A mostly empty Dean Dome with a bench spaced six feet between each chair. Every shoe squeak and yell of frustration magnified via television mics and high fives traded for elbow bumps. It was a weird start to the basketball season for sure, but a much-appreciated 79-60 win for the Tar Heels following last year’s woes.
Offense was ugly at times with 39% shooting from the floor. However, the defensive effort was impressive. UNC forced 15 Charleston turnovers that led directly to 21 points on the other end. Carolina was also extremely impressive on the offensive boards with 30 second chance points. While UNC won the game by 19 points, they held a 15-point advantage at the free throw line. Things like that matter, particularly when your opponent doubles your output from beyond the arc.
College of Charleston took a brief one-point lead with 15 minutes to go in the second half, and that sparked a huge 17-0 run from the Tar Heels. They relinquished the lead for just 32 seconds and didn’t look back from there.
All of this with ACC Preseason Player of the Year Garrison Brooks being mostly a non-factor in the offense. The freshman trio of Caleb Love, RJ Davis, and Day’Ron Sharpe made up for it with three double-digit performances. The Heels looked like a team with an abundance of freshmen still waiting to fully gel, but their young talent was absolutely undeniable.
Love was the team’s leading scorer with 17 points and a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. This kid doesn’t shy away from contact and it might give me a heart attack before the season is over, but man he’s fun to watch. Sharpe put together a double-double in his first game in a UNC uniform with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and even two assists. Davis and Armando Bacot joined them in double figures.
It wasn’t the cleanest game of basketball, if that’s what you were looking for, but for a first game back with so many new players on the court in important roles, it was just fine. This team showed all the promise that has people thinking so highly of them this early in the year, and the talent that will hopefully have them among the best teams in basketball months from now.
Carolina is back in action on Monday against UNLV. Happy Thanksgiving, Heels fans!