The first part of the Tar Heels’ game against Lipscomb was a bit like a recurring nightmare. While Carolina was turning the ball over, the Bisons were sinking threes at a clip they hadn’t previously this year. Starting sloppy is the very thing that can doom a higher seed this time of year. Fortunately for UNC, they worked it out and turned things around in short order.
Carolina managed to close out the first half on a 12-1 run to take a 43-34 lead into the locker room. Theo Pinson scored 10 of his 15 points before halftime while the Bisons missed their last six shots. Pinson would go on to finish the game close to a triple double with 10 rebounds and seven assists. The Heels were led by Kenny Williams’ 18 points. He made four of his five shots from beyond the arc.
The game was an important one for Williams, who missed last year’s national championship run with an injury. He said in the postgame press conference that he had been excited all week, and that excitement certainly translated into results on the floor. Joel Berry II was 2-9 from three-point range, but he finished with 14 points in 37 minutes of play. Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye also finished in double figures for the Heels.
Maye’s start to the game was truly dreadful. He missed seven of eight shots in the first half, but was managing to contribute on the boards. Luke finished the game 2-9 from the field and 5-7 from the free throw line. He did grab nine rebounds to salvage some positive aspects from the game, but it looked more like early ACC Tournament Luke than the one who really turned it on in the later stages of Brooklyn.
Overall, the Heels shot 52% from the field to Lipscomb’s 36%. The Bisons, who started the game on fire from deep, ended the game at just 25% from beyond the arc. Roy Williams went to a larger lineup with Maye struggling, and it paid dividends. Carolina was able to out-rebound Lipscomb 47-29. UNC also managed to best the Bisons in points in the paint, 42-30.
The contributions of Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks off the bench shouldn’t be forgotten in this game. Adjusting to the larger lineup signaled a turnaround in results for the team. Manley finished with six points and 10 rebounds in just 10 minutes. Brooks scored seven points and hit three of four free throws.
Carolina advances to play Texas A&M on Sunday in Charlotte. The Aggies knocked off Providence earlier today in their first game of the tournament.