By R.L. Bynum
With most Carolina players playing in front of a hostile road crowd for the first time and pushed back by College of Charleston’s frantic pace, the Tar Heels came out flat and trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half.
Better defense and rebounding after halftime allowed the No. 18 Tar Heels (3–0) to take control. They shot 64% in the second half to survive foul trouble for a 94–83 victory in Charleston on Tuesday night.
“I felt like we were tougher in the second half,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said. “One of the things in the first half is I thought Charleston was more physical than us. We had trouble just getting the ball in and out of bounds. We couldn’t get into our offense.”
Armando Bacot, who put up his second consecutive double-double and 20th of his career, was unstoppable again inside, collecting a career-high 24 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high six blocks. He scored at least 20 points in back-to-back games for the first time and notched his 26th double-figure rebounding game.
“He just imposed his will, and when he’s locked in, can’t nobody guard him,” Caleb Love said of Bacot.
It is the second time he has collected least 20 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks in a game. Only three other Tar Heels have done that: Rasheed Wallace (three times), Mitch Kupchak and John Henson. Pretty impressive company.
Bacot became the first player in program history to have consecutive games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds and shoot 80% in both games. His three-game shooting percentage of 82.1% is the highest for a Tar Heel since Scott Williams in 1990.
“He kept us in there,” Davis said of Bacot in the first half. “He’s been there before. He’s played in tough games and been in tough situations and environments. That’s why he’s one of our captains. Because not only can he lead us on the court, he can lead us off the court and his work ethic and how competitive and consistent he’s been throughout the entire season has been a real benefit for us as a team.”
Guards made many big buckets down the stretch with Love scoring 18 of his 22 points in the second half and Kerwin Walton scoring 9 of his 14.
“Well, there’s a huge difference between freshman guards and sophomore guards,” Davis said. “It’s experience and Caleb is a big-time player. He’s one of the better guards in the country and he can do a number of things out there on the floor. I was really proud of him how he settled the team offensively.
“He got us in the sets and he really got the ball into the hands of the people when they were wide open,” Davis said of Love, who had six assists. “He had a good understanding of when to dip into his bag offensively and shoot the basketball, but also penetrate and dish. He had some beautiful bounce passes for layups to Brady Manek and also Armando Bacot. I thought he did an outstanding job running the team in the second half.”
Love said that he went on attack mode to take advantage of what the Cougars were giving him with their defense.
“They couldn’t guard the ball screen,” Love said. “So the coaches were telling me to to attack, attack, attack and make plays for my team and that’s what I did.”
Manek came off the bench with an efficient 17 points in 21 minutes.
Leaky Black, starting for the third time in as many games, played an outstanding overall game with solid on-the-ball defense, four points, three rebounds, three assists and two blocks while playing three positions. He played point guard for two stretches because of foul trouble to Love and RJ Davis and had a pair of stints at the four spot.
Manek and Bacot played the final minutes with four fouls while Love, Davis and Walton had three.
“Everybody keeps saying this is going to make us better,” Hubert Davis said. “All I know is, our guys have not been in an environment like this in at least two years. One of the questions they were asking me before the game is, ‘Are your guys going to be ready, do they know what to expect?’ I told them, ‘Honestly, no. They haven’t been in this environment.’
“So to see them respond on the road in a packed house against a really, really great basketball team, to be able to step up in the second half and be able to score? This builds a lot of confidence for us moving forward,” Davis said. “It really does. If you can be successful in this type of environment against this type of team, you can be successful anywhere.”
Charleston (3–1) rode five 3-pointers in the first six minutes to take a 19–12 lead. A 6–0 run, punctuated by two dunks, shoved the margin to 26–15. But a 6–0 run with Black at point guard trimmed it to five with Black getting a big block.
The Cougars led 42–36 at halftime after two Davis fouls led to him to play only eight scoreless minutes. After UNC committed 19 turnovers in the first two games, it had 11 in the first half. The Tar Heels settled down with only six second-half turnovers.
“We knew we had to limit our turnovers,” said Bacot, whose best previous point total was 23 against Oregon as a freshman. “We were turning the ball over, kind of beating ourselves. We just kind of had to weather the storm in the second half. We knew coming out it was gonna be tough. They were excited.”
Manek scored on a screen-and-roll 3-pointer, then his steal led to a Davis transition layup. Black fed Love on the perimeter for a long 2-pointer to slice UNC’s deficit to 46–45. A Manek 3-pointer with 16:53 left, again after coming off a screen, gave UNC its first lead of the game. Bacot gave UNC the lead for good, 52–49, with 15:30 left with a twisting bucket and a drive.
After Charleston trimmed UNC’s eight-point lead to 1, 3-pointers by Davis and Love pushed the margin to 77–71. A Walton 3-pointer and a Love drive made it 84–74 with 4:06 left.
Carolina has already scored at least 90 points twice this season after not doing so until putting up that total in February last season against Duke and Louisville.
The competition gets tougher for the Tar Heels this weekend at the Hall of Fame Tipoff Classic in Uncasville, Conn. They face No. 6 Purdue (3–0) at 4 p.m. Saturday (ESPN News) and then take on either No. 5 Villanova (2–1) — which lost in overtime Friday night at No. 2 UCLA 86–66 — or No. 17 Tennessee (2–0) at 1 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Sunday (ABC or ESPN).
In Tuesday home games, Purdue rolled over Wright State 96–52 and Villanova easily beat Howard 100–81. Tennessee beat East Tennessee State on Sunday 94–62 in its last game before the tournament.
No. 18 UNC 94, College of Charleston 83
UNC lineup combinations
UNC season statistics
day, time, TV
|5||83–55 exhibition win||Home||Elizabeth City State|
|9||83–67 win||Home||Loyola Maryland|
|16||94–83 win, 3–0||Road||College of Charleston|
|20||Saturday, 4, ESPN News||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 6 Purdue|
|21||Sunday, 1 or 3:30, ABC or ESPN||Uncasville, Conn.||Y — No. 17 Tennessee or No. 5 Villanova|
|23||Tuesday, 7, RSN||Home||UNC Asheville|
|1||Wednesday, 9:15, ESPN||Home||X — No. 4 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||Z — No. 2 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||No. 7 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||No. 7 Duke|
X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge; Y — Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic
Photo via @UNC_Basketball