There’s something to be said about how UNC has struggled over the last couple of games, only to ultimately come away with the victory. Sure, it looks a certain type of way to struggle so badly against Brown, and to not have the lead for an entire half against College of Charleston, but these are also the games that the Tar Heels would’ve lost during the previous two seasons. This team has proven it’s tough, but the problem is all of the mistakes that are making them show how tough they are. Still, the Heels are now 3-0 after a good win on the road against the Cougars.
It was clear what kind of first half the Heels were about to have after they allowed a lob to Babacar Faye within the first 12 seconds. From there the Cougars would start to build a lead thanks to more questionable defense from the Heels, and eventually a lot of turnovers. By the 11-minute mark the Cougars had an 11-point lead after a made layup by Ben Burnham, which was eventually answered by a three-pointer from Brady Manek. The Heels would continue to try closing the gap, but Charleston kept finding ways to pull away. They made Caleb Love and RJ Davis cough the ball up five times, which accounted for almost half of the Heels’ 11 first half turnovers. The Cougars did a great job of finding open shots, forcing turnovers, playing really good defense, and overall just playing…harder. Oh, and the 11 turnovers? Those led to 15 points. I mentioned on Twitter that they were playing like this was a national championship game, which makes sense considering how things went the last time UNC visited Charleston (If you don’t know, let’s just say there’s photos of that win still on campus).
The second half was more or less a turning point for the Heels, as they made it a one-point game within the first three minutes thanks to RJ Davis and Brady Manek. UNC managed to take their first lead with 15:52 left in the game, and from there it was pretty much history. Armando Bacot had another monster performance down the stretch, finishing the second half with eight points, seven rebounds, and five blocks. While that should’ve been the most impressive performance in the half, Caleb Love managed to outshine his teammate with his 18-5-4 performance. For the entire game Bacot finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks, while Love finished with 22 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and a block.
Aside from Love and Bacot, there are a few other guys that deserve a lot of credit for UNC’s first road victory. Brady Manek and Kerwin Walton each finished with 17 and 14 points respectively, and drained seven three-pointers total. Leaky Black also deserves a lot of credit for his defense — he was all over the place in the second half giving guards fits, blocking shots, and overall making sure the Cougars never knew another moment of peace when it came to getting their offense going. He’s had a really good season so far on that side of the ball, and has also been solid on offense. It’s making more and more sense why he has been in the starting lineup, and it’s hard to see that changing anytime soon as long as he keeps playing the way he has been.
Overall this is a game that on paper probably should’ve been a blow-out, but College of Charleston deserves a lot of credit. They have some really good guys that made some tough shots, and they threw everything they could at the Heels on defense as well. This was a great test for Hubert Davis’ squad, and and even better learning experience. Next up is #6 Purdue at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament in Uncasville, CT. This will be both team’s toughest test yet, so fingers crossed that the Heels will be the most prepared for what’s to come.