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UNC downs Appalachian State behind strong defensive effort

It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.

Appalachian State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

UNC’s win over Appalachian State Tuesday night might not have been the most aesthetically pleasing victory the Tar Heels have ever had, but their defensive effort was enough to make up for some questionable offensive play in order to get back in the win column after Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Kentucky. It all culminated in a 70-50 win for Hubert Davis’ squad that can now enjoy Christmas in relative peace.

The 20-point victory was paced by another double-double from Armando Bacot, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Appalachian State had no answer for Bacot’s size down low and it showed. RJ Davis was just behind him with 15 points with Caleb Love and Brady Manek joining them in double figures with 11 each. It wasn’t a clean performance for Love, who had six turnovers and four fouls in 25 minutes of play.

It was also good to see Kerwin Walton re-emerge with two three-pointers after failing to score for the last six games. Walton didn’t make it into the game at all in the first half, compounding the face-on-the-milk-carton feel of his season so far, but hopefully those two three-pointers will be enough to get him back in the rotation and into some kind of groove that can carry into the rest of the year.

Carolina as a whole was a little too careless with the basketball, turning it over 15 times to give the Mountaineers 13 points. It was also a rough night at the free throw line for UNC, although neither team found themselves there much at all. Still, the 56% mark stands out.

The main factor in the win was Appalachian State’s inability to knock down shots from long distance. They shot 30 three-pointers and converted on just four of them, good enough for 13%. Nearly have of their shot total (64) came from beyond the arc, which is going to be pretty brutal when the shots aren’t falling to that extent.

Carolina held the Mountaineers to 31% shooting from the field overall and just 23 points in the second half. Appalachian State had managed to keep things within shouting distance in the first half with just an eight-point deficit at halftime. They shot just 27% from the field in the second half and UNC was able to put some healthy distance between them with a 55% half.

It wasn’t the kind of revenge game that we’ve seen with teams of the past following bad losses, but it was at least a good example of Carolina being able to turn up the defensive intensity again. Debating why it’s not there all the time is a topic for another time, to be sure, but it’s good to see they can still bring it when they need to. The lapses in that intensity has been a key factor in the games where they have struggled, and it will be something they will need to bring more consistently during conference play.

UNC gets to enjoy an eight-day break for Christmas before jumping back into ACC play December 29th against Virginia Tech.