At this stage of the season, it doesn’t matter how the wins look, it just matters that they’re wins. UNC’s game against Lipscomb definitely was not always pretty, but they still got it done and advanced to Sunday, which is what matters.
With that in mind, here are three things that we learned when the Tar Heels took down the Bisons.
Some old turnover problems resurfaced
For a game where UNC shot over 50% (40.9% from three), and held their opponents to 35.9% shooting (25% from three), the margin of victory wasn’t that high. A decent amount of that had to do with turnovers.
Lipscomb hung with the Tar Heels for a large portion of the first half, during which UNC turned the ball over eight times. Even as Carolina extended the lead towards the end of the first and the beginning of the second, they still really struggled in that department. They finished the game with 18, one shy of their season high.
Eighteen points is a perfectly normal final margin for a 2 vs. 15 game, but you feel like it could have been more if it weren’t for them committing so many errors. While some of this can be chalked up to early-tournament sloppiness (there was a ton of bad basketball on display during the first two days), the Heels will need to make sure they clean this up as the tournament goes on.
The backup bigs continue their improvement
The aforementioned periods that saw UNC extend the lead overlapped quite a lot with Sterling Manley and/or Garrison Brooks’ playing time.
Both of the freshman gave the Tar Heels solid minutes off the bench. Manley was especially effective, scoring six points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Brooks went for seven and one, but then also chipped in with three assists. Both of them also had good games on the defensive end.
Yes, it was against Lipscomb, which is exactly the type of game where they are going to have a size and athleticism advantage. It was still good to see them play as well as they did. They might need to have another good game in round two because of the third thing learned.
UNC really cannot afford to mess around against Texas A&M
The reason the freshman bigs’ performances stood out wasn’t just that they played well. It was also that how they did compared to Luke Maye. Despite finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds, Maye was fairly ineffective against Lipscomb. He shot just 2-9 from the floor, including some not-great layup misses. He also spent some time on the bench in foul trouble in the second half.
All that is to say that Maye really cannot do that again against Texas A&M, because they have bigs that can make UNC pay. The Aggies have two bigs averaging just under a double-double in Robert Williams and Tyler Davis. Both are coming off double-doubles in their round one win over Providence.
Texas A&M’s guards might not exploit UNC’s defense as well as those from some other teams could. However, if the Tar Heels mess around early again, things could get scary. The Aggies got as high as fifth in the AP Poll for a reason. They’re a good team, even if they fell to a seven seed as the season went on, and they are exactly the kind of lower seed that could give a high seed problems.