Alright, so last night’s game against Charleston could’ve went a bit better. However, what did we really expect? Six freshmen saw action for the very first time, Charleston played a style that has never been the kindest to Roy Williams teams, and practice time has been all over the place. Sure, it would’ve been fun to see UNC boat race them to the tune of a 50-point differential, but it simply wasn’t meant to be. This game was all about learning from a player, coach, and fan perspective. Most importantly, it was about starting the season 1-0. So, here we are.
There’s a great deal that we can takeaway from this game as far as initial impressions go, but unfortunately I don’t think my boss would appreciate me writing a 10,000 word post-game article. Instead, let’s take a look at three big things that we learned last night, and hopefully get a handle on what we can expect from this team the rest of the season.
Day’Ron Sharpe is a Grown Man
Going into this game, I had a feeling that one of the first players that would stand out in a big way would be Day’Ron Sharpe. There was a lot of hype surrounding the former Monteverde Academy center, and it turns out that the hype was extremely warranted. Sharpe did a great job in his first game for the Tar Heels, finishing the game with 13 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, a block, and two steals. His presence on the court was felt in a big way (no pun intended) from the moment he entered the game, and the Cougars had a very difficult time keeping him off the boards.
Sharpe did a very good job on the offensive side of the ball, getting decent looks at the rim and getting points from offensive rebounds. His jumper didn’t yield as good of results, but it’s reasonable to expect those shots to start falling as the season progresses. Perhaps more impressive than what he did offensively, however, is what he was able to do on defense. He played ball screens about as well as one could ask him to in his first game, was able to disrupt Charleston’s ball movement, and yes, even got in an impressive block. It’s hard not to be excited about what we’ve seen from Sharpe in just one game, and it’s already apparent that his ceiling is pretty high. I have a feeling his name is going to be brought up a lot as an ACC Freshman of the Year candidate.
Caleb Love...Loves Contact
Let’s get something out of the way: I think both Caleb Love and R.J. Davis were impressive in their first games for UNC. Together the freshmen guards scored 17 and 11 points respectively, joining Day’Ron Sharpe and Armando Bacot as the only Tar Heels with double-digit point totals. One of the ways that Love got it done on offense was creating contact and getting to the foul line. How much contact? A lot. I mean, a lot a lot.
Remember some of the drives from Coby White and Cole Anthony that never earned a foul call, even though they were laid out on the floor by a defender? Well, if last night was any indication, Love is not going to have the same problem. He was absolutely fearless driving to the basket despite Charleston clogging the lanes. It resulted in him landing on the hardwood a few times, but it was actually on defense when it was the scariest. Love went up for a block and had his legs hit from under him and he ended up landing hard enough on the floor to get sent back to the locker room for evaluation. It was a bit terrifying, but thankfully he was ok.
I’m willing to bet that Caleb Love is going to be the best player on this team under 6’8 when it comes to attacking the rim. I see him as someone who will get to the line often, but if nothing else he had little to no issue finishing. We likely only saw a fraction of what Love is capable of, and I can’t wait to see what he is able to do moving forward.
An Underwhelming Night for the Vets
If there was one area of concern from last night’s game, it has to be the returning Carolina players. Garrison Brooks entered the game against Charleston as the ACC Player of the Year, but failed to look the part. He had a sub-optimal 30% shooting night along with 11 rebounds, with only two of those being on the offensive side of the ball. He also finished with a team-high four turnovers, which accounted for almost half of UNC’s total amount. To be fair, the Cougars did a good job of making things very difficult for Brooks whenever he got touches in the paint. Still, we can only hope that things will go better against UNLV, but last night most certainly wasn’t his night.
Two other players that struggled in this game are Leaky Black and Andrew Platek. While both players faired pretty well on defense, they struggled mightily shooting the ball. Black went 2-8 from the field and missed both of his three-point attempts, while Platek went 2-9 from the field and managed to knock down one of his five three-point attempts. Perhaps the most frustrating part about Platek was how open he was attempting his shots from deep, leaving little to no excuse for the result.
While these three players had a rough night, Armando Bacot played pretty well. He finished the game with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and a team-high 3 blocks. This quicker, slightly more aggressive version of Bacot was enjoyable to watch, but much like some of the young bigs in the past (I’m looking at you, Isaiah Hicks), you know there’s more in there somewhere. Still, he managed to show us all why he was able to hang onto his starting spot at least for one night, and he was a positive in an otherwise underwhelming veteran group.
To sum things up, the freshmen gave us a lot to look forward to this season, and I think the veterans will need to find a way to do their part to take this team where they want to go. It’s only the first game of the season, so there’s no reason to think that things won’t get better and this team starts to gel. Everyone smile, the Tar Heels are undefeated to start the season!
I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving. Go Heels!