By R.L. Bynum

Coming off another tough defensive game in Saturday’s 93–84 loss to No. 6 Purdue, Carolina tries to rebound Sunday against No. 17 Tennessee in the second of three games in four days.

The Tar Heels (3–1) and the Volunteers (2–1) meet at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., in the consolation game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. The game will air on ESPN. Tennessee is a 2½-point favorite.

UNC returns home for a 7 p.m. Tuesday game against UNC Asheville (regional sports networks).

“We can be motivated and upset but we can also be determined to play even better tomorrow,” Coach Hubert Davis said Saturday after the Purdue loss. “And, so, the great thing about it is, it’s kind of like the NBA. You’ve got the next game. And when you lose, the first thing as a competitor you want to do is you want to get back out there on the floor to take that taste out of your mouth. We get another opportunity against a very good Tennessee team.”

It will be important for the Tar Heels to get off to a good start after turnovers contributed Saturday to UNC trailing at halftime for a third consecutive game. Carolina turned the ball over 11 times in the first half and only had three second-half turnovers.

“Definitely, we preached before the game we had to limit turnovers. That was one of our main things going to the game,” RJ Davis said. “First half, I think it was more so about us. We were stopping the ball.

“It wasn’t like they were making us turning it over,” RJ Davis said. “It was more like we were just making silly mistakes. And then in the second half, [we] cleaned it up a little bit. The team has to do that moving forward. Not just for one half, but for all 40 minutes.”

ADVERTISEMENT

It would be a big boost defensively for UNC if Leaky Black is able to play after the Tar Heels’ streak of winning games when they score at least 80 points was snapped at 12. Black didn’t play Saturday because of an illness that wasn’t COVID-19-related.

Caleb Love leads UNC in scoring at 18.8 per game, followed by Brady Manek at 14.3. Armando Bacot and RJ Davis are each averaging 14 points and Dawson Garcia, who hit 26 against Purdue, is at 13.0.

Junior guard Santiago Vescovi, averaging 16.7 points per game, leads Tennessee, which is coming off a 71–53 loss Saturday in the other first-round game of the tournament. Junior forward Olivier Nkamhoua averages nearly a double-double with 11.3 points and 9.3 rebounds.

Nearly 43% of Tennessee’s scoring is coming from players new to the program, led by Auburn transfer Justin Powell. He’s shooting 50% from 3-point range (6 of 12) and is averaging 9.7 points per game.

The Tar Heels may not be facing quite the offensive force they dealt with against Purdue, considering that Villanova held the Vols to 15 first-half points.

An assistant coach on head coach Rick Barnes’ staff is former N.C. State player Justin Gainey.

The Tar Heels have dominated the series with Tennessee 10–1, winning the last five meetings, the most recent a 78–73 victory in Knoxville on Dec. 17, 2017. UNC overcame a nine-point second-half deficit in that game. The Vols’ lone win came 84–56 at Knoxville on Jan. 31, 1949.

Amazingly, the schools never met during the Dean Smith era.

UNC season statistics

DateScore, record/day, time, TVLocationOpponent
November
583–55 exhibition winHomeElizabeth City State
983–67 winHomeLoyola Maryland
1294–87 winHomeBrown
1694–83 win, 3–0RoadCollege of Charleston
2093–84 loss, 3–1Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 6 Purdue
21Sunday, 3:30, ESPNUncasville, Conn.Y — No. 17 Tennessee
23Tuesday, 7, RSNHomeUNC Asheville
December
1Wednesday, 9:15, ESPNHomeX — No. 4 Michigan
5Sunday, 3, ESPNRoadGeorgia Tech
11Saturday, 8, ACCNHomeElon
14Tuesday, 7, ESPN2HomeFurman
18Saturday, 3, CBSLas VegasZ — No. 2 UCLA
21Tuesday, 7, ACCNHomeAppalachian State
29Wednesday, 7, ESPN2HomeVirginia Tech
January
1Saturday, noon, ACCNRoadBoston College
5Wednesday, 9, ESPN2RoadNotre Dame
8Saturday, 1, ESPNHomeVirginia
15Saturday, 8, ACCNHomeGeorgia Tech
18Tuesday, TBA, ESPNRoadMiami
22Saturday, 8, ACCNRoadWake Forest
26Wednesday, RSNHomeBoston College
29Saturday, 2, ACCNHomeN.C. State
31Monday, 7, ESPNRoadLouisville
February
5Saturday, 6, ESPNHomeNo. 7 Duke
8Tuesday, 9, ESPN or ESPN2RoadClemson
12Saturday, 2, ESPN or ESPN2HomeFlorida State
16Wednesday, 8, ACCNHomePittsburgh
19Saturday, 4, ESPN or ESPN2RoadVirginia Tech
21Monday, 7, ESPNHomeLouisville
26Saturday, 2 or 4, ESPN or ESPN2RoadN.C. State
28Monday, 7, ESPNHomeSyracuse
March
5Saturday, 6, ESPNRoadNo. 7 Duke
8–
12
ACC TournamentBrooklyn
RSN — regional sports networks; ACCN — ACC Network;
X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge; Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff; Z — CBS Sports Classic

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: