Carolina rolls with season-high 15 3s, including late biscuits-winner

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — As Michael Jordan says in the pregame video, “This is Carolina basketball.”

For the first time this season, North Carolina dominated an opponent thoroughly, thanks to season-high totals of 15 3-pointers and 24 assists, and it looked like what fans traditionally expect. A Hall of Fame coach likes to say it looks better when the ball goes in the basket. It does, and it did against The Citadel.

The Tar Heels (7–4) rolled to a 100–67 victory Tuesday over The Citadel in the last regular-season game against a mid-major team with 49.2% shooting overall and 48.4% from 3-point range.

The only drama was whether the walk-ons, in their first appearance of the season, could score the 100th point to earn fans a biscuit discount. Jackson Watkins took care of that on a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.

“We were running like a Carolina team, and I felt like we did that tonight. Everybody was running, and we were able to get the three things we were looking for in transition,” UNC coach Hubert Davis said of layups, pitch aheads for wide-open 3s from his best perimeter shooters and deep post catches by his post players. “We were able to get all of them tonight because of our ability to run in transition.”

The irritating habit of giving up too many 3-pointers reoccurred in the first half (6 of the Bulldogs’ 8 3s), but the ball movement was crisp, and the mostly inside-out offense looked good. After 21% of Tar Heels’ points came from 3-point range in the first 10 points, 45% were produced from outside the arc Tuesday.

“It’s been great,” said Armando Bacot, who recorded his sixth double-double of the season, fourth in a row and 55th of his career. “We’ve been getting a lot of easy scores around the basket, and it’s really opened up everything. Today, we actually knocked down some threes, which was great. If we can just keep playing like this and pounding it in and then also hitting shots, we’ll be tough out.”

Coming off the Tar Heels’ best overall effort of the season in Saturday’s 75–59 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC opener, the extended defense was mostly effective in an easy victory.

Bacot collected 14 points and 11 rebounds and broke Billy Cunningham’s school record with his 62nd career double-figure rebounding game.

“Every day we’ve been getting better and just trying to work and work and just tighten those screws,” Bacot said. “We’re still a flawed team. There’s still a lot of stuff we got to work on. But as long as we just keep getting better and better and better, when it’s time and it gets even more and more serious, we’ll be a great team.”

Bacot is convinced that Carolina is much better than its record and that the best is yet to come.

“We just gotta go in there locked in. Talent-wise, we’re up there with all the top teams,” said Bacot, noting Alabama’s win over Houston when he said the Heels had that game before losing to the Tide in four overtimes. “Once we can just slowly be committed on both ends of the floor and detail-oriented — just locked in, gelling, trusting each other — we can be a helluva team.”

Caleb Love’s numbers will make Tar Heels fans smile: 17 points, four 3-pointers, six assists and no turnovers. Pete Nance had another impressive game with 16 points, three 3-pointers and seven rebounds.

Freshman Tyler Nickel scored all of his season-high 16 points in the second half, with three 3-pointers and three rebounds.

“He’s a guy that always competes on both ends of the floor,” Coach Davis said of Nickel. “A great example of that was in the second half, and one of the things that I have been stressing is for us to have a presence on the offensive glass outside of Armando, and we’ve always stressed the 3, 4 and 5 attack the offensive glass and Tyler did that.

“He didn’t actually get the offensive rebound, but he kept the ball alive that actually led to him getting his first 3 in the corner in the second half,” Davis said. “And it was because of that extra effort. That’s who Tyler is, knocking down that 3 but always making the extra effort.”

Nickel led the charge from the reserves, who scored a season-high 42 points, with Dontrez Styles adding nine points.

“One of the things that I have said is that we have depth on our team,” Coach Davis said. “And the great thing about it is, when we need it, we have that ability to put guys in and make impact plays on both ends of the floor. I was really happy to be able to get extended minutes for those guys and that they stepped up and played extremely well.”

Styles played in his sixth game but only his third in the last eight, notching his first 3-pointer since his huge shot in overtime against Baylor in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He finished with nine points.

“His practices the last week have been really good,” Coach Davis said of Styles. “His attention to detail and his effort, I’m really proud of him. I thought he was a huge difference-maker for us in the first half. We were struggling to find some rhythm on offense, and he hit that 3 and then we were off and running.”

Justin McKoy played for only the fifth time and fired in a 3-pointer.

“We did a good job of allowing the reserve guys to come in and get a chance to really be in a game where there’s low pressure, and can really get a feel for it and play through their mistakes, so that was great,” Bacot said. “That was something that we failed to do at the beginning of the year. Just a lot of those games where it should have been a blowout.”

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With The Citadel (5–5) hot from outside the perimeter, making four consecutive 3-point attempts at one point, the Tar Heels had a tough time shaking the Bulldogs in the first half. A Stephen Clark jumper cut it to 26–25 with 7:27 left.

UNC finished the opening half with a 22–8 run, which Nance started with a 3-pointer and featured seven Tar Heels scoring, to lead 48–33 at halftime with a season-high first-half point total. All but one of Carolina’s first-half field goals resulted from assists.

Carolina ended up with 24 assists on 32 made field goals, its highest percentage of assists to field goals this season (75%). The previous high was Saturday against Georgia Tech (15 on 27 baskets for 55.6%).

The lead ballooned to 32 on a 9–0 run with five Nickel points and four from freshman Jalen Washington. A pair of Seth Trimble free throws pushed it to 33 with 6:16 left. A 36-point lead later in the second half was UNC’s largest of the season.

Jackson Price and Stephen Clark led The Citadel with 15 points each.

NOTES — It’s all major-conference opponents for the rest of the regular season for UNC, starting with the final two Big Ten opponents: No. 23 Ohio State (7–2, 30th in NET rankings) at 3 p.m. Saturday (CBS) in New York and Michigan (6–3, 81st in NET rankings) at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 in Charlotte (ESPN). The Buckeyes, who lost at Duke 81–72 on Nov. 30, will come off a nine-day break since a 67–66 home win Dec. 8 against Rutgers. … The 33-point margin of victory was Carolina’s largest of the season (the previous high was 16 three times). … Jenna Reneau became the second woman referee to officiate a UNC men’s game. Clare Aubry officiated one early-season UNC game last season and the Gardner-Webb game on Nov. 15 this season. In addition to officiating men’s college games, Reneau is a non-staff NBA referee who has also worked WNBA and G League games. She worked Tuesday with Lee Cassell and Ramie Styons. … Carolina is 20–0 against The Citadel, including 9–0 in Chapel Hill and 3–0 in the Smith Center. The 20 wins are the most against any opponent without a loss.

UNC 100, The Citadel 67


UNC lineup combinations

ScoreTime12345Segment score
Starters20:00DavisLoveBlackNanceBacot15–7
15–715:09LoveTrimbleJohnson2–4
17–1113:01Nickel9–12
26–237:51DavisStylesNance0–0
26–236:56Love3–2
29–256:43StylesNanceWashington6–4
35–293:44Black2–0
37–293:44Bacot11–4
48–330:59Trimble0–0
48–330:43Styles0–0
48–330:33Nance0–0
48–33HalfBlack14–6
62–3913:56LoveTrimbleNickel3–2
65–4112:45Styles8–5
73–469:46DavisWashington3–0
76–468:56McKoy2–2
78–488:13TrimbleNickel4–3
82–516:16Shaver11–10
93–611:33LeboFarrisMayeWatkins2–2
95–611:33Landry5–6
100–67Final

UNC statistics


DateMonth/dayTime/scoreOpponent/event
(current ranking)
LocationTV/record
October
28FridayW, 101–40Johnson C. Smith HomeExhibition
November
7MondayW, 69–56UNCWHome1–0
11FridayW, 102–86College of CharlestonHome2–0
15TuesdayW, 72–66Gardner-WebbHome3–0
20SundayW, 80–64James MadisonHome4–0
Phil Knight Invitational
24ThursdayW, 89–81First round: PortlandPortland5–0
25FridayL, 70–65Semifinals:
No. 11
Iowa State
Portland5–1
27SundayL, 103–101,
4 OTs
Consolation:
No. 3 Alabama
Portland5–2
ACC/Big Ten Challenge
30WednesdayL, 77–65 No. 18 IndianaBloomington, Ind.5–3
December
4SundayL, 80–72 Virginia TechBlacksburg, Va.5–4,
0–1 ACC
10SaturdayW, 75–59Georgia TechHome6–4,
1–1 ACC
13TuesdayW, 100–67The CitadelHome7–4
CBS Sports Classic
17SaturdayW, 89–84, OTOhio StateNew York8–4
Jumpman Invitational
21WednesdayW, 80–76MichiganCharlotte9–4
30 Friday L, 76–74PittsburghPittsburgh9–5,
1–2 ACC
January
4WednesdayW, 88–79Wake ForestHome10–5,
2–2 ACC
7SaturdayW, 81–64Notre DameHome11–5,
3–2 ACC
10TuesdayL, 65–58No. 8 VirginiaCharlottesville11–6,
3–3 ACC
14SaturdayW, 80–59LouisvilleLouisville, Ky.12–6,
4–3 ACC
17TuesdayW, 72–64Boston CollegeHome13–6,
5–3 ACC
21SaturdayW, 80–69No. 22 N.C. StateHome14–6,
6–3 ACC
24TuesdayW, 72–68SyracuseSyracuse, N.Y.15–6,
7–3 ACC
February
1WednesdayL, 65–64PittsburghHome15–7,
7–4 ACC
4SaturdayL, 63–57 DukeDurham15–8,
7–5 ACC
7Tuesday7 p.m.Wake ForestWinston-SalemESPN
11Saturday2 p.m.ClemsonHome ESPN2
13Monday7 p.m.No. 19 MiamiHomeESPN
19Sunday1 p.m.No. 22 N.C. StateRaleighESPN
22Wednesday9 p.m.Notre DameSouth Bend, Ind.ESPN or ESPN2
25Saturday6 or 8No. 8 VirginiaHomeESPN
27Monday7 p.m.Florida StateTallahassee, Fla.ESPN
March
4Saturday6:30DukeHomeESPN
ACC Tournament
7–11Tuesday-SaturdayTBATBAGreensboroTBA
If tickets for home games are available, you can purchase them here.
ACCN means the game airs on ACC Network.

Photo via @GoHeels

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