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UNC grinds out another win, beating Gardner-Webb 72-66

The Tar Heels are a sleepy 3-0 to start the season.

NCAA Basketball: Gardner-Webb at North Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

In a game reminiscent of their season opener against UNCW, the Tar Heels was unable to pull away from their opponent Tuesday night despite maintaining a lead most of the game. This time it was the Bulldogs of Gardner-Webb who hung in and stayed close, only trailing by five with as little as two minutes to go in the game. Carolina held on though to win, 72-66.

Caleb Love was the spark for the Tar Heels in the second half, scoring 17 of his game-high 20 points in the second frame, and showing the spark from behind the three-point line that fans had been waiting for. He shot 50% overall in the half, and 2-5 from three, both makes confident and reminiscent of the Love fans got used to during the NCAA Tournament.

RJ Davis also took rebounding personally for the Tar Heels, managing to get a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Carolina won the overall rebounding battle, and despite again struggling offensively overall, also managed to keep Gardner-Webb in check. The Bulldogs only shot 41.3% for the game, 35% from three, and didn’t have their first make from beyond the arc till the second half.

Pete Nance had his best outing as a Tar Heel so far, finishing the game with the second-highest point total. He netted 18 before fouling out on a charge call late in the second half.

The first half was as choppy as the past two games for Carolina, and was made worse by their inability to pull away from the Bulldogs. Nance however almost outscored the Bulldogs himself, scoring 16 of Carolina’s 26 points, and going 3-4 from behind the three-point line for his first made triples of the season. Nance’s 5-7 overall shooting was really the lone bright spot for the Tar Heels, as they shot 9-31 overall, or 29%. RJ Davis made the only other three for the Tar Heels, as the rest of the non-Nance players for Carolina went a combined 1-9 behind the arc.

The Bulldogs were able to keep in the game in the first half by out-rebounding the Tar Heels by one, 23-22. They also dominated the paint in that half, outscoring the Tar Heels 18-4, and they didn't allow any fast break points for the Heels while they were able to get six themselves.

Despite the rough numbers, the Tar Heels led the majority of the first half, and Hubert Davis moved players around trying to account for the fact that Leaky Black got his second foul with 5:50 in the first half. The Bulldogs took advantage of the best defender being on the bench, outscoring Carolina by three over that final stretch. The aggressive defense by Gardner-Webb slowed down the pace and kept the Tar Heels from running away with the game.

The second half saw Caleb Love on fire, and a quick 10-0 run out of the locker room extended the Tar Heels lead to double digits, a margin they basically held most of the half until Nance’s departure. Like UNCW it never really felt like they were in danger of losing, but there seemed to be some real gaps in the ability to completely dominate an outmatched opponent.

The Tar Heels’ last home game before mid-December will be Sunday, as they face James Madison at Noon.