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UNC 107, Mount Olive 64: A lot to like in Tar Heels’ final tune-up

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UNC shows off its depth in strong performance.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-North Carolina vs Lipscomb Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Exhibition games are really weird. They don’t count and coaches are still trying to figure out how they want to dispatch certain lineups. Tonight’s UNC exhibition win over Mount Olive is no exception to that, but there were a lot of fun moments. It was honestly nice just to see basketball again.

The Heels started off a bit sluggish, allowing Mount Olive to hang around within a couple of points for a somewhat large chunk of the first half. Fortunately, they found a second gear after that, pulled away quite a bit before halftime, and never looked back down the stretch.

Garrison Brooks led the team with 16 points and 16 rebounds in 18 minutes. He got the start and made the most of the opportunity as the go-to big man. Kenny Williams finished just behind him in scoring with 15, including a made three-point bucket. It took until 16 minutes to go in the game for UNC to drain a shot from distance, and they made just three of their 13 attempts overall.

One of the things that stood out the most in a game where players were constantly in and out of the game was that the trio of freshmen appeared to live up to the hype. Coby White managed to get the start at point guard, and he looked the part. He dished out six assists and was aggressive in finding the basket himself. He scored 10 points in his debut and seemed to be able to run Roy Williams’ offense just fine.

Nassir Little tallied 11 points on 5-7 shooting. He did pick up four fouls and briefly had to leave the game after colliding with a Mount Olive player. He had a few impressive dunks that got the Smith Center excited and showed a glimpse of what we can expect from him this season. Leaky Black might not get quite as much hype as his freshmen teammates but he looked very good tonight. He dished out four assists and grabbed three rebounds. At one inch taller than Little, Black has some sneaky length that could pose a big problem for defenders this season.

Five players finished the game in double figures for the Heels. Everyone except KJ Smith and Shea Rush scored at least one point. In true Carolina basketball fashion, the Heels out-rebounded Mount Olive 69-36, beating them in defensive rebounding 43-17. UNC was dominant in the paint with 60 points and assisted on 26 of their baskets.

If you want to point to something that needs to be improved upon, the Heels committed 22 turnovers to Mount Olive’s 15. Some of that can be attributed to sloppiness in a meaningless game, for sure, but that number likely won’t sit well with Coach Williams.

There aren’t a whole lot of conclusions you can draw from a game where a team is still trying to sort everything out. It’s more of a glorified practice against real competition than anything else. However, it was fun to have basketball back again. It was fun to see this team play together for the first time. The best part is that this is just the beginning of what should be an incredibly fun season.

Carolina is back in action (for real this time) on Tuesday when they travel to Wofford to take on the Terriers.