fun when they get to be a person, not just an athlete," she said. "We enjoy that."

Chapel Hill Sportswear is not the only locally-owned UNC gear shop hosting NIL T-shirts. Women's basketball players like redshirt senior guard Eva Hodgson and junior guard Kennedy Todd-Williams have their own t-shirts at Johnny T-shirt.

"I am from the smallest town in New Hampshire, and playing at this level, it's like a dream, and then being able to have a shirt that says my name, is in Carolina blue and has my number it's really, really cool," Hodgson said.

Todd-Williams said she views NIL as a win-win situation. She said her shirts were more in demand after the team's run to the Sweet 16, which helped drive up sales for the store.

With NIL, Todd-Williams said she is learning how to make herself marketable.

"(NIL) is a good way to either connect with local communities or people in general," she said. "I think that's the biggest thing for this generation. Now, it's like we're moving into networking and connections, so it's all about who you know. So it's very fun being in this NIL era."

NIL not only allows college athletes to partner with businesses and release merchandise, it also allows players to get paid to host basketball camps for young athletes. Hodgson's favorite experience so far has been mentoring kids and teaching about basketball.

"For me, it's never fully been about the money, and so I would have done all those things without it," Hodgson said. "But now, having the opportunity to maybe make a little cash while doing something I love has been really rewarding."


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<![CDATA[With expanded role, RJ Davis looks to take UNC offense to new heights]]> For one and a half seasons, RJ Davis waited his turn.

In a recruiting class with two physically imposing frontcourt players and an uber-athletic guard filling out the starting backcourt, not even the prolific career at New York's Archbishop Stepinac High School could elevate the status of the 6-foot guard. Although he showed his flashes - including a 26-point eruption to avoid an early-season upset against Brown - Davis mostly resorted to off-ball duties, which left high-volume guard Caleb Love to take charge.

But as UNC quickly learned throughout its postseason run, using Davis as a creator raised the offense to another level.

In key NCAA Tournament victories over Baylor and Duke, the Tar Heels put the ball in the hands of their best playmaker, who found ways to both set up his teammates and get buckets on his own. With the Tar Heels entering the year hoping to get back to the national championship game - and this time, finish the job - Davis is looking to thrive with more on-the-ball responsibilities as the team's starting point guard.

"My confidence is through the roof right now," Davis said at the ACC Tipoff event in October. "I've been working on the consistency in my jump shot and being the leader this team needs - just a natural point guard."

After an up-and-down first season, Davis was a valuable asset in his second year, which led to him mulling professional options. When he announced his return, head coach Hubert Davis understood the importance of having him in the lineup.

"RJ is Carolina basketball," Davis said in a statement after the return. "He's one of the best players in the country on the court, in the classroom and in the community."

RJ Davis improved in multiple statistical categories in his sophomore year, including points, assists and field-goal percentage. But despite the upticks, there was still an interesting caveat to his performance - his usage rate actually decreased from 22.0 to 20.5, meaning he actually had less offensive responsibility during his time on the floor.

When the team entered the NCAA Tournament, Davis was given more control of the offense, which resulted in his assist rate jumping from 3.4 assists per game to a more impressive 5.0 mark through the Tar Heels' six tournament games. In the team's opening-round win over Marquette, Davis recorded a career-high 12 assists in UNC's 95-point outing.

As the tournament continued, Hubert Davis showed a tendency to play the hot hand between his starting backcourt. Considering the end results, such a strategy is likely to continue.

Weeks after RJ Davis minimized the damage of a first-half Duke spurt in Durham with an array of tough isolation baskets while Love was shooting just 1-9 from the field, the versatile scoring attack continued against Baylor. Davis scored a career-high 30 points to help the Tar Heels upset the top-seeded Bears in the second round, while Love was the one that caught fire with 27 points in the second half against UCLA to help the team advance.

While this unpredictable rotation might cause some players to feel unsettled in a particular role, Love knows that Davis' offensive skillset benefited both sides.

"We've been in so many situations, so to bring the team together, that's our job," Love said. "We've basically got to run the show."

Even with all the improvement Davis has shown, the junior guard still understands where he can improve.

After being a primary scorer in the national semifinal, Davis lost momentum in the national title game, where he was held shot 5-17 from the floor and failed to record a 3-pointer.

In his revamped role, where he is looking to lead the UNC offense to new heights, Davis has only one mission on his mind.

"You remember that feeling at the national championship stage, walking down the steps, seeing the confetti drop," Davis said. "My head was down a little bit, but it was also lifted up knowing that I'm gonna be back here again."


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<![CDATA[Preview: UNC's big men looking to remain productive heading into new season]]> During North Carolina's run to the championship game last year, the team's frontcourt played a large role in the Tar Heels' success.

Graduate transfer Brady Manek shot 40 percent from three throughout the season, while Armando Bacot set the record for the most double-doubles in an NCAA Tournament. Entering the new season, Bacot will be joined by two new faces in the frontcourt who hope to match the proficiency of last year's big men.

Here's a look at how the unit can remain productive this year:

Armando Bacot

With a historic NCAA Tournament run behind him, Bacot easily could have declared for the NBA Draft and reached the sport's summit. Instead, he believed there was unfinished business in Chapel Hill and decided to stay for one final season.

The undisputed leader of the Tar Heels was named the preseason ACC Player of the Year, selected to the preseason All-ACC First-Team and listed on the preseason Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award Watch List.

He has led the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding over the last two seasons. His inside presence was the catalyst for their success last year, and the main reason for their plus-eight rebounding differential in the NCAA tournament.

Bacot has played with guards junior Caleb Love and RJ Davis for two years and wing Leaky Black for three, and this familiarity should only improve his production. Expect more of the same from the program's all-time single-season rebounding leader as he enters his final year in Chapel Hill.

Pete Nance

Manek left a massive gap in the starting lineup after graduating after the season's end. Head coach Hubert Davis needed to find someone in the transfer portal that could fill his role, and Pete Nance from Northwestern did just that.

Nance has improved in almost every statistical measure over his four years in Evanston, setting a career-high in points per game, blocks per game, total rebounds and assists per game last season. He elevated his shooting ability to a new stratosphere, as his 45.2 three-point percentage was almost nine points better than his junior season.

That large a gap in performance between seasons poses the question of whether that success can be replicated, but even a slight dip in performance would suffice in spreading the floor and opening up space for Bacot down low.

Nance should also make an impact through his playmaking ability. He excels at the top of the key, creating space for the guards through various pick plays. He should form a potent connection with Love and Davis and thrive on pick-and-pops and pick-and-rolls all season.

Jalen Washington

When Washington committed to UNC back in July of 2021 as a five-star and top-25 national recruit, the future seemed bright for the Gary, Ind. native. By the end of the summer, though, he was in surgery for a torn ACL and has not played competitive basketball since.

While he may have missed his senior season in high school, Davis has not lost any confidence in him, calling Washington "the best shooting big coming out of high school that I've ever seen."

In his junior year of high school, Washington averaged 12.5 points and seven rebounds and was named first-team all-state in Indiana. His ability to run the floor and shoot from anywhere should provide an important spark off the bench for the Tar Heels.

While his talent on the court cannot be questioned, his health remains an issue.

Davis said he should be cleared for all basketball activity by the end of September, but Washington has only seen limited 5-on-5 action during practice. Although he did not play in UNC's season-opening win against UNC Wilmington on Nov. 7, his return will be a significant addition to the bench unit.

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