Big men carry Carolina past hot-shooting Furman

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — Carolina’s big men weren’t about to let a hot-shooting Furman team deny the Tar Heels their fifth consecutive victory.

Dawson Garcia, Brady Manek and Armando Bacot made it a long night inside for the Paladins as Carolina pulled away from a tie game at halftime with better defense for a 74–61 victory Tuesday at the Smith Center.  

It is the first time that UNC has held five consecutive opponents to 63 or fewer points since the 2010–11 season.

Coach Hubert Davis likes the trend of his team taking control in the second half of games when the first half doesn’t go smoothly.

“It’s great that we have the ability to change, especially on the defensive end,” Davis said. “It’s been a while since, defensively, that we’ve locked in for a four- or five-game stretch like we have and that’s really encouraging.”

Bacot scored eight of his 14 points during a 15–4 run to start the second half as Carolina (8–2) took control of the game and rolled from there, outscoring Furman inside 44–26. UNC rebounded 32 of Furman’s 36 misses and the Paladins didn’t have a second-chance point.

“At halftime, Coach went in and challenged me because Dawson and Brady got off to a really good start and I kind of couldn’t get a shot up and find the ball,” said Bacot, who had 12 rebounds. “He just mainly told me to just go ahead and be aggressive and just force the guards to give me the ball.”

The big men needed to play well on a night that Caleb Love and RJ Davis combined to go 5 of 18 from the floor. They made up for poor shooting nights by combining for 11 assists against only three turnovers. Davis made several outstanding passes, with a season-high seven assists.

“We’ve been in that situation before,” Garcia said of the uneven first half. “We came out in the second half and you didn’t have to say a whole lot. I think everybody understood what we needed to do.”

Garcia, who scored UNC’s first nine points, finished with a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds and Manek pitched in 13 points.

“Just being aggressive early, that’s what’s helped me out,” said Garcia, who scored 22 in Saturday’s win over Elon. “The emphasis was definitely to attack the rim through post penetration and offensive rebounds. I think we did a good job.”

After Furman shot 53.6% from the floor and 53.3% from 3-point range in the first half, UNC contested shots much better in the second half and it made a huge difference. The Paladins only shot 28.1% from the floor and 11.1% on 3-point tries in the second half.

“I felt like they were more physical than us on both ends of the floor,” Hubert Davis said of the first half. “So, from a defensive standpoint, that had to change. We had to be the aggressor. We had to be in the passing lanes. We had to be getting through screens. We had to be contesting shots. And I felt like we really did that.”

UNC shot 53.3% in the second half, has shot better than 50% in four consecutive second halves and has won 13 straight games when shooting at least 50% from the floor.

Alex Hunter led Furman with 21 points and four 3-pointers. The Paladins attempted 60 shots from the floor but only three from the free-throw line.

Garcia gave the Tar Heels a 7–0 lead on a 3-pointer and inside buckets off of passes from Bacot and Davis. Furman didn’t have more points than Garcia until Garrett Hein scored an inside bucket for Furman 5:33 into the game (12–11).

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“One of the things that we’ve talked about in the last couple of weeks is just trying to establish him offensively early,” Hubert Davis said of Garcia.

Furman made eight consecutive field-goal attempts and was shooting 75% when it cut UNC’s lead to 23–22 with 11:16 left in the first half. The Paladins then missed five shots in a row and Carolina pushed the lead to 30–22 on a Manek 3-pointer and a Garcia follow shot with 6:44 left.

A 14–4 Furman run, fueled by three 3-pointers, gave the Paladins a 36–34 edge with 3:26 left and the game was tied at 39 at halftime.

Leaky Black’s sudden hot perimeter shooting, of all things, pushed Carolina’s lead to 50–43 with a long 2-pointer and a 3-pointer 3:10 into the second half. This was after he made only three of his previous 28 3-point attempts going back to last season.

Black was a team-leading +18, leading in that category for the fourth time this season.

The Tar Heels next head to Las Vegas to face No. 4 UCLA (8–1) in the CBS Sports Classic at 3 p.m. Saturday (CBS). It will be the Bruins’ third game in T-Mobile Arena this season. They beat Bellarmine 75–62 on Nov. 22 and lost to then-No. 1 Gonzaga 83–63 on Nov. 23 in the Empire Classic. The Bruins take a three-game win streak into Wednesday’s home game against Alabama State.

UNC 74, Furman 61

UNC lineup combinations

UNC season statistics

DateScore, record/
day, time, TV
LocationOpponent
November (4–2)
583–55 exhibition winHomeElizabeth City State
983–67 win, 1–0HomeLoyola Maryland
1294–87 win, 2–0HomeBrown
1694–83 win, 3–0RoadCollege of Charleston
2093–84 loss, 3–1Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 3 Purdue
2189–72 loss, 3–2Uncasville, Conn.Y — No. 18 Tennessee
2372–53 win, 4–2HomeUNC Asheville
December (4–0, 1-0 ACC)
172–51 win, 5–2HomeX — Michigan
579–62 win, 6–2, 1-0 ACCRoadGeorgia Tech
1180–63 win, 7–2HomeElon
1474–61 win, 8–2HomeFurman
18Saturday, 5:30, CBSLas VegasZ — No. 21 Kentucky
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. 2 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. 2 Duke
8–
12
ACC TournamentBrooklyn
RSN — regional sports networks; ACCN — ACC Network; X — ACC/Big Ten Challenge;
Y — Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off; Z — CBS Sports Classic

Photo via @UNC_Basketball

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