By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — There are many differences for Carolina basketball under Hubert Davis. For starters, the years of seeing pretty much the same lineup every game are over.
After coming off the bench in the No. 19 Tar Heels’ exhibition victory over Elizabeth City State, Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek started ahead of Marquette transfer Dawson Garcia in Tuesday’s 83–67 opening-game victory over Loyola Maryland in Davis’ first game as head coach.
Manek showed that Davis can’t go wrong deploying any of his big transfer-portal prizes as long as he has a much-improved Caleb Love as his lead guard making things happen. Love poured in 22 points, second only in his career to the 25 he scored at Duke last season, and had no turnovers while Manek hit 20 to lead UNC (1–0).
Davis started senior Leaky Black after Kerwin Walton started at the wing spot in the exhibition, although he didn’t score until a second-half alley-oop dunk. Garcia collected 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Walton scored 11 and was 3 of 6 from 3-point range. RJ Davis had six points, five rebounds and five assists.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Davis said of Manek. “He can do a number of things on the floor on both ends. His reputation is as a great 3-point shooter, but he’s not just that. He’s a basketball player. He’s an outstanding passer, an unbelievable teammate. One of the things that I said to him in the office just a couple days ago is the only thing that I’m upset about in regards to him is that I only get to coach him one year.”
Manek is clearly proud to be a Tar Heel and to have the chance to play an extra college season in Chapel Hill. But, for whatever reason, Manek’s perception is that observers don’t give him credit for his basketball ability. His impressive game Tuesday was a good step toward proving them wrong.
“Just being here puts it right there for me,” Manek said. “I’ve been judged quite a bit on the kind of basketball player I am and just being here at North Carolina, being able to be a part of this team, part of this program?
“Playing for Coach Davis in his first year? It’s special and that just proves to me that I am good enough and I am a good basketball player,” said Manek, who started the Davis era right with a 3-pointer in the game’s first 16 seconds. “My teammates push me every day and they are just great guys and it’s special to be part of it.”
Manek averaged 10.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game during his four-year career at Oklahoma. He put up a 20-point game in his Carolina debut after reaching the 20-point mark only twice last season, with 29 against Texas-San Antonio and 20 at Oklahoma State. It was his 76th career double-figures scoring game and 13th career game with at least 20 points.
Manek, who had five rebounds and a block after recording three blocks in the exhibition, showed his versatility against Loyola with an array of good moves inside and on the perimeter. Whether he already had it before he arrived in Chapel Hill or acquired it at UNC, he has a selfless attitude and is quick to credit teammates for his success.
“A lot of the points, a lot of the open jumpers just came from guys finding me. It had nothing to do with me,” Manek said. “I had a couple of easy layups, a couple of offensive rebounds. Just playing hard and we were all playing together, so it all came together for all of us. It was a good night for us.”
If there is one criticism about him, it’s on the defensive end. But he must be doing something right as a defender considering that Davis is picking his starters based on defensive grades.
“I would say I’ve always been judged from the perspective of the kind of basketball player I am and I’m just trying to build,” Manek said. “Trying to become a better passer, become a better rebounder, tougher. A lot of that stuff doesn’t play into being a better offensive player, a better defensive player. Just playing harder, playing smarter, playing when your teammates come to you and like I did that night.
Carolina jumped out to an 18–3 lead and led 45–31 at halftime. The Tar Heels were sloppy to start the second half, turning the ball over three times in the first five minutes after committing only three first-half turnovers.
“In that second half when they came out and hit us first, we started playing better, got a couple of stops in a row and the crowd really got into it,” Manek said. “And that was awesome to see. Awesome to be a part of. That’s why I wanted to come here. It’s what I want to be a part of. Just unbelievable. I get to be a part of Coach Davis’s first team ever. I was part of his first win and it’s just a great, great thing for me. Great thing for all of us and we’ll all look back and appreciate everything.”
Loyola trimmed its deficit to nine points with 15:22 left but Carolina responded with a 12–1 run and never was challenged after that.
Carolina is back at home Friday night to face Brown in a 9 p.m. game (ACC Network).
No. 19 UNC 83, Loyola Md. 67
UNC scores, schedule
|Date||Score, record/day, date, TV||Location||Opponent|
|5||83–55 exhibition win||Home||Elizabeth City State|
|9||83–67, 1-0||Home||Loyola Maryland|
|12||Friday, 9, ACCN||Home||Brown|
|16||Tuesday, 8:30, CBSSN||Road||College of Charleston|
|20||Saturday, 4, ESPN News||Uncasville, Conn.||Y – Purdue|
|21||Sunday, 1 or 3:30, ABC or ESPN||Uncasville, Conn.||Y – Tennessee or Villanova|
|23||Tuesday, 7, RSN||Home||UNC Asheville|
|1||Wednesday, 9:15, ESPN||Home||X – Michigan|
|5||Sunday, 3, ESPN||Road||Georgia Tech|
|11||Saturday, 8, ACCN||Home||Elon|
|14||Tuesday, 7, ESPN2||Home||Furman|
|18||Saturday, 3, CBS||Las Vegas||UCLA|
|21||Tuesday, 7, ACCN||Home||Appalachian State|
|29||Wednesday, 7, ESPN2||Home||Virginia Tech|
|1||Saturday, noon, ACCN||Road||Boston College|
|5||Wednesday, 9, ESPN2||Road||Notre Dame|
|8||Saturday, 1, ESPN||Home||Virginia|
|15||Saturday, 8, ACCN||Home||Georgia Tech|
|18||Tuesday, TBA, ESPN||Road||Miami|
|22||Saturday, 8, ACCN||Road||Wake Forest|
|26||Wednesday, RSN||Home||Boston College|
|29||Saturday, 2, ACCN||Home||N.C. State|
|31||Monday, 7, ESPN||Road||Louisville|
|5||Saturday, 6, ESPN||Home||Duke|
|8||Tuesday, 9, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||Clemson|
|12||Saturday, 2, ESPN or ESPN2||Home||Florida State|
|16||Wednesday, 8, ACCN||Home||Pittsburgh|
|19||Saturday, 4, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||Virginia Tech|
|21||Monday, 7, ESPN||Home||Louisville|
|26||Saturday, 2 or 4, ESPN or ESPN2||Road||N.C. State|
|28||Monday, 7, ESPN||Home||Syracuse|
|5||Saturday, 6, ESPN||Road||Duke|
X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge; Y — Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic
Photo via @UNC_Basketball