While the Carolina football team might be the most stressful ranked team that the program has ever witnessed, the basketball team made their own case tonight for the title. The number one team in the country came out against the College of Charleston and played uninspired defense, only to shut the Cougars down in the second half and catch on fire offensively. It’s early, there’s a lot of basketball left, but the question is whether or not these two facts keep Hubert Davis from losing his mind.
The first half felt like these two teams were having a shooting competition, with the Cougars and the Heels shooting 52.5% and 50% from the field, respectively. Charleston guard Dalton Bolon had his way with the Heels, scoring 14 points off 6-8 shooting in 12 minutes of action. The other source of pain for the Tar Heels was Ante Brzovic, who came off the bench and scored 12 points off 5-5 shooting, and even threw in a pair of three-pointers for good measure.
While this all sounds terrible, the pleasant surprise of the half was Leaky Black, who hit all four of his shots to score a team-leading 10 points. He truly had one of his better offensive performances that we’ve seen from him as a Tar Heel, looking very comfortable shooting the ball from anywhere on the floor. He finished the game with 15 points, and because of this four of the five starters finished the game with double digits.
After playing some poor defense in the first half, the Heels decided they weren’t playing any more games in the second. They held the Cougars to 45.5% for the last 20 minutes, which while that still isn’t great, it is much better than what was happening before. Carolina allowed just two three-pointers in the second half after the Cougars drained six of them in the first 20 minutes.
Everything also looked better because of UNC’s offense — after only scoring one point in the first half, Armando Bacot went off for 27 points and pulled down five rebounds. His aggressive play in the paint lit a fire under his teammates, primarily Caleb Love, who added on 17 of his 25 points. To say that it was a tale of two halves is an understatement: the team we saw in the second half was a more aggressive, hungry, and efficient basketball team than what we saw even in the entire UNCW game. Now they just have to find a way to play that way consistently.
As for what changed in the second half schematically, Hubert Davis did tighten his rotation. We saw a lot of the bench in the first half, but some of the lineups were getting cooked by the Cougars. We still saw a fair amount of Seth Trimble, who looked good alongside Caleb Love and RJ Davis. Tyler Nickel also got some burn, finishing the game with eight points thanks to the Cougars sending him to the line a few times. I still don’t know what Davis’ true rotation looks like deeper into the season, but it’s hard to imagine that Trimble and Nickel won’t get quality minutes moving forward.
Overall, this game was 20 minutes of infuriating defense, followed by 20 minutes of witnessing the #1 team in the country show why they belong among the best in the country. It’s hard to shake the feeling that we might see a couple more games like this, but hopefully they will finish as strong as they did tonight if that is the case. The next game for the Heels is against Gardner-Webb this coming Tuesday in the Dean Smith Center.