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UNC shows plenty of fight but drops first game of the season to Purdue

There was effort, but UNC came up short.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Purdue Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The UNC offense continued to impress Saturday afternoon in the team’s game against sixth ranked Purdue, but the defense could not contain the Boilermakers on the way to a 93-84 loss for the Tar Heels. UNC made a game of it down the stretch, briefly taking a lead with under ten minutes to go, but it was a game of runs from there and Purdue managed to have more of them.

Carolina got great production from Dawson Garcia with 26 points to lead all scorers on either team. His night ended early after running into foul trouble, but it was easily his best performance in the young season so far. Armando Bacot was also extremely limited by foul trouble, ultimately fouling out after spending much of the second half on the bench with four fouls. He only scored two points in a very uncharacteristic game for him.

The duo of Caleb Love and RJ Davis had 18 points a piece as key cogs in why UNC was able to rally in the second half. They scored 11 and 16 of their points, respectively, after halftime when UNC went to the locker room down 35-41.

Much like the last two games, the defense was the main issue. Carolina immediately surrendered a 10-0 run in under a minute and a half of game time. The team responded with a 7-0 run of their own before it was erased by a 7-0 run by the Boilermakers. And so on and so forth from there.

Purdue shot 64% from the field in the second half and 56% overall. They feasted in the paint without Bacot to contend with for long stretches of the game, scoring 42 of their points down low. The Boilermakers’ offense was also able to take advantage of some sloppiness by the offense, putting up 19 points off the 14 UNC turnovers. In a game against good teams you have to do all of the little things right, and UNC did a lot of them really well, but came up just short in the end.

The silver lining is that the team looked extremely competitive against a team that should be right there in March. If the Tar Heels can find a way to tighten their defense up and keep the same intensity that they’ve brought on the offensive end going forward, they should be able to make plenty of noise themselves as the calendar flips to 2022.

It will be very interesting to see what UNC can do against a team ranked similar to them tomorrow when they take on Tennessee in the consolation game. If they play like they did today, the Tar Heels should be just fine. There is a lot to like about this team even with today’s disappointing result, but think about how this game may have gone last season and breathe a sigh of relief that things are much improved from that place.

Carolina will be back in action tomorrow afternoon.